Dark chocolate brownies with strawberry cream cheese frosting

I've been keeping a secret. Well, several secrets, really.  Somethings just aren't meant to be discussed right away, and it's nice to keep a teacup full of private thoughts. But now I'm feeling guilty and it's time to do some sharing.  1) At summer camp, I once hid under the bunkbed during a fire drill so that I could read the sex scene in Judy Blume's Forever without fear of judgement  2) I wrote fanmail to gay Broadway actors asking if they wanted to get coffee on my NYC school field trips and was sad when I never got a response, 3) I have a brownie recipe. (!!)

While now I tend to gravitate toward the homemade version, I was raised a boxed brownie kid. They were simple and I thought the batter was better. Artificial Ghiradelli was the best, and my mother taught me to swap out the water for some espresso, leading to a very hyper, chocolate-covered child. Then I started to blossom, slapped on my baker's backpack, and ventured out into a world of homemade brownies.  I explored my palette, sampling brownies with caramel, often chocolate chips, and then the occasional super brownie that came decked out with a cream cheese design and lookin' like it was headed to the Tony's. 

About two weeks ago, my friend Blake celebrated his 26th birthday. Blake and I get along well; as fellow libras we understand the value of balance and can appreciate a really good party. Blake's soiree consisted of a backyard decked with fairy lights, iron-wrought tables and chairs, and an outdoor bar for wine and whiskey consumption. The dress code was "Sunday Best" and the menu consisted of cannolis, birthday cake oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and red velvet cupcakes.  It was so fancy, the beer pong table had a tablecloth. 

As for my contribution, I envisioned something a la "Alice in Wonderland", where the frosting doesn't completely cover the cake, but rather glops over in a rustic-storybook-kinda-way.  Cake would have been nice, but brownies sounded better. Don't get me wrong, I worship all sorts of flavors and types of cakes,  but if it's gonna be chocolate, I say go big or go home. Go for the brownie. 

This brownie recipe is not just any ordinary brownie recipe. These are the brownies that cause diets to crumble and tears to fall. These are the brownies that you give to potential lovers to keep them around and to your mother to say "thank you." They're deeply chocolate-y, a good median between cake and fudge, and when cold, quite literally, melt upon meeting the tongue. If I sent these bad boys instead of some stickers plastered on Hello Kitty stationary, those broadway actors may have written back. 

dark chocolate brownies with strawberry cream cheese frosting 

Ingredients 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour 

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

3/4 cup granulated sugar 

1/4 packed brown sugar 

3 eggs, at room temp

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter. 

Whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder until incorporated. 

Place the chopped chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add one egg to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey!!

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, or until a knife comes out clean. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the foil. For a super clean cut, chill the brownies in the fridge before slicing. 

The brownies were adapted from Michelle over at Brown Eyed Baker, and there are plenty more delicious recipes to choose from over there. To make the frosting, I simply used this super easy recipe here. 

These brownies are pretty stellar hot and gooey, but they're out-of-this-world after they've been chilling in the fridge for a few hours.  For me, it's reminiscent of mornings I would head downstairs for breakfast, check the fridge for eggs, and quickly opt for the cold, melt-in-your-mouth-y brownie leftovers instead. 

-stay cozy