Valentines are great. But me, I'm more concerned about tines. As in, of my fork, and what dessert will be gracing them on February 14. A soufflé? A flourless chocolate cake? Well, yes to both of the above, but most of all, LAYERED STRAWBERRY CREAM CHEESE BROWNIES.
These are extra-appropriate at this time of year because in addition to having Valentine's Day on the horizon, February 10 is also National Cream Cheese Brownie Day. Truth!
Technically, the name "layered strawberry cream cheese brownies" is accurate, but it doesn't seem to do their adorableness justice, does it? So I choose to call them "Pretty in Pink Layered Brownies", because that name does seem to do the trick.
These brownies start with a baking mix--a gluten-free one, to boot!--made by Among Friends Baking Mixes. The particular mix I used was Alec's Awesomely Fudgy Brownie Mix (find it at a store near you). The mix employs oat flour and rice flour instead of the regular A-P stuff. Perhaps because chocolate is a dominant flavor, I didn't taste the different flours at all or detect a "gluten-free" flavor (sometimes I can in cakes and cookies--what about you?). The mix is speckled with chocolate chips, which just makes them extra chocolatey.
Basically, I prepared the baking mix per the package instructions. But the baking adventure didn't end there. I then whipped up an incredibly delectable middle layer, consisting of cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and strawberry jam. You will have to trust me when I tell you that this filling is so good I just wanted to sit in front of a Lifetime movie all day and eat it by the spoonful. But I resisted the urge, keeping my eyes on the prize.
The cream cheese mixture was poured on top of the brownie mix, and then they were baked up in a pan. Once baked and cooled, I topped them with a little melted chocolate and butter mixture, and they looked about like this.
Oh, my. These brownies are pretty darned special.
Since the cream cheese layer adds a lot of moisture, the bottom of the brownies stays somewhat gooey, in a good way. The middle layer--well, crack-addictive. And the topping makes them pretty as a picture, looking sort of like Nanaimo bars, and adding a little extra chocolate hit. These brownies are a success. They will make people love you.
Since the brownies are pretty high (literally--in height) when stacked with all the layers, I found it was just fine to cut these brownies into smallish squares; they still seemed quite substantial, which I think is important in a brownie. All said and done, I got about 16 brownies from the pan. I split the batch of brownies in three parts: a few for me, a few were given to my pugs' vet tech (it's nice for the humans to get treats, too, right?) and the rest I brought to yoga.
Every party involved devoured their brownies and declared them a success; the gluten-free eaters were delighted, and so were the non-gluten eaters.
Make these brownies! Share them with your valentine, and spear them on the tines of your fork for a sweet treat.
Pretty in Pink Layered Brownies
Yield: one 9-inch pan worth of brownies (how many you cut is up to you!)
For the brownies
- 1 box Among Friends Baking Mixes Alec's Awesomely Fudgy Brownie Mix
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup oil
For the cream cheese topping
- 1 brick (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened* (this is important!)
- 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1//3 cup good quality strawberry jam
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the topping
- 1 large bar (3.5 ounces) good quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (note: this is a different temperature than called for on the brownie box mix. Don't worry, it's going to be OK).
Generously grease a 9-inch brownie pan. Line with parchment or foil if you like (I like to).
Mix together all of the brownie ingredients as specified on the box. Once mixed, spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan.
Put together the filling ingredients. First, cream the cream cheese really well, so that it is totally fluffy and smooth. Add the remaining ingredients, and mix until smooth. If you feel like you'd like the mixture more pink, add a couple of drops of food coloring. Pour right on top of the brownie mixture.
Place the pan in the oven, and bake for 35 minutes, or until set. The edges might get a little golden, but you want the top to remain mostly pink.
Let the pan cool on a wire rack until it reaches room temperature, then cover with plastic and store in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight.
Make the topping. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler. Once mixed and smooth, spread over the brownies and cream cheese mixture. Be sure to cover the area evenly. Because the brownies were chilled, the topping should set rather quickly.
Slice into squares or rectangles to serve. Keep leftovers in the refrigerator, but let warm to cool room temperature to serve.