Have a heart
Apparently in engineering you should always leave at least 2.5 times the diameter of the hole you are creating around the edges of the hole, to ensure structural stability. So said the boy as I held in my hands the wreck of what had been, mere moments earlier, a functioning square of chocolate brownie. Now it had a mangled hole in its centre and was broken in at least three places round the edges. Whoever decided on this particular rule was evidently not a baker. Or if they were, they had no eye for detail, since that would necessitate a 6-inch square brownie with a 1-inch heart in its centre. Who eats half-foot brownies?
This issue wasn’t helped by my cookie cutter being too short for the brownies which were essentially cubes, being as tall as they were wide. Whilst I could cut most of the way through them, the final few millimetres remained unscored, and thus I had to prod quite firmly to get the heart centres to come out. Cue more crumbled brownies, hastily stuffed into my mouth. A solution was finally thought of, which was to slice the brownies in half lengthwise to make them thinner, so the cutter could go all the way through them. A task which would have been moderately simple, if I hadn’t just chopped my brownie blocks into 16 squares each. An hour or so later, after much slicing, delicate fiddling, returning brownies to the freezer to cool down and mopping of sweaty brows, I had about 50 little brownie slices that looked quite cute, moderately edible and not too garishly pink either. Plus a lot of crumbs.
The morals of this story are clearly manifold, but the main takeaway should be these are quite fat brownies so make sure your cookie cutter is tall enough; failing that, slice the brownie blocks in half, before dividing into squares.
Dark and white chocolate brownies with a heart
From Smitten Kitchen
The white chocolate brownies weren’t as pink as I would have liked, though actually, unless these are for a special event and need to be pink, they are quite cute enough without the colouring. The white ones turned out a bit more cakey, making them easier to cut and handle without breaking; the dark chocolate ones were a little more fragile. I’d probably cook them for slightly less time in future (23-25 minutes instead of 25-30) in the hopes of making them a little more malleable.
Ingredients (white chocolate brownies)
85g white chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
105g (2/3 cup) gluten-free flour blend
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
2 drops red food colouring
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line an 8×8-inch baking tin with buttered foil.
2. In a large bowl in the microwave melt the butter and the white chocolate until 80% melted. Remove, and stir until completely melted.
3. Stir in the sugar. At this stage the mixture will look curdled, messy and generally like it’s going to turn into a big disaster. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and it should all come together into a beautiful glossy batter. Breathe again. Stir in the vanilla.
4. Mix together the gluten-free flour, salt and xanthan gum, then stir these into the batter. Add 2-3 drops of red food colouring, stir until the mixture is light pink, then scrape the batter into the lined pan. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until browned and slightly puffed up on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the pan, then remove from pan, peel away foil, wrap in greaseproof paper (don’t freeze them in the foil or you’ll never get the bloody stuff off) and freeze for at least 30 minutes.
5. To make the dark chocolate brownies follow the same instructions, using 85g dark (70% cocoa) chocolate instead, and not adding the food colouring, and reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes.
6. When both batches of brownies are cooked and frozen, remove them from the freezer and using a sharp knife cut each brownie block into 16 2-inch squares. Working quickly, but delicately, cut out 1-inch hearts from the centre of each brownie using a heart-shaped cutter. I found the white (pink) brownies were easier to cut; the dark chocolate ones are a little more crumbly. Carefully swap the heart centres and insert the pink hearts into the dark brownies, and vice versa. Wrap the brownies in clingfilm and foil and freeze until required, for up to a month. Defrost for an hour at room temperature before serving.