Prepare decadent brownies for Valentine’s Day treats

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Photo by Ann Cipperly Brownies with peppermint and chocolate topping are a luscious confection for Valentine’s Day. They are even more irresistible served with chocolate dipped strawberries. Brownies can be embellished for a decadent treat and are one of the easiest desserts to prepare.

By Ann Cipperly

On Valentine’s Day, surprise loved ones with a homemade treat. Chocolate candy and confections are popular for Valentine’s Day, and brownies are probably the easiest to prepare. Brownies can be embellished with chocolate chips, a peppermint or cheesecake filling and finished with ganache or chocolate frosting with marshmallows for a decadent dessert. Basic recipes can be turned into Brownie Truffles for an elegant confection. 

For more indulgence, serve brownies with Chocolate Dipped Strawberries or use them for making sundaes. Top brownies with ice cream or gelato and drizzle with chocolate or caramel sauce or raspberry puree. A sprinkling of fresh raspberries or strawberries over the sundae and around the plate create an attractive dessert for Valentine’s Day. 

When selecting chocolate for making brownies, pick a good brand. A good chocolate will make the confection even better. At our house, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries are a favorite accompaniment to the brownies.

We have tried a variety of chocolates for eating and cooking. When traveling, it has been fun to look for chocolate shops. The best we have found were in Brussels, Belgium.

On one of our traveling adventures, we were staying at a hotel across from NATO, in Brussels, Belgium. The entrance to NATO was lined with flags from the member countries. When we were ready to go into the city to explore and look for chocolate shops, the hotel clerk told us we could catch the nearby train.

We walked to the tracks to find there was nothing but a small sign. Soon a train arrived and stopped. We got on the train and asked someone seated near the door if the train was going into the city. The man answered, but we didn’t understand the language to know what he said.

We thought it must be the right train, so we sat and waited for a conductor to come by to sell us tickets. No one came, and soon the train was stopping again. We quickly got off, being thankful that we didn’t end up in another country. Fortunately, the train stopped in the city of Brussels. 

The Belgians are connoisseurs of fine chocolates. We stopped at several shops with assorted chocolates to sample. We purchased several boxes of chocolates to take home. Godiva had shops, but since we can get that locally, we skipped those.

One of our favorites was Neuhaus, which claims to be the creator of the traditional Belgium praline. The chocolates were divine at every shop and tasted freshly made with European-style butter and cream.

We also went to the bakeries, but they were not as impressive as the ones in Paris. The baked items were displayed without being wrapped. The doors were open, and flies were in the shop. We passed on the baked items.

The restaurants also had displays of food outside that were not covered. The city was busy, and the Grand Place was crowded. In one area of the city, flags were hanging from the countries in NATO.

We stayed in the city for dinner, but the food where we ate was not that good. We asked for a menu in English, but the dish was different from expected. We were not that hungry anyway after eating so much chocolate. We took a taxi back. No more trains.

After we returned home, I looked for Belgian chocolates that we had enjoyed. I found a box of Neuhaus, but it was not the same since it was prepared for a long shelf life.

On a trip to Dallas, we came across a small Neuhaus shop. We were surprised to see that the chocolates were almost $50 a pound. We purchased a couple of pieces, but it wasn’t as good as in Belgium. We weren’t paying that price anyway.

The next best thing to fine chocolate candy is a dessert made with chocolate, and brownies can be loaded with chocolate for a sublime treat.

When using chocolate squares for making brownies, notice the number of ounces on the box. For years, Bakers’ boxed chocolate squares were one ounce each. The box was changed from eight ounces to four, and the squares are different. That messed up a lot of recipes.

If you want to substitute one ounce of unsweetened chocolate for cocoa, use 3 Tbsp. cocoa and 1 Tbsp. butter or shortening. Research shows everyone agrees on this.  

If you are not a chocolate fan, a couple of the following recipes feature brownies without chocolate. If you have heart cookie cutters, you can cut the brownies into a Valentine shape.

