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dark chocolate brownies with strawberry cream cheese

I know, I know...Valentine's Day is a holiday that has turned into another opportunity to spend money and set unrealistic expectations. That said, as much as I didn't want to fall for it (again) this year, I was compelled to make something sweet.  Don't think you need  to have a Valentine in order to celebrate.  I think we should all try to be our own Valentines this year.

This recipe is adapted (quite a bit) from Cooks Illustrated. 

Brownie Ingredients:

4 oz unsweetened chocolate

1/2 bittersweet chocolate chunks

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

4 tbsp butter

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup white cane sugar

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tbsp vanilla

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Strawberry Cream Cheese:

8 oz cream cheese (room temperature)

1 cup fresh strawberries

2 tbsp white can sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

Start by removing the stems of your strawberries, cut them in half and put them in a bowl.  Sprinkle the 2 tbsp of sugar over the strawberries and set aside while you make the brownie batter.  The sugar will soften the strawberries and they'll get nice and juicy.

Now preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Chop up the unsweetened chocolate and place in a medium sized metal bowl with the butter and coconut oil.  You'll turn this bowl into a double boiler by placing it on top of a pot with about 2" of water in the bottom.  Turn the burner on medium and let the butter, chocolate and coconut oil melt, stirring occasionally until fully melted.  

Once the chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the top of the pot but be careful, it will be hot!  Set aside to cool slightly.

In a separate bowl, whisk your eggs, egg yolks, sugars and vanilla.

Add the butter, coconut and melted chocolate mixture.  Fold in the flour.

Add the bittersweet chocolate chunks  and salt and stir until fully mixed but don't over stir the batter.  Mix in the canola oil.

Take a 9x13 lasagna pan and line it with tin foil.  Spray the foil with cooking spray and scoop the batter into the pan, reserving about 1 cup.  This batter is a little on the thicker side, so just use the back of a spoon to even it in the pan.

Once the brownie batter is in the pan, get started on your strawberry cream cheese topping.  

Add the strawberries, cream cheese, egg and vanilla to a food processor and blend until totally smooth.

Once the cream cheese topping is nice and smooth, slowly pour it over the top of the brownie batter and smooth with the back of your spatula or spoon.

Take the reserved brownie batter and put it in clumps on the top of the strawberry cream cheese.

Bake your brownies for apx 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  After 30 minutes you should be able to insert a toothpick and it will come out clean.  Make sure you don't over bake these!  I learned the hard way after baking for about 35 minutes, the brownies were a bit too dry.  Keep in mind that once you remove the brownies they'll still bake a bit, so it can be misleading.

Once you remove the brownies from the oven, let them cool for at least 45  minutes. After the brownies are cooled, just lift the tin foil out of the pan and place the brownies on your cutting board.  Get the heart shaped cutter ready!

Simply use your heart shaped cookie cutter to cut 8 brownies.  You can get creative with what's left over, it's totally edible!

Garnish with some sliced strawberries and get your sweet tooth ready!  Happy Valentine's Day to you and whoever your Valentine might be!


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