Mary Louise Butters Brownies800/975-6309
If you'd like to get your sweetheart something ever-so-slightly different, consider Butters Brownies. Mary Louise Butters makes 12 different rich, dense, chocolaty flavors, and her website provides an astounding number of Valentine's Day gift ideas. There is no way to capture the sheer variety that Butters offers without listing the flavors: Jane (straightforward chocolate and walnuts), Sane Jane (no nuts), Aphrodite (chocolate and rose oil), Zen (chocolate and candied ginger), Aztec God (chocolate, walnuts, and chiles), L'Orange (chocolate and orange zest with orange liqueur), Kona Buzz (chocolate, hazelnuts, and toasted coffee beans), Mental Julep (chocolate, mint, and toasted walnuts), Peace (chocolate, pecans, and cranberries), Ruby Port (chocolate and Port), Seriously Stout (chocolate and creamy stout), and Marilyn (a blond brownie with molasses, butter, and pecans). Just in time for Valentine's Day, a brand-new flavor, Donna, has been added: chocolate with milk-chocolate chips and no nuts.
In addition to the brownies, Butters also features a product called Brownie Butts, which are essentially twice-baked brownie biscotti. The Butts pack just as much chocolate power into smaller, crunchier morsels and are available in all the flavors.
Nowhere does Mary Louise Butters shine more than in the gift department. There are 11 different gift packages on her website, ranging in price from $12 to $77. The Date Box contains a dozen assorted brownies, one bag of Brownie Butts, a vial of rose oil, and a set of pink cotton lingerie. The Girls Nite gift box offers two Aphrodite and two Marilyn brownies, a pink cotton lingerie set, and a bag of brownie biscotti. Most gift sets are available packaged in transparent, hot-pink organza gift bags.
Individual brownies can be purchased at Whole Foods, Central Market, and many other locations around Austin (fully listed on the website). Gift Packages are available only online or by phone. – Kate Thornberry
Austin-based husband-and-wife team Soraiya and Azim Nagree is the heart and soul of Luxe Sweets. Seeking her passion for food, Soraiya left her job as a chemical engineer to undertake Le Cordon Bleu pastry program at Texas Culinary Academy and soon was baking up a storm, with Azim as her taste-tester. They now have an online business that delivers handmade cookies, biscotti, bark, fudge, brownies, and other goodies – made from scratch using only the finest ingredients – to your home or office.
Luxe Sweets is not a stranger to the Austin Chocolate Festival, having taken first, second, and third places in three of the four categories they entered, with their chock-full chocolate-chip cookie earning the Best Cookie honors. Some of their products are available in retail stores around town, including Oakville Grocery, 3309 Esperanza Crossing #100, in the Domain. Their cookies are at Royal Blue Grocery, 247 W. Third, and Texpresso, 2700 W. Anderson; the biscotti are at Trianon the Coffee Place, 3201 Bee Caves Rd. #163; and the classic French-style macaroons are at Whole Foods; these are crispy meringues on the outside with a fluffy biscuit texture on the inside, sandwiched with a creamy icing inside.
Of course, they have a special lineup of treats for Valentine's Day, including French macaroons in red raspberry, chocolate, pink rose, purple lavender, and yellow lemon, plus heart-shaped linzer cookies, hazelnut-strawberry bark, rose-infused fudge, and raspberry-pistachio chocolate cake. Ordering through the website is a piece of cake (oh, I just had to!) – just make sure to give them 48 hours' notice for delivery. What a cool idea for surprising a loved one, right? – Claudia Alarcón
Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter
If you want to submit a recipe, send it to email@example.com