saint valentine’s day.

February 14, 2011 § 3 Comments

a whole tray

Even though every year on Valentine’s Day, I go around telling people the utterly unromantic story of how the Valentine Saints (yes, there were many Saints who took the name Valentine) were thrown in jail and stoned to death, this year I figured that it’s not the best way to make friends, so I caved into peer and societal pressures and decided to bake up some Valentine’s Day-themed treats for my friends, whom I do love very much.

Yesterday, I was inspired by Deb’s adorable swapped-heart brownies and decided to recreate hers with brownies and blondies, as I never have white chocolate around the house. About halfway through my second batch of brownies it struck me that I do not, in fact, own any heart-shaped cookie cutters. As a matter of fact, the only ones I own are a Christmas set I was gifted in the third grade. Nevertheless, I trudged onwards and made two batches of blondies and decided my friends could settle with un-fancy brownies and blondies.

Then around midnight, I was struck by genius and remembered that I could pipe frosting hearts onto my little treats and thus I did shuffle down the stairs and whipped up some royal icing.

composite

So here you are, whether you be happy love birds or cynical nerds (like me). Brownies and blondies for all occasions (sans the hearts, of course).

Cocoa Brownies
from smitten kitchen

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as I used)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. [Note, many people who have tried this recipe have found that this step works just fine in the microwave. Couldn't test this because we don't have one, but it sounds like it would work.]

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (I go further and throw mine in the fridge or freezer for a while; it’s the only way I can get them to cut with clean lines.)

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Blondies
from smitten kitchen

8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Butter an 8×8 pan

Mix melted butter with brown sugar – beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla

Add salt, stir in flour.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. I always err on the side of caution with baking times — nobody ever complained about a gooey-middled cookie. Cool on rack before cutting them.

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