During my junior year of high school, my mom and I started a new afternoon tradition. Once she collected my younger brother from the middle school across town and I drove myself home, we each snagged a small piece of dark chocolate from the pantry (I inherited my chocoholism from her!) and laced up our sneakers for a walk.
With our house placed partway up a huge hill and the sun rapidly dropping behind its top, we dashed across the main road, dodging cars speeding by at 45 miles per hour, to the fancy neighborhood on the other side still situated in the sunshine. We soaked up our Vitamin D while pacing around their jellybean-shaped streets, trading stories about our days.
I cheered on Mom as she contemplated leaving her old job and began applying for new ones, and she praised me when I earned A’s on my calculus exams. I laughed as she recounted spending quality time with her coworker’s cute baby boy, and she congratulated me after my band director passed out new sheet music with oboe solos.
By the time we arrived back home almost an hour later, sun-kissed and relaxed, hunger took over and we nibbled on a snack, usually fresh fruit (and more chocolate or a cookie!) before I cracked open my textbooks to begin my homework and she started whittling away at the mountain of our family’s laundry.
Even now, despite living over an hour away, I still head out on solo afternoon walks, and I call my mom almost every time! We chat, catch up, and celebrate life’s little successes from 80+ miles apart, and it’s almost like I’m back in high school all over again.
So when Walkers shipped me a few boxes of their goodies with the theme “Sweet Recipes for Mom,” I immediately knew what I wanted to create. I combined her favorite dark chocolate, beloved berries, and special shortbread into one sweet treat…
Fudgy Strawberry Shortbread Brownies! Packed full of juicy strawberries and topped with buttery cookie chunks, these dark chocolate bars are quite a decadent treat. Despite their sophisticated look and rich flavor, they’re secretly skinny and low-calorie. So grab a glass of milk and sneak a second one—you don’t have to feel guilty about it!
Bonus: this low-fat brownie recipe is just as easy as a box mix! Whisk together the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet in another. Combine them together, spread into the pan, and bake. So simple!
I only slightly tweaked my favorite fudgy dark chocolate brownie recipe for these treats. To obtain that dark chocolate flavor, I turned to Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. This is cocoa powder that has been Dutched, a harmless process that reduces the cocoa’s acidity, and it gives your baked goodies a really rich taste and almost black hue.
If you prefer an incredibly dark flavor, substitute more Dutched cocoa powder for some (or all!) of the regular cocoa powder. If you’re a lighter and milkier brownie person, use all regular unsweetened cocoa powder. Play around with the amounts to suit your tastes!
Earlier this past week, I posed a question on Facebook: “What’s your favorite fruit to pair with chocolate?” Nearly everyone agreed on strawberries! With those as my mom’s favorite berry, I immediately decided to use them in these brownies.
Fresh or frozen and unthawed strawberries both work just fine. I opted for frozen because they were slightly cheaper at the grocery store. Either way, dice your fruit rather finely because smaller pieces of strawberries helps ensure smoother lines when you slice the brownies into squares.
If you use frozen strawberries, you’ll need to add an extra 2 minutes to the baking time. (I already made a note of that in the recipe below!) Otherwise, the batter in the center of the pan never sets and turns out more like sticky fudge that requires a fork to eat. (Not that I mind though!)
Save the shortbread chunks to press on top of the brownie batter. When you chop the cookies, you’ll end up with lots of tiny crumbs. Sprinkles those on too—they make for a cute finishing touch! As the brownies bake, the shortbread softens a bit but still retains its extremely buttery essence. It’s the perfect color contrast and flavor compliment for the fudgy brownies!
Even better, Walkers is offering all AHB readers an exclusive 20% off discount until May 3, 2014 on your purchase of all regular-priced items! Just head on over to their website, load up your cart, and enter the code FSMOM2014 at checkout.
I packed a few of these Fudgy Strawberry Shortbread Brownies in a little container before driving home to visit my parents this weekend. At Mom’s first bite, her eyes widened and lit up with pure pleasure. With their rich decadence, sweet bits of fruit, and soft buttery shortbread on top, these sophisticated treats barely lasted an hour in the kitchen!
And Dad voiced the same opinion as Mom: these are the best brownies I’ve ever made! Ready to bake your own?
*Disclaimer: Walkers Shortbread shipped me these products free-of-charge; all of the text, recipe, and photographs are my own.