Orange Dark Chocolate Brownies

Whether you're in love and you love Valentine's Day or you tend to harbor more bitter feelings about the holiday and your instinct is to invite friends over and barricade yourselves with wine and sappy chick flicks, I think we can all agree that V-Day is good for one thing at least: Chocolate.

Here at The Batter Thickens, Valentine's Day is synonymous with chocolate. We observe the holiday in two ways.

#1. Celebrating our deep, abiding, unconditional love for chocolate.

#2. Celebrating our deep, abiding, unconditional love for the people we care about...with chocolate.

The two go hand in hand pretty, well, handily. If you're lucky, you can even do both at once - celebrate your love for chocolate with the people you love. Bliss, amiright? You'll have endorphins rising off your skin like chocolate-scented perfume.

We took our favorite brownie recipe - dense and fudgy and flawless, to be honest - and infused it with orange zest for a subtle citrusy twist. You should make them for yourself and everyone you love and especially people you want to love (wink, wink). They're even heart-shaped, so if your loved ones happen to be particularly dense, the message will still come across loud at clear: "I MADE YOU CHOCOLATE BECAUSE I LOVE YOU. HERE, HAVE A BROWNIE, CUTIE. NOW LET'S HUG." (That's what you were saying, right?)

We heard there are people out there who prefer flowers over chocolate on Valentine's Day. If that's your thing....well, you do you. As for us? If you give us flowers, we're probably going to question how well you really know us and quite frankly, whether you even actually love us. It's harsh but that's the truth.

So who will you baking these brownies for this Valentine's Day?

- Molly

Orange Dark Chocolate Brownies

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1½ cups granulated sugar

zest of 1 orange

½ cup packed light brown sugar

5 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9x13-inch glass or light-colored baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together. Zest the orange into a small bowl filled with the granulated sugar and mix until well combined. This will imbue the sugar with the orange flavor, allowing it to better infuse the brownies.

Put the 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 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a 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 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Use a cookie cutter to cut brownies into heart shapes.

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking