When I think of Valentine’s Day, I’m pretty sure I can speak for all of us when I say that chocolate covered strawberries always comes to mind.
Well, that and just chocolate in general. And, what’s more classic than a chocolate covered pretzel AND a chocolate covered strawberry? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
In order to jack up the chocolate factor of these two classics, I decided to combine them in a decadent brownie so you wouldn’t have to chose between having just one or the other.
It all starts with the pretzel crust.
Crushed pretzels are combined with (lots of) Kerrygold butter and brown sugar to make THE perfect crust. The brown sugar caramelizes and binds everything together. The butter adds a rich silky flavor. And there is vanilla in there as well to kick the flavor up a notch. Pretty sure this crust is tied with the shortbread cookie crust in this pie bar as one of my favorite crust recipes.
A rich brownie batter is piled high on top of the pretzel crust. And, let’s chat about the brownie batter for a second. I’m not one to cut corners when it isn’t going to give you the final result you want, but when it comes to brownies…
I give my FULL trust in Ghirardelli for making a damn good brownie batter.
However, I do make it my own by substituting the water for coffee, as it will make a richer chocolate taste flavor (promise, you’re going to want to take my word for it on this one). I also add in vanilla, because like, why not. Finally, some chocolate syrup is used to top off the batter and add an extra chocolate element, just in case the chocolate covered pretzels we add later weren’t going to be enough 😉
But, to me, boxed mixes are just the guidelines and a more convenient way to make an elevated dessert without having to measure out everything yourself. I’ve done it before with this brownie pie recipe. I use a mix here in these nutty cookies and cream brownies. Think of a boxed mix as a blank canvas and get creative.
Now, as for the strawberry flavor in these, the trick here is freeze dried strawberries. It allows you to get all that strawberry flavor AND color without watering down the frosting by using fresh ones. I found some on Amazon and ended up using the whole bag. My only regret by using all of them is the fact I did not think to leave any to the side for a garnish at the end. Oh well.
To tie the whole chocolate Valentine’s Day theme together, I top these off with chocolate covered pretzels. 100% unnecessary but 100% worth it.Print
- Two boxes of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownie mix
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil, per the instructions on the box
- 2 eggs, per the instructions on the box
- 1/2 cup cooled coffee
- 1/4 cup chocolate fudge
- 4 tablespoons vanilla extract, divided
- 5 cups pretzels (I used the Snyder’s “butter snaps“)
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 sticks of salted Kerrygold butter
- 1 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes
- 1 cup Crisco shortening
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted Kerrygold butter, room temperature
- 4.5-5 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- The juice of 1/4 lemon
- 3 tablespoons of Nesquik Strawberry milk, plain whole milk could be substituted if you cannot find it
- 1 3/4 cups freeze dried strawberries, a whole 1.2oz bag
- 32 mini chocolate covered pretzels, optional (but highly recommended)
The Salted Pretzel Crust:
- Preheat the oven to 375. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels until they are finely chopped. Some pieces will be bigger than others, but most of it will resemble sand. Combine the pretzel crumbs with the 2 sticks of melted butter, 2 tablespoons of vanilla, salt and the brown sugar. Press the crust into a parchment lined 13×9 pan. Parbake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes. Cool completely.
For the brownies:
- Turn the oven down to 325. Prepare the brownie mix according to the package, substituting water for coffee. Add in 2 tablespoons of vanilla and combine. Pour on top of the cooled crust and top with the hot fudge. Take a knife and run it back and forth to create a swirl texture on top.
- Bake for 48-50 minutes at 325. Cool completely.
Make the frosting:
- In your food processor, pulse the freeze dried strawberries until they turn to dust. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the softened butter and crisco with a handheld mixer until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in 1/2 of the powdered sugar and mix on low. Add in the vanilla and strawberry milk, then mix in the strawberry “dust”. Continue mixing, while adding in the lemon juice and the remaining powdered sugar. The thickness of the frosting you want will determine the amount of powdered sugar you use. Continue mixing until smooth.
Top the brownies with the frosting. Cut into 32 brownies, and then top each one with a chocolate covered pretzel.
- Hold your knife under hot running water before cutting the brownies. Repeat after each slice. This will ensure you get “clean” cuts, as the hot knife will cut through the butter and fudge easily.