Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl Brownies

Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl BrowniesI'm going to tell you something about myself. I am one of the most competitive people in the world. I don't care about sports at all, so I'm not on all the teams or anything. I just like to win. If I'm going to play a game, I want to win it. Decisively.

Here's another thing about me. I am not a great team player. I have a hard time relying on others, especially if a grade is tied to it. (Am I the only person here who hated group projects in school?) Heck, I don't even need a grade tied to it, now that I think about it. It's not like we get graded for playing Scattergories or Pictionary. Or do we? Maybe it's just that I grade myself. That very competitive side just comes out and wants to win.

When I have to play a game that also requires that I be on a team, things can go...poorly. Twenty years ago, I went on a weekend trip to the mountains of Virginia with a small group of dear girlfriends. One evening, someone broke out the Pictionary game. Things went...poorly. Lizzie, who thank God is still one of my best friends despite the trauma, was on my team. She drew...something, I can't remember what. Phone? Phone booth? Anyway, we kept calling out guesses: Phone! Phone booth! No. and no. We kept randomly guessing:

Saguaro cactus!

Bed warmer!

Leyland Cypress!

The guesses became more frantic the closer to empty the wee hourglass became.



Ipswich Clam!

When the sand had all run to the bottom of the timer, Lizzie told us the word she was supposed to have drawn. What happened was that she had drawn the wrong word. So, while we indeed saw and guessed Phone (or Phone Booth or whatever it was), that wasn't the clue she had in her head. I have no idea how it happened. But I hit her. I hit one of my best friends ever.

She went out on the deck and smoked a cigarette. I drove myself directly to GameHab. I now have my twenty year chip. I don't play games with anyone. Because of the hitting. I'd rather read. There is very little hitting in reading.

I think that after a fifth of a century in self-imposed Gamehab I may have learned to not be hitty.

As a test of this, I am entering these brownies in the Dixie Crystals Brownie Dessert Contest sponsored by the fine folks at Dixie Crystals Sugar. They are one of the sponsors of the Food and Wine Conference that I'll be attending in just a few weeks. I'm very excited, because I will get to meet some dear friends I've only known online so far, hug some folks I haven't hugged in almost two years and learn a lot.

If I win this contest, I will get a big old gift card, reimbursement of my conference fee, my dessert--these very brownies--will be a featured dessert at the conference, and the recipe has a good chance of being featured on the Dixie Crystals or Imperial Sugar website. Pretty keen, huh?! EDITED TO INCLUDE: I actually won the contest, and I didn't hit anyone!!! So cool!Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl BrowniesThe good news is that, if these brownies don't win, there will be no hitting. This brownie lives or dies by what Chef Eddy VanDamme (the very talented corporate chef at Dixie Crystals--I'm a huge fan of his) says. Beside, I'll be too busy eating these brownies to be too broken up about it!d

My offering is a rich, dark brownie starring bittersweet chocolate and two kinds of cocoa powder. Rather than flavoring them with vanilla or rum, I used a rich and fruity balsamic vinegar. The strawberry jam swirl is very simple: good quality strawberry jam with some more balsamic stirred into it. The two components are swirled together, and I think the result is pretty magical. I hope you like them too.Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl BrowniesWish me luck in the contest, and do go over and take a look at all the other amazing entries--everything looks and sounds fantastic!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl Brownies
Recipe type: Dessert Bar
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
Rich and fruity balsamic vinegar brings a delightful brightness to a rich chocolate brownie. Married with a strawberry jam-balsamic swirl, these brownies are winners.
What You Need
For the Brownies
  • 1¼ cups sifted cake flour (5 oz)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 12 oz (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 oz (1/4 block) cream cheese, softened
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 7 Tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
  • 2 Tablespoons "Oreo-type" cocoa powder (or just use 9 Tablespoons of the regular cocoa powder)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2¼ cups granulated sugar (yes, I used Dixie Crystals)
  • 1 Tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar (if you have a chocolate or strawberry-infused one, by all means use it)
  • 4 large eggs
For the Strawberry Swirl
  • ¾ cup good quality strawberry jam
  • 1½ Tablespoons (4½ teaspoons) good quality balsamic vinegar (see above)
What To Do
For the Brownie Batter
  1. Prepare a 9x13" pan or a 9x9" pan (depending if you want thinner or thicker brownies) by lining the pan with one long strip of parchment paper or non-stick foil cut to fit the width of the pan. Allow either end of the strip to hang out over the edges. Spray the inside of the pan with pan spray, and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325F and set an oven rack in the center of the oven.
  3. Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, melt together the butter and cream cheese, whisking well as they melt.
  5. Pour the butter over the chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth.
  6. Carefully whisk in the cocoa powders and salt.
  7. Whisk in the sugar and balsamic. The mixture may look broken, but worry not.
  8. Thoroughly whisk in the eggs, one at a time. See now--the batter is looking lovely!
  9. Thoroughly fold in the dry ingredients.
For the Strawberry Swirl
  1. Whisk together the jam and balsamic until thoroughly combined.
To Bake
  1. Spread slightly more than half the batter in the pan.
  2. Top with the strawberry balsamic mixture and spread evenly.
  3. Randomly drop in spoonfuls of the remaining batter until you have used it all.
  4. Pull a knife back and forth through the batter, first one way and then the other.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 50 minutes to an hour for the 9x9" pan and about 35-45 minutes for the 9x13" pan.
  6. Cool completely before slicing, or if you want to eat them warm, slice carefully with a serrated knife, dipping the blade in hot water and wiping it off between every slice.

