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It's February, and visions of chocolate fairies are dancing in my head.

I know I talked a lot of talk about getting back on track in January, and I feel like I did. I wasn't a monk or anything, but I drove the speed limit of sensible eating.

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I think I may have abstained from all cookie eating in January, except a few Apple Newtons here and there after a workout. I kind of needed a cookie detox after December.

While I was able to put cookies aside, my drive for chocolate did not subside. But rather than resorting to baking, I tried to satiate myself with a bite-sized candy each day. And it helped.

But it's February, which I believe is the dreariest month, and I'm ready to lift my ban on baking and dive back into the chocolate world.

Today, I have two recipes that I'm very excited about. The first is a flourless chocolate cake. I grew up eating flourless chocolate cakes as a child because my father was allergic to flour. And I never missed the flour. These were dark, fine-crumbed cakes with rich, rich flavor. And I still have a real penchant for them.

Most of these recipes are pretty easy, but this one seemed especially simple. You can get a decadent dessert in about an hour and people will think you bought it at a professional bakery.

For the second recipe, I chose brownies with the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Warning, these are also very rich. And there are layers of flavor, with coffee in the brownies, the optional hint of bourbon in the frosting and chopped peanut butter cups on top. It's making me drool just thinking about them.

This recipe isn't as easy as the first one — or making brownies from a box — but sometimes it's fun to make a more involved recipes, especially when you know it's going to pay off.

Enjoy!

Flourless chocolate cake

Cocoa powder for dusting

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs, beaten

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1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan, line with parchment paper, grease again, and dust with cocoa powder.

In the top of a double boiler over lightly simmering water, melt chocolate and butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven until the cake begin to pull away from the sides of pan and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly wet, about 40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely, about 45 minutes. Slices can also be reheated for 20 to 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

Source: Adapted from http://www.allrecipes.com

The very best peanut butter cup fudge brownies

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate, chopped + divided

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons instant coffee

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Peanut butter cups, roughly chopped, for topping

Fudge frosting:

1/2 cup heavy cream

5 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Line an 8-by-8-inch or 9-by-9-inch baking dish with parchment paper or foil, letting the edges over hang from the pan so you can easily lift the brownies out later. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Add the butter and 2 ounces milk chocolate to a medium size mixing bowl that is microwave safe. Microwave the butter and chocolate on 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. To the melted chocolate mixture add the sugar and instant coffee, whisking until completely combined. Then add the vanilla and eggs, whisk until smooth. Next, stir in the cocoa powder, flour and salt until smooth and just combined. Try not to over mix the batter, it will be thick.

In another small mixing bowl, mix together the peanut butter, 1 tablespoon butter and powdered sugar until smooth.

Pour half the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Next, dollop the peanut butter mixture onto the brownie batter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 ounces chopped chocolate. Now layer the remaining batter on top of the other layers. Gently spread the batter to the sides if needed. Don't worry if all the batter does not cover the whole surface area, it will smooth out as the brownies bake.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the brownies are set on top. Allow the brownies to cool completely before frosting.

Meanwhile, to make the frosting, heat the cream in a saucepan until just below a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and peanut butter until melted and smooth. Add the vanilla and bourbon until smooth and creamy. Set the frosting aside until the brownies are cool enough to frost.

Once the brownies are cool, spread the frosting over top. Sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups. Allow the frosting to set about 30 minutes then slice into bars. Brownies can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge for about four days.

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