Betty Crocker Brownies

I wanted to bake brownies. I did not need to make brownies. I do not need to eat brownies. But I wanted to make brownies. I knew that the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook uses chocolate squares instead of cocoa, so I thought maybe these won’t turn out good (or should this be well?)and I wouldn’t feel compelled to eat them. Well…it is the rare brownie that cannot be eaten. And these are very edible!

Just uploading the photo made me go get a couple to nibble on.

So Hubby asked if I would put Walnuts in the brownies. Sure. While getting the ingredients together I found a bag of green and red M&Ms that I did not use for Christmas baking. I asked Hubby if he minded those in his brownies as well. So these brownies are loaded. I used the Fudgy Brownie variation, also on Page 271.

  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour; you know, to be healthy.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms

Melt chocolate and butter together. Mix in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk this for a time, preferable 3 minutes, but I didn’t do that long. Supposedly that will help get the meringue crackly top surface. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread into prepared pan and bake.

Preheat the oven to 350 F prior to mixing the batter. This variation called for a 9×9 inch pan or 12×7.5 inch pan. Neither of which I have. My brain had a glitch and I used a 13×9 pan. I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea but by the time I had sprayed it and lined in with foil and sprayed the foil again, it was too late to turn back. I have 8×8 and a 10×6 but my brain was not working on this one. I figured they would be very thin (there is no rising agent in fudgy brownies) and I would bake them for the least time. I baked them for about 19 minutes.

They did turn out thin. They did turn out fudgy. They did not have that shiny crackly top. Remember to remove them from the foil while still warm; I have brownie chunks along with my nicely squared brownies.

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Chocolate Mousse Cake a la King Arthur

King Arthur Flour (no I do not get paid for talking about them) has a monthly bake-along. February is a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. Looked and sounded delicious and something fun to make on one of my two February holidays. Well, if you know me, I changed it up just a bit. I was not going to spend a fortune on fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. I like chocolate covered cherries and I had a can of cherries in my pantry. I could use those.

So the original bake-along recipe is right here: Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. I made the cake exactly. I happened to find four 8-inch cake pans, two of which were three inches deep so I baked the cake in two pans and cut these into the four layers. Hint for you: this is a thin batter just like they say. It may not be that wise to use pans that have removable bottoms. Just saying. I had a bit of leakage, very little but I had to bake the cakes on a cookie sheet. I also baked the cakes at 350 degrees F. They came out nicely. They did not have domes, so I am not sure if they fell a bit. The finished product is so rich it was impossible to tell.

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Whisk dry ingredient together. Mix wet ingredients together but not eggs. Put wet ingredients into dry ingredients, combine thoroughly. Beat in eggs one at a time. Put into the greased pans and bake. The two 8-inch x 3-inch pans took 55 minutes. Cool completely and slice each layer in two.

The mousse filling was more difficult. It did not come out smoothly and was difficult to spread between the layers of the cake.

  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat the butter, cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Melt the chocolate and stir that in. Whip the cream with the remaining sugar until stiff. Fold this into the cream cheese mixture. This ended up swirled and not a uniform color. Perhaps that was okay.

I used a can of cherries, drained, and a jar of cherry fruit spread instead of raspberries. I mixed this and spread it on top of the mousse layer. I forgot to put cherries on the middle layer. I don’t think anyone noticed this omission.

Once this is done chill or freeze the cake for 30 minutes so it will be easier to frost.

At this point I am thinking about the frosting. This cake already looks extraordinarily rich. The KAF frosting calls for another cup of butter and 4 cups powdered sugar. That just is too much. I then remember I had made a chocolate sauce to serve with the disastrous orange cake for Christmas. Since that cake was inedible I had frozen the sauce for use at another time. This seemed to be that “another time.”

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract or liqueur (it was actually the poaching syrup from the disastrous orange cake A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake)

Whisk sugar and cocoa in a small sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the milk until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat and simmer whisking constantly for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and orange extract. (the orange taste does not come through at all.)

So I thawed the chocolate sauce and poured it out on the cake. This gave it a nice glazed cover. Now this glaze looks like a ganache but does not firm up like one.

This is not nearly as good looking as the picture on the King Arthur website. But served with a bit of whipped cream it is chocolate decadence! A little dab will do ya!

Lessons learned: If you want a rich chocolate cake that makes thick layers use this cake recipe. I would make a different filling or just use the fruit and preserves in between layers with some whipped cream. Cover with your own ganache or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. That way you could have a fancy cake with less fuss. But we are enjoying our indulgence a little at a time. Store cake in refrigerator.

Cook’s Cookies: chocolate

It’s cookie baking time and being the season of the year that it is one would think that I would be making Christmas cookies, but no. I have found the most wonderful chocolate cookie from Cook’s Illustrated January/February 2009 edition. I was in awe of this cookie when I first made them. This is a cookie that I could have one or two with a cup of tea and be satisfied. Now that is unusual; with homemade cookies I can eat and eat and eat them, especially fresh out of the oven. But these are so rich and satisfying of that chocolate craving that one can be enough! This is my adaptation; I am not so fussy as the magazine.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa; I use Hershey’s, don’t know if that is Dutch processed or not?
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.

