Surprise – next weekend is Valentine’s Day! Yep, you only have a few days left to figure out what to do for the special people in your life. The Artist and I talking about some plans but haven’t decided on all the details yet. Maybe spending the day in Napa? That is always fun. The only thing I know for sure is that I will definitely be making these brownies again for our special treat!
I don’t know if there is anything more perfect than chocolate for Valentine’s Day especially when it is something you’ve made yourself. It is a romantic special treat, guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of your loved ones. Make your goodies even more fun by adding some festive heart sprinkles.
There are thousands of brownie recipes available and most of them are pretty darn good, but these Valentine Brownies are rich without being overly sweet. The nuts and white chocolate chunks are fantastic additions to both the flavor and texture. The sometimes tart blood orange juice is the perfect counterpoint to an often overly sweet sugar glaze. Plus it adds a lovely orangey-pink color without using any food coloring!
Blood oranges have a very short season during the winter months. They are a delicacy and we anxiously await their return each year. When you cut them open you will discover a shockingly beautiful deep red color, thus the name. Last weekend a friend brought me a large bag of oranges freshly picked from the trees in her yard. Oh my what a treat! We ate some, zested and juiced the rest, and will have fresh orange flavor in our meals for months to come! If you can’t find blood oranges, regular naval oranges will work just as well. If you want you can add a drop of pink or red food coloring to approximate the color of blood orange juice.
These brownies are delightful and so easy to make. The “hardest” part is melting the chocolate – and that is simple! If you have young people who want to learn how to bake with you, this is a great recipe for them to try. Supervise the melting of the chocolate and transfer to the hot oven, then they can do most of the rest on their own. They will get great results, building their confidence in the kitchen. And their families will appreciate their efforts – the recognition from my family was what made me more inspired to continue learning how to bake.
Whether you are baking for a sweetheart this weekend or practicing a little self-indulgence, these brownies are the perfect choice.
I hope you all enjoy a delightful Valentine’s Day – and there is also Chinese New Year’s today and Mardi Gras tomorrow … a week chock full of reasons to celebrate!!
Happy Chocolate Monday!
Use an all-purpose gluten free blend of flours. If your blend doesn’t contain xanthan gum, add 1/8 tsp to the dry ingredients. If you are sensitive to gums, use 1/4 tsp psyllium husk powder.
- 6 tbsp melted butter
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate (about 70%), coarsely chopped
- 60g (1/2 cup) gluten-free flour blend or all-purpose flour
- (plus xanthan gum or psyllium husk powder if your gluten-free blend doesn't contain it; see note above)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder (gluten-free if needed)
- 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups (6 oz) coarsely chopped walnuts, pecans, or macadamia nuts
- 1/2 cup (2-3/4 oz) white chocolate chunks or chips
- Orange Glaze
- 3 tsp finely grated orange zest
- 3 tsp freshly squeezed orange juice, strained to remove the pulp
- 2 to 3 tbsp half and half or buttercream, or as needed
- 1 cup powdered sugar, or as needed
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch or 9-inch square baking pan. Line it with parchment paper long enough to hang over two sides of the pan forming two “handles” and butter the parchment paper.
- Make the Brownies: Pour about 2-inches of water into a 3 to 4 quart saucepan. Set the bowl of your standing mixer into the pan - it should fit snuggly and it is OK if the bottom of the bowl touches the water. Steam is actually hotter than boiling water! Bring the water to a high simmer. Place the butter and chocolate in the bowl. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
- Remove the bowl with the chocolate mixture from the heat, dry the bottom of the bowl and set on your standing mixer. Let cool until you can easily hold your hand on the bottom of the bowl.
- In another bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Add both the sugars to the chocolate. With the mixer on low and using the paddle attachment, beat until blended. Add the eggs and beat on low to mix in; turn up to medium and beat for about a minute or until lightened in color and fluffy. Stop the mixer and thoroughly scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the beater(s). Add the dry ingredients, beat on low until smooth. Add the nuts and white chocolate, mixing just until evenly distributed.
- Bake the Brownies: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a small offset spatula to ease it into the corners. Smooth the top. Place in the hot oven.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is set and the sides are just beginning to pull away from pan. The center will still be soft and a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and the center will come out with moist crumbs attached. The center will finish baking as it cools in the pan.
- When the brownies have cooled completely, lift the parchment paper and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces.
- Prepare the Orange Glaze: In a medium bowl, combine the orange zest, juice, and 2 tbsp of the half and half. Whisk to combine. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar; if it is too thick a little more orange juice or milk. You want it creamy but still thin enough to drizzle easily. Taste it and if you think it needs more orange flavor, add more zest or a few drops of essential orange oil. Drizzle in a zig-zag pattern over cut brownies.
- Store brownies, covered, in the refrigerator.
- Yield: 16 servings
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