Make this Valentine’s Day memorable with a scrumptious brownie dessert, and let your children or grandchildren help. Don’t forget to share your homemade treat with others. An elderly shut-in would receive much joy for being remembered on Valentine’s Day. 

Ann Cipperly can be reached at recipes@cipperly.com.

Brownies with Peppermint and Chocolate Topping

A friend who lived in Hawaii gave me this recipe years ago. It has been a family favorite.

Brownie Base:

4 oz. (4-oz. box) unsweetened chocolate squares

1 cup butter, softened

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

Frosting:

½ cup butter, softened

1 box powdered sugar

4 Tbsp. milk

2 tsp. peppermint extract

Topping:

4 oz. (4-oz. box) squares unsweetened chocolate squares

4 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate and butter on low heat; add eggs, which have been beaten with the sugar. Stir in vanilla and flour. Line a 12 x 18-inch rimmed cookie sheet (or similar size) with foil and coat with nonstick spray.

Bake for about 10 to 13 minutes or until brownies are set and start to pull away from the sides. Do not over bake. Cool.

To make frosting, cream butter and add sugar alternately with milk. Add peppermint extract. Spread over cooled brownies. Chill.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate. Drizzle over frosting; spread with a knife or back of a spoon to cover completely. Chill until topping is set. Store in refrigerator. Freezes well. Partially thaw to slice or the chocolate topping may crack.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries for Garnishing Brownies

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate chips

3 Tbsp. heavy cream

12 long-stemmed strawberries

Extra chocolate for drizzling, optional

Place chocolate and cream together in a bowl over simmering water until just melted. Stir and remove from the heat. Dip each strawberry in the chocolate and place on waxed or parchment paper to set. To set quicker, place in refrigerator.

To decorate, melt semi-sweet or white chocolate in microwave and place in a plastic bag. Cut the end of one corner and drizzle over dipped strawberries.

Brownie Truffles

Bake just the brownie base for the Brownies with Peppermint and Chocolate Topping or the cocoa brownie base for Brownies with Chocolate Chips and Pecans. To make the truffles quicker, you can bake brownies from a boxed mix.

Once the brownies have cooled, use a scoop or tablespoon to dip a spoonful to roll into a ball (don’t use the edges since they are drier). Place the brownie balls on a cookie sheet that is lined with wax paper or foil.

Melt milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate or white chocolate chips and dip each ball.

Once they are dipped, place back on the cookie sheet. At this time, they can be garnished with finely chopped nuts, colored sprinkles or a half of a maraschino cherry. They can also be drizzled with a different type of melted chocolate. Place the melted chocolate in a plastic bag and cut little off one corner to drizzle.

Let chocolate set or place in refrigerator to set quicker. They will look like fine truffles. Can be frozen.

Brownies with Chocolate Chips and Pecans

Cocoa Brownie Base:

2 cups sugar

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup butter, melted

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

Embellishments:

2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Line 13 x 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly. Stir sugar, flour, cocoa, soda and salt; set aside. Mix melted butter or margarine, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add to flour mixture and stir until moistened. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted one inch from center comes out barely moist. Do not over bake. Cool on wire rack.

When completely cool remove from pan, peel off foil and cut into squares. Makes about 2 dozen.

Rocky Road Brownies:

1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

As soon as the brownies are baked, spread marshmallow crème over the top and sprinkle chocolate chips. Return to oven for 2 minutes. Remove and pull knife through topping to marble cream and chocolate.

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Carol Pridgen

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate baking bar, chopped

¾ cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1-oz. bottle red liquid food coloring

1½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of a 9-inch square pan with foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides. Lightly grease foil.

Microwave chocolate and butter in a large bowl on high 1½ to 2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30 second intervals. Whisk in sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, whisking

just until blended. Stir in flour and next 4 ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared pan.

Bake for 44 to 48 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely on wire rack.

Lift brownies from pan, using foil sides as handles; gently remove foil. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top of brownies.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

3 Tbsp. butter, softened

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

1½ cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Gradually add sugar and salt, beating until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Rocky Road Brownies with Cheesecake Filling

One of our children’s favorites. For an event, I decided to double the cheesecake filling, and they were gone in five minutes.

Brownies:

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1 cup sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup or more chopped nuts, optional

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

Filling:

6 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

½ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. flour

¼ cup butter, room temperature

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup chopped nuts, optional

Topping:

2 cups miniature marshmallows

Frosting:

¼ cup butter

1 oz. unsweetened chocolate

2 oz. (remaining from the 6 oz. in the filling of an 8-oz. pkg.) cream cheese, room temperature

¼ cup milk

1 box powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.

For making the brownies, melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan, being careful not to burn. Remove from heat. Add remaining brownie ingredients. Spread evenly in pan; set aside.

To make the cheesecake filling, combine ingredients. Spread over brownie layer. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Sprinkle marshmallows over top; put back in the oven for two minutes.

Meanwhile, make the frosting by placing butter, chocolate, cream cheese and milk in a saucepan; heat until chocolate melts. Add sugar and vanilla.

When brownies with marshmallows come out of oven, pour frosting over top and swirl to blend.

Cool before cutting into bars.

Mother’s Fudge Topped Brownies

Sara Mason

4 oz. squares unsweetened chocolate

2 sticks butter

2 cups sugar

4 beaten eggs

1 cup flour

¼ tsp. salt

Melt chocolate and butter. Add sugar, eggs and flour with salt. Bake in oblong greased pan at 400 degrees for 5 minutes and reduce heat to 350 and bake 20 minutes.

Ice with the following fudge frosting.

Fudge Topping:

2 oz. squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup milk (can use evaporated milk)

2 cups sugar

1/4 stick butter

Melt chocolate with milk and cook until custard consistency. Add sugar and cook until a soft ball forms in a little cold water. Add butter.

Cool and then beat until thick. Pour over cooled cake.

Butterscotch Blonde Brownies

Pat Fox

1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

¾ cup butterscotch morsels

¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick baking spray with flour. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in eggs and vanilla.

In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring to combine. Gently stir in butterscotch and walnuts. Spread batter in prepared pan, smoothing top with an offset spatula.

Bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Barbara Arrington

3 eggs

1 cup butter, melted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups sugar

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup baking cocoa

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. salt

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Filling:

2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened

½ cup creamy peanut butter

¼ cup sugar

1 egg

2 tsp. 2% milk

In a large bowl, beat eggs, butter and vanilla until smooth. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to egg mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside 1 cup for topping. Spread remaining batter into a greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and milk on low just until combined. Carefully spread over batter. Drop reserved batter by tablespoonful over filling. Cut through batter with a knife to swirl.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (do not over bake). Cool on a wire rack. Chill until serving. Makes 3 dozen.

Pam’s Kahlua Brownies

Pam Hope

1 pkg. refrigerated sugar cookie dough

2 eggs, lightly beaten

19.5 oz. pkg. milk chocolate brownie mix

½ cup cooking oil

1/3 cup Kahlua or any coffee liqueur

1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Press sugar cookie dough in bottom of 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan; set aside.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, brownie mix, cooking oil, and coffee liqueur until just combined. Spread batter over sugar cookie dough. Sprinkle with chocolate pieces. 

Bake for 40 minutes or until edges are set. Cool in pan on a wire rack. To serve, cut into bars. Makes 24 brownies.

Desiree’s Brownies with Chocolate Icing

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, room temperature

4 eggs

1/3 cup cocoa

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream sugar and butter; add eggs one at a time beating well. Combine dry ingredients then vanilla and pecans.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in a 13 x 9-inch pan which has been greased and dusted with flour. Start cooking icing when brownies are removed from oven.

Chocolate Icing:

1 ½ cups sugar

1/3 cup milk

1/3 cup butter

¼ cup cocoa

1 tsp. vanilla

Combine first four ingredients. Cook and stir until a full boil. Start timing and cook 1½ minutes. Remove from heat; add vanilla. Beat until thick enough to spread on the brownies while they are warm.

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