Here is decadent dessert #2 in my line-up of Valentine’s Day treats. THIS is what I call celebrating Valentine’s Day.
I came across this recipe a while back, and I realized I didn’t have too many cherry chocolate combinations on the blog. I have posted a chocolate covered cherry recipe in the past, but that was it. I love the combination of chocolate and cherries-I love cherry flavored anything. You know those Mr. Scent markers? Yeah, the cherry one was, by far, my favorite as a kid. Still is.
I realize I have been getting a little crazy with the candy melts lately. But, I swear, these things are addicting to work with. I’m finding myself doodling pictures here and there, coming up with new ways to work with and color those candy discs. The possibilities are endless, but I promise you this is my last post with the candy melts in a while.
These heavenly little brownie bites were made in the usual way, in an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan, and then I used a small 1 and 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out the rounds. Surprisingly, I got a lot more out of the batch than I thought I would. I added a swirl of thick and creamy chocolate ganache using my Wilton 4B large tip. As my brownies were cooling, I simply melted down the candy melts (originally white in color), and then, once melted, I divided the batch in two and colored them red and pink with my food coloring gels. I filled my pastry bags with the melted candy, popped a Wilton #2 tip on each bag (one for the pink and one for the red), and then piped out heart designs on some wax paper. It didn’t take that long for the candy to harden. Once the ganache was set, I simply added a little candy heart to the top of each one to give it more dimension and served them later that night.
This brownie has incredible flavor-I opted for bittersweet chocolate in the recipe to decrease the sweet factor because I was afraid the cherries and additional ganache would make them too sugary-I was wrong. If you like dark chocolate, then you need to try it with the bittersweet chocolate. If you prefer your brownies to be sweet, try it with milk chocolate instead. I soaked the dried cherries in apple juice (see below) instead of the amaretto since I didn’t have any on hand, but I bet soaking the cherries in the alcohol would make this a more grown-up treat.
Cherry Almond Brownies
Servings: approximately 16 1 and 1/2-inch brownie rounds
For the brownies:
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 tablespoon apple juice (or Amaretto liqueur)
3/4 cup chopped unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 15-ounce can pitted dark, sweet cherries, drained***You can chop these if you want smaller pieces of cherry in the brownies.
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (feel free to substitute semisweet or milk chocolate if you prefer a sweeter brownie)
For the ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
For the candy melt hearts:
1 14.5-ounce bag white candy melts
Red gel food coloring
Pink gel food coloring
1. For the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Generously butter an 8×8-inch square baking pan, set aside.
3. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the dried chopped cherries and the apple juice, cover, and microwave for 45 seconds. Set aside to cool.
4. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring frequently until smooth.
5. Add the sugar and salt, whisking continuously. Set aside to cool to room temperature. **I waited about 10 minutes or so. You could speed this process up by refrigerating it briefly.
6. Once cooled, transfer the chocolate mixture to your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
7. Add the eggs, one at a time, to the chocolate mixture.
8. Add the flour, baking powder, soaked cherries, toasted almonds (it’s ok if they break up), canned dark sweet cherries (also ok if they break up a little), and chocolate chips. Mix well.
9. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared baking pan.
10. Bake the brownies for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
11. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature before cutting with your cookie cutter rounds.
12. For the ganache: In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a very gentle simmer (do not boil!)
13. While the cream is warming up, place your chocolate chips in a separate medium-sized bowl.
14. Once the cream is hot, pour it over the chocolate and let sit for 1-2 minutes.
15. Gently whisk the mixture until smooth.
16. Add the butter and continue to whisk until completely incorporated and smooth.
17. Allow the ganache to come to room temperature (it will thicken), or you can place it in the refrigerator, stirring every 10 minutes, until it reaches your desired consistency.
18. Once thickened, place the ganache in your pastry bag fitted with the Wilton 4B tip, and lightly swirl your ganache onto the top of each brownie bite.
19. For the candy hearts: In a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water, melt the candy melts, stirring frequently until completely smooth.
20. Remove from the heat, and, working quickly, remove half of the mixture to a second bowl.
21. Add your desired gel colorings to each half, returning the bowls to their positions over the simmering water, if need be. ***Remember, this stuff cools and hardens quickly.
22. Add the colored candy melt mixtures to separate pastry bags fitted with Wilton #2 tips.
23. Over sheets of wax paper, gently pipe out your heart shapes.
24. Let cool to room temperature.
25. Garnish each brownie bite with a candy heart.
Happy Valentine’s Day!