  • 1/2 cup molasses; the original recipe calls for dark corn syrup
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk these together in a small bowl.

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Cream these together until light and fluffy about 3 minutes. Beat in egg mixture until fully incorporated and then the flour.

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips; I used Hershey’s special dark since the original recipe calls for 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chopped into 1/2 inch pieces.

Stir in the chocolate chips. Chill in fridge if desired; I did not bother. I had read that using wet hands to shape the dough into balls prevents the dough from sticking to the hands. It does work, somewhat. Roll the dough into balls. Make these uniform in size and adjust baking time accordingly. I used heaping tablespoons. Then roll in the sugar and place 2 inches apart on the parchment lines baking pans.  Bake for 10 minutes. Let rest on the pan for at least one minute before removing to a wire rack for cooling.

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I should have taken a picture of one with a bite out of it so you can see the darkness of the soft interior with a crispy outside. But I put them away so I would not feast on them over the course of the week, before packaging them to send to my favorite airman!

 

The Great Brownie Chase…

Back in 1999 I tried a bunch of brownie recipes on my teenagers and their friends. Over 6 months the winning brownie came out of a box. And it did not matter much which brand.

Well, I want to change that outcome so I am trying out brownie recipes on my coworkers. The biggest drawback is that brownies generally get rave reviews just for showing up and just for being chocolate.

For a two week trial so far, here is what I have done. I chose a Quick & Easy Fudge Brownies recipe from the back of a King Arthur flour bag. I clipped this and stuck it on my kitchen counter. I am not sure if I made this one before or a different KAF recipe. I have written about brownies twice before, here and here. But my endeavor here is to find a go-to recipe that gets high ratings from a variety of people. And because I am a social scientist I have a three point Likert scale for tasters to rate each brownie.

I virtually made the same recipe for both weeks. There are technical differences but I think this makes a big difference. Here is the basic recipe:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

KAF’s instructions are to put the ingredients in a large bowl in the order listed and beat until the mixture is smooth. Bake in a 913-inch pan for 25-30 minutes at 375 F.

Being the baker that I am I did not exactly follow the above, but almost. I accidentally used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa in the first batch. Also in the first batch, I used 4 egg whites (because I had these in need of use) and one whole egg. I used Whole Wheat Pastry Flour both weeks. The second week I used regular cocoa powder and three whole eggs. I melted the butter in the bowl, sifted the dry ingredients together, then added all the ingredients and mixed until smooth.

I had my coworkers rate these on three aspects: appearance, texture, and taste. I am sure there is some skewing of the results based on the time between samples. But, too bad!

The first was the Special Dark cocoa brownies. The sample size was n=12. The second week sample size was n=8. And the winner is…

I think these results show that Special Dark Cocoa should not be used in brownies. It is most likely best suited for dark and rich chocolate cakes. The medical student at work with a discerning palette picked up on the difference in moistness between the two which is the result of the egg whites vs. whole eggs. There was another coworker who verbally gave me her results so the second week is really a sample of 9. Three people who compared the two weeks all said the second week was better.

So don’t mess with the cocoa or the eggs! Whole wheat pastry flour works just as well as the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. So we could say this is a healthy brownie, LOL! This is a simple enough recipe and makes a 9 x 13 pan so it could easily be a go-to recipe. Maybe I’ll try out recipes using baking chocolate next.

 

Thoughts from my Kitchen

I had a fabulous baking weekend. Well, on Saturday I roasted a big chicken, with Mediterranean vegetables. Yum! I was so tired after winterizing the trailer which included arguing about how to drain all the plumbing properly and running off to the store to buy more RV/Marine antifreeze to be effective that I did not want to make anything else. Wow! That is a run-on sentence if I ever wrote one! As I write this we are waiting for all the little goblins and ghouls to show up to beg for the $20 worth of candies I bought. Then I will turn off the porch light and relax.

After a tiring first half of the weekend I set to work in the kitchen. First I did a bit of cleaning and then got out the sourdough starter to make rolls. I used a recipe that looked good and as luck would have it I had powdered milk and potato flour. If you don’t have these ingredients there are plenty of other sourdough bread and rolls recipes. I had fed the starter the day before so I figured it would be just fine. I let it set out for the entire morning of the day I made the dough: sourdough dinner rolls from King Arthur Flour. This makes two pans of eight. Here is the one for the future!

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I have found the chocolate cake recipe that bests the  Best Ever Chocolate Cake. I hang my head in shame as I write these words. I had to look again and again at the ingredient list to note the differences.Best Ever uses 1/2 cup more flour and twice the baking soda. I looked into the explanation of using baking soda in cakes in the book BakeWise by Shirley Corriher. She explains that 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda is sufficient for each cup of flour. The new best chocolate cake recipe rises nicely and even has better body than Best Ever.

So what is this rogue recipe that has come to shake up my baking world? It is basically King Arthur Flour’s version of Texas Sheet Cake baked in a 9 x 13 pan. I found this in their sales catalog/flyer that arrives by the post ever so often: King Arthur Flours Favorite Fudge Cake. And its not just because of the fudge frosting, although that makes it awesome!

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I actually followed both of the recipes exactly although I don’t always use KAF products.

I am not advertising for them; I just recