One of the saddest days I can remember as a little girl is the day my mom gave me one of her many pieces of unsolicited fashion advice: honey, pink and red don’t go together. I don’t remember what I was wearing – although it would have been the mid-to-late 80s so I’m sure it was atrocious – but I do remember being devastated. So even though I really should hate Valentine’s Day (all those Kay Jewelers commercials are enough to make even the most romantic of us want to vomit), I can’t help but celebrate the one day of the year when that little girl in me gets to mix and match her favorite colors to her heart’s content (heart, ha!). And if it’s also an excuse to make not just brownies, but two different types of brownies – cut into tiny hearts and with salted caramel and cheesecake, no less – all the better.
Brownie #1: Salted Caramel. Smitten Kitchen is one of my all time favorite blogs, food or otherwise. I’m not proud to admit that up until recently, I didn’t really know that brownies could be made from scratch. I honestly thought the Ghirardelli box mix was as gourmet as one could get. But when SK posted these brownies last August, I became obsessed. I’ve probably made them 20 times since then – for summer BBQs, friends with new babies, tailgates, my brother’s engagement party dinner, pretty much any excuse I can find. You can doctor them up with anything from nuts or chocolate chips to toasted coconut or crushed candy canes (which I obviously did at Christmas), but the salted caramel option Deb posted yesterday looked extra delicious so I thought I’d give it a try. The bad news is, I might now be equally as obsessed with making caramel – YUM. The brownies really are so easy, and the caramel is a not-too-difficult extra step. Deb mentions that once you add the butter/cream/salt to the sugar it might not incorporate beautifully – mine didn’t incorporate at all. But if that should happen to you, never fear, once you get the pan back on the heat the sugar melts down again and you have delicious, gooey caramel in no time!
Brownie #2: Marbled Red Velvet Cheesecake. I’m not typically a huge red velvet person, nor a cheesecake person – but I saw these in the Seattle paper yesterday and they were so darn cute and Pinterest-y I had to make them. I would say these are substantially more work than the first recipe, but still not hard, so if you are a red velvet or a cheesecake person they would definitely be worth the effort. The recipe makes a TON – I wanted to halve it but couldn’t figure out how to divide three eggs by two, and unfortunately I don’t own a mini jelly roll pan. Luckily my coworkers gobbled up the dozens of darling little red, pink and white swirled hearts I brought into the office this morning, but if you aren’t looking to feed an army, I suspect you could cut the recipe in half and just whisk two eggs together and only use about 3/4 of the mixture, and then bake the brownies in a 9 x 13 pan. Martha Stewart always says baking is an exact science, but I think in this case it would be ok. One minor FYI: the recipe mentions your red velvet batter will be thick – this is an understatement. It seemed more like cookie dough than brownie batter to me, but just press it into your jelly roll pan and it will work out fine. The recipe also suggests using the leftover cut out scraps for a red velvet milkshake…..not sure how I feel about that, but as I was dumping all of mine down my disposal last night to keep myself from snacking on them, I couldn’t help but think they would be perfect for cake pops! Maybe next year!
I hope these recipes inspire you guys to do some Valentine’s baking this weekend, or at least to wear your red and pink with pride. Although, sorry Mom, I think J. Crew has been telling us that’s ok now for years. Happy Valentine’s Day!!