These heart-shaped treats are an excellent Valentine’s Day. They are just fancy enough that people will be impressed with you. Melted down vanilla cream Lindor truffles and a vanilla bean flavor these dense, rich brownies. Top with white chocolate raspberry mousse for extra fancy.
If this is your first vanilla bean then I know exactly what you’re thinking. Why the heck did I pay five bucks for this super skinny warped black thing? Trust me. It is worth the money. And, if you’ve never worked with a vanilla bean before, don’t be intimidated. It’s very simple! You’ll just need a small, sharp knife.
Slice down the length of the bean, cutting into the first layer but not all the way through the bean. Twist the knife slightly to open up the bean. Did you ever open up your green beans to eat the tiny beans inside as a kid? That’s what you want to do here. Use the knife to scrape out the vanilla beans. That’s the fine black specks that resemble potting soil. Place the empty pod in bowl with 2 cups of white sugar. Cover for a week or so and you’ll have vanilla-infused sugar!
See those black specks in our batter? Now it’s legit vanilla.
So where does legit vanilla come from? Let’s find out. The word ‘vanilla’ comes from the Spanish diminutive ‘vaina’ and translates to ‘little pod.’ The Totonac people of present-day Mexico were the first to cultivate the tropical orchid vine that produces vanilla beans. The Totonac were eventually subjugated by the Aztecs. In the 1520’s, Spanish conquistadors took vanilla back to their home country. Among other things.
There are a few strains of vanilla on the market.
- Bourbon or Madagascar vanilla refers to vanilla from India and Indian Ocean islands. It is produced by the species of plant originally introduced from the Americas. This is the most common type of vanilla and it’s what I used in this recipe.
- Mexican vanilla is from Mexico, obviously, and is sold in tourist markets there. It may be cut with tonka bean extract which smells and tastes similar to vanilla. It is banned by the FDA in America due to the possibility that it may cause liver damage in humans, as it has in other animals.
- Tahitian vanilla is grown in French Polynesia. It was introduced to Polynesia from the Philippines by French admiral Francoise Alphonse Hamelin.
- West Indian vanilla is grown in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
And here’s Chai with our newest stuffed animal friend. He’s in her spot. She keeps trying to smack him off the ottoman when I’m not looking.
Other vanilla bean desserts:
Vanilla Bean Lindor Brownies with Raspberry Mousse
Vanilla Bean Lindor Brownies:
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse:
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
14 oz raspberries, fresh or thawed frozen and patted dry
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (6 oz) white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy whipping cream*
Additional truffles, optional
Preheat oven to 300°F.
*I started the cream in my stand mixer and let it run while I did everything else. This part takes some time.
Melt butter and truffles in microwave.
Stir in sugar and vanilla.
In separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
Combine wet and dry ingredients.
Pour batter into greased 8” square baking pan.
Cover top of pan loosely with foil. (This helps to prevent browning.)
Bake 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake 10 more minutes or until center is set.
Combine water and gelatin in a small dish and set aside.
Puree raspberries and strain to remove seeds.
Bring raspberry puree and sugar to a boil in a saucepan.
Boil for 5 minutes, stirring often.
Remove from heat and pour off 1/3 cup of sauce for another use.
Mix in gelatin mixture.
Mix white chocolate into raspberry mixture until melted and smooth.
Whisk heavy cream to soft peaks and fold into cooled raspberry mixture. (When you lift up the beaters, the cream will stand up and fall back over on itself slightly. You’ll know you’re getting close after the cream is foamy and you can start to see the tracks of the beaters pulling through it.)
To make these heart-shaped treats, I removed the entire uncut brownie square from the pan and laid it on parchment paper. Then I used a tall, metal heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the brownies. Offset the hearts as shown to get the most brownies possible.
I then chilled the mousse so that it would be easier to work with. I spooned some mousse onto a plate and set a brownie heart on top. I spooned a smaller amount of mousse on top of the heart, spreading it to fill in the shape. I finished it off with a half of a Lindor truffle.
I used the leftover brownie scraps and mousse to make a couple mini trifles in baby food jars.
This is what the dessert looks like when you’re too impatient to let it cool properly. No regrets.