My hunt for the perfect brownie is finally over.

These dark chocolate brownies are soft and fudgy, with a crackled top and a little bite around the edge.

And that thick, gooey, coconutty middle…it just gives them a bit of Almond Joy kick that tastes — and smells — fantastic.

I know everyone gets a little choosy — me included — when it comes to “The Perfect Brownie.”

But this particular recipe just does it for me — with or without the coconut.

The brownie has that thin crust on top.

It has the fudginess, the chewiness, those slightly crispy puffed-up edges.

It’s chocolatey AND it has that awesome cocoa flavor.

I don’t want to down-play the coconut filling though.

They give the brownies an extra Almond Joy-like gooiness right there in the middle.

Also, the smell of the brownies and the coconut in the house…fabulous.

I had to put these in an air-tight container just so I wouldn’t keep smelling — i.e. eating — them.

I made these two ways — as big hearts and as cupcakes.

I left the coconut exposed around the edges in the cupcakes, but let the batter puff up around the middles in the heart-shaped version.

I like them both ways, although the hidden centers in the hearts were a bit easier to eat.

Either way, the coconut stays nice and gooey — it’s more about the look you’re going after.

Ok, the brownies are perfect…

the coconut is gooey and delicious…

it’s chocolate week…

and it’s almost Valentine’s Day.

So, why not?

A little indulgence is sexy.

Perfect Brownies Stuffed with Gooey Coconut

makes about 12 cupcakes, or 6 (3.5″) hearts (with enough left over for 3 cupcakes)

For coconut filling

  • 2 ¼ cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Press plastic wrap against mixture. Cover bowl with wrap or foil. Chill mixture for at least an hour or overnight. (If you have extra filling after stuffing brownies, chill and save for macaroons!)

For brownies

  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 oz. chopped bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips (I used Hershey’s Special Dark choc. chips, about 3/4 cups)
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Grease heart-shaped cupcake pan (mine is a 6-cup pan with 3.5″ cups), line cup bottoms with parchment paper and grease paper. Or, if you want to make brownie cupcakes, line cupcake pan with paper liners.

In small bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour and salt. Set aside.

Melt butter over double boiler. Add sugar and chocolate and whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is fairly smooth (it will be grainy). Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Add eggs to lukewarm chocolate mixture and beat with an electric mixer on medium for about 1 minute, until smooth.

Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and beat on medium for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth (see note).

Fill heart cups or cupcake liners about 2/3 full with brownie batter (it will be thick) and spread the dough evenly in each cup.

Place about 3 to 4 tablespoons of the coconut mixture in centers of hearts or about 2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut mixture in cupcake liners. Spread coconut across the middle of hearts/cupcakes.

If you want an exposed coconut center (see my pictures of cupcakes above), then spread filling to the edges of the batter.  If you want the coconut centers hidden in the middle of the cupcakes (see the pictures of my heart brownies), do not spread coconut to the edge, leaving a little brownie batter exposed around the edges.

Place about 2 to 3 tablespoons of brownie dough on top of coconut mixture and spread over coconut to cover (it’s ok if coconut peeks through — it’ll just get a bit toasted).

Bake cupcakes for about 18 minutes and hearts for about 20 minutes, until tops are cracked and a little shiny.

Allow the brownies to cool completely in pan on rack (they firm up as they cool in the pan).

Once completely cool, remove carefully from pan.

Note: The beating time is necessary in this recipe, so don’t hesitate to use the mixer. I’ve tried several different brownie recipes and techniques, and I’m usually a big whisk fan, but the batter needs the beating time listed. It makes them what they are — fan-freaking-tastic.