Brownies, Food Styling by Patricia Bainter, The Patrician Palette, Photos by Mark Woolcott Photography

Ideally, I’d be spending this Valentine’s evening with someone tall, dark and handsome. But that’s not to be. So, I’m making a date with the next best thing: something dense, rich and available. And I’m going to whip him up in my kitchen, maybe lick my fingers along the way, and take my time enjoying every last decadent bite. We will most likely be spending breakfast together, as well.

Sink your teeth into the best brownie I have had in ages. Unsweetened chocolate and natural cocoa powder are blended with way too much sugar, butter and eggs to create a dark chocolate sensation. Great recipes satisfy the mouth’s need for flavor and textures and this brownie recipe delivers. A dense cake center is surrounded by crispy edges that are accented with tender walnuts then topped with more chocolate glaze infused with sweet dried cherries and port.

My favorite pieces are the corners, of course, where all that sugar transforms dense cake into a crisp yet chewy mouthful of chocolate lovin’. And Valentine’s Day is all about the love, now, isn’t it? Chocolate love (this year).

SPECIAL NOTE: Target’s grocery department was a baker’s dream. I found everything I needed from the port to their Archer Farms® Montmorency Cherries that are much plumper and sweeter than other brands I’ve used.

Food Styling by Patricia Bainter, The Patrician
Food Photography by Mark Woolcott Photography
Recipe by Food Fairy Productions, Chef Lynda Lacher (slightly modified by TPP)
More chocolate recipes by Chef Lynda in the February, 2012 issue of Indulge in Denver magazine.

Check out this MOLTEN LAVA CAKE recipe by Lynda Lacher

Brownie, Food Styling by Patricia Bainter, Photo by Mark Woolcott PhotographBrownies with Cherry Port Sauce

1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or cake flour (for finer texture)
2 tablespoon natural cocoa (not Dutch-processed)
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Heat the oven to 350°F with an oven rack positioned in the middle.

Butter a 9-inch square pan, line the pan bottom and sides with parchment and then butter the parchment. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Set aside.

In a double boiler over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove the pan from the heat, whisk in the sugar and salt until blended; add the vanilla. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, until each is blended. Add the flour/cocoa mixture gradually until incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread to evenly distribute. Top with nuts if using. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean, with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 45 minutes. Do not over bake.

Cool brownies for 15 minutes, then remove by running a knife around the inside edge of the pan and lift out with the ends of the parchment paper.

Note: This recipe can be doubled; use a 13×9-inch pan and increase the baking time slightly.

Cherry Port Sauce

½ cup dried cherries, rough chopped
1/2 cup tawny port
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (do not use morsels)

In a small saucepan, bring the cherries and port to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and steep for 10 minutes. Remove the cherries and set aside.

Place the finely chopped chocolate in a bowl. Set aside.

Add the cream to the saucepan with the port, heat until steaming, just under a boil. Pour the port/cream mixture into the chopped chocolate; let sit 2 minutes. Add the cherries into the chocolate mixture (sauce); whisk until smooth and shiny. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.

Spread the sauce evenly over the cooled brownies and let set up for 1 hour.

Cut the brownies into squares with a sharp knife.; Patricia Bainter, Food Writer, Food Stylist, Kitchen DesignerPatricia Bainter is a blogger and writer for 303magazine. She trained at Le Cordon Bleu London and shares her culinary musings and recipes at her own website Photos by Mark Woolcott Photography.