Photos by Amy Gramlich

 

The month of sweetness has arrived. To celebrate in a sweet way this February, treat loved ones to a batch of these decadent Valentine’s Day brownie hearts.

 

These brownies, made from scratch, will make an impression whether served individually on dessert plates or presented as part of a Valentine’s dessert charcuterie with other fruit and treats. With multiple steps involved, these rich and fudgy brownies are a labor of love, but that makes them ideal for the occasion.

 

Three Ways to Cut Brownies Into Heart Shapes

Use a Heart Pan

 

Use a brownie pan specially designed for brownie hearts (as seen in the photo to the left). These pans, divided into individual hearts, can be found around Valentine’s Day at many department stores and through online vendors.

 

Before baking, each heart pocket needs to be generously sprayed with cooking spray so that the batter does not stick and the hearts can release easily from the pan.

 

Follow baking instructions listed in this article.

 

Use Cookie Cutters

 

Opt to bake the brownie mixture in two 8-inch baking pans. (The batter will be thin — which is good since cookie cutters will be involved.) Line the pan with foil (with foil hanging over the edges by a few inches) and spray the bottom and sides of the foil well with cooking spray. Bake brownies at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges have pulled in slightly and a toothpick comes out clean. Dust with sea salt, if desired.

 

Set the pans on a wire rack to cool. Once the brownies have baked and completely cooled in the pans on a wire rack, gently lift the brownies out using the extra inches of foil like handles. Use 2- to 3-inch cookie cutters to gently cut heart shapes into the brownie layer.

 

Before you start making cuts, consider how you plan to go about inserting the cutters so as to waste as little brownie as possible. Before starting, think about the best place to start the first cut so that you maximize the entire piece, creating as many brownie hearts as possible.

 

Use a Sharp Knife

 

A third option is to very carefully cut heart shapes using a sharp kitchen knife. Follow the steps above for lining two 8-inch pans with foil. Follow the same baking directions. Rather than using cookie cutters, use a knife to gently cut out heart shapes.

 

While this option works in place of a special pan or cookie cutters, the brownie heart shapes may not be as consistent as with the other two options.

brownies recipe

Dressing Up Valentine’s Day Brownie Hearts

 

Chefs can go two different directions when it comes to serving these brownie hearts. They might wish to go the traditional route and serve the brownies untopped. As this is the classic way many people prefer their brownies, they might want to leave at least some of the brownies reserved with no topping at all. A small sprinkle of sea salt across the tops pairs well with the richness of the brownies, if desired.

 

The second path is to consider the brownie the base for a variety of fun toppings. A dusting of powdered sugar adds a special touch to this Valentine’s Day treat.

 

To incorporate some color and freshness to the dessert, add one sliced strawberry to garnish the top or side of each brownie on the dessert plates.

 

Other ideas include piping melted caramel, melted white chocolate or melted dark chocolate over the tops to make the brownies extra rich.

 

There is also the option of adding melted white chocolate to a shallow bowl and dipping the tops of the brownie hearts completely in the melted chocolate. Sprinkle with Valentine’s sprinkles for an extra flair.

 

If adding melted chocolate topping to the brownies, allow the brownies to set for 30 minutes or so until the chocolate has hardened.

 

These decadent Valentine’s Day brownie hearts will be a winning choice for a Valentine’s dessert.

Ingredients

• 1 1⁄4 cups butter

• 4 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate

• 4 ounces milk chocolate baking chocolate

• 3⁄4 cup cocoa

• 2 cups sugar

• 1⁄2 cup brown sugar

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

 

2. Brown the butter by placing butter in a pan and melting over medium heat. Once melted, keep over medium heat and swirl occasionally. The butter will start to foam, turn golden brown and have a nutty aroma. Take off heat and set aside until ready to use.

 

3. Chop the chocolate bars roughly and melt in the microwave in 15- to 20-second intervals, stirring between intervals until chocolate is fully melted.

 

4. To a large bowl, add both sugars, vanilla, salt and eggs. For approximately 10 minutes, using an electric mixer, mix on high speed until mixture achieves a light and fluffy consistency.

 

5. Next, add the browned butter and melted chocolate to the bowl and blend until incorporated.

 

6. In a separate mixing bowl, sift the flour and cocoa before folding it into the batter with a spatula until just combined. Be careful not to overmix.

 

7. Generously grease a heart-shaped muffin pan and add two heaping tablespoons of batter into each heart pocket.

 

8. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently bang the pan against the kitchen counter one or two times to force out air bubbles. Bake for another 10 minutes or until brownies are cooked through but still fudgy. Optional: Sprinkle each heart with a bit of sea salt or powdered sugar.

 

9. Cool on a wire rack for at least half an hour. Using a sharp knife, cut around the edge of each brownie to separate it from the pan. Carefully invert the brownies onto a wire rack and allow to cool a while longer.

 

10. Store extras in an airtight container.

 

Yield: 15 to 18 brownies.

 

READ ALSO: Love to Eat, Eat to Love: Romantic Restaurants