As you can tell from the photos, these guys aren't cakey at all. There's a bit of crumb around the edges, but the center is like eating pudding you can slice. If you don't like that texture in your brownies, by all means make these anyway and then give them to me.

Bittersweet Balsamic Strawberry Swirl Brownies

Serving suggestion: Cut a brownie into four cute triangles using a serrated blade. Plop a scoop of ice cream in the center of your plate. Corral it with the brownie pieces and sliced strawberries. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic. This would make a great dinner party dessert, especially if all you served is a cucumber.

Thanks for spending some time here with me today! Wish me luck, and enjoy the bittersweet balsamic strawberry swirl brownies. Oh, and in case you are in need of a serving suggestion, they go really, really well with this week's Ice Cream Tuesday, the Buttermilk Mascarpone Stracciatella with Balsamic Strawberry Conserve. Kismet!

Have a lovely day.


  1. says

    My sister-in-law has a similar, self-imposed gaming ban. I don’t know if she’s a hitter, but I suspect so. Maybe you two could start a gaming/fight club? With brownies? I think it could be fun…

  2. says

    Forget the brownies (well, no don’t) that is the funniest fricking blog post I have ever read in my entire life!!! OMG I have tears running down my cheeks!!!

    Anyway *whew* AMAZING brownies! AMAZING and baby YOU win!!!

  3. says

    I love that you win no matter what happens with the judging because you get to eat all the brownies, Jenni. I love strawberries with balsamic vinegar so these are right up my alley! And I’m so glad your friend forgave you. That is a VERY funny story!

    • says

      Oh, it was the worst, Stacy! I felt terrible later, but at the time, that punch was completely justified! I am the worst, hence Gamehab! =) And if you like balsamic and strawberries, try throwing some brownies in the mix. It all goes together beautifully!

  4. says

    Hello. My name is Marly and I’m a gameaholic. Haha! Your story cracked me up! I could totally visualize this experience. And it reminded me of a family dinner where we played dictionary. My sister had the word Seattle. Seattle!! How friggin’ easy would that be? You would just draw a picture of the US and point to the NW corner! But my sister decided to draw an apple which mean that we all started guessing about apple pie. Then I think she attempted to draw the space needle which we all thought was an apple peeler or whatever. It was hilarious. We give her crap about it every single time we’re together. I know she loves it. Or maybe not but who cares. I’m competitive too. I try not to be, but can’t help it. And now I’m competitive for you. If there were a way I could help you to win I would do it – I wish we could vote for you! OK. Well, all I can do, I guess, is to cross my fingers and wish like crazy!!

    • says

      I will take what I can get, Marly! Crazy wishing is much appreciated! And I would have totally punched your sister. LOL What does apple have to do with Seattle? I await your response with breathless anticipation… =)

  5. says

    “I may have learned to not be hitty” !!!! OMG, priceless Sissy. That made me laugh 🙂
    The brownies are a big, fat bonus to that hilarious story. Coming from someone who is also terribly competitive, I can appreciate the need for a self-imposed exile from playing games with others.
    If I lose at say “Trivial Pursuit” , I get pissed off. It has the name TRIVIAL in the title, this should be a clue that it shouldn’t be taken so seriously, yet… you know how that ends.
    Great post! Best of luck in the contest !

  6. says

    I want to say 2 things now that I’ve tasted these babies. AMAZING!!! Really one of the best brownies I have ever tasted. Chocolatey without being bitter, and barely, perfectly sweetened. And just the perfect balance of brownie and fruit.

    The second thing? I have 6 of these brownies and didn’t even have to make them myself 🙂

  7. says

    I loved the story of your pictionary fail! I know that feeling all too well! I also absolutely loved these brownies at the #FWCon They were my favorite! I have never succeeded at making good brownies ever! but I will try again with your recipe. If I succeed, I will give you all the credit, if I fail…well, I would like to give you the credit for that too but having tasted them I know that if they don’t come out right, the fault is with the maker not the recipe! Cheers!

    • says

      Thank you so much, Christina! I didn’t even feel the least bit hitty at the conference, so I guess GameHab is working out for me! These guys are pretty easy to put together. I have faith in you! Enjoy! xoxo

  8. says

    This makes great reading my friend! I know I’m on to something good when I hear the author’s voice. The only thing better than your storytelling and kitchen prowess is your rightfully earned new accolade. Congratulations for winning the featured dessert for Dixie Crystals and the FWC.

  9. says

    I make Alice Medrich’s brownies all the time – several batches alone over the holidays last year. But your brownies at #FWCon were the BEST brownies I have ever had. Hands down. And this post is the funniest post I’ve read in a really long time. I’m in the ‘doesn’t work and play well with others’ camp too when it comes to games, contests, or trying to land a deal. I’m not too hitty, but I’ve got the bitchy thing down real well. I like to win too. It’s why I did well in the business world, but not too well in the dating one for a very long time.

    • says

      Oh, Susan, you have made me well up! I am so very glad that you enjoyed them; I was thrilled to share them with so many folks I love and admire! I need to channel my hittiness into doing better business-wise I think. =)


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