The first reference to Valentine’s Day and romantic love comes from Geoffrey Chaucer in 1382. His poem Parlement of Foules, written to mark the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, states:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese [choose] his make [mate].
The resurrection and commercialization of Valentine’s Day began in the 1840s and by 1847 the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were sold by Esther Howland of Massachusetts. Since that time, the holiday has become associated with flowers, jewellery and chocolate.
Not one to pass over an opportunity to celebrate with chocolate, I made these Valentine brownies for my boyfriend. If you are short on time and creativity, try this adaptation of a brownie recipe to win points with your sweetheart. The recipe is a Treat a Week original, but the idea of stamping out heart-shaped pieces comes from Martha Stewart’s minions. Like good chefs around the world, they make ingenious use of the leftover brownie bits (see photos below).
2 sticks butter
8 ounces dark or unsweetened chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
confectioner’s sugar or cocoa, for dusting
1. Butter and line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 325 F (165 C).
2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate. Mix in sugar until dissolved.
4. Remove from heat and beat in eggs and vanilla. Fold in flour mixture.
5. Pour batter into baking pan. Forcefully tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.
7. Cool to room temperature. Run a butter knife along the edge of the pan to detach the baked brownie. Invert onto a countertop lined with foil or wax paper.
8. Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, punch out brownies. Rotate the cutter to maximize the number of hearts that can be made.
9. Dust brownies with confectioner’s sugar or cocoa and serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or crème fraiche. You can also heat the brownies briefly in the microwave and serve warm.
10. Roll the soft brownie leftovers into balls, and roll them in confectioner’s sugar or cocoa and serve as truffles. The crispy leftovers (especially at the edges of the brownie) can be broken into bits and served with ice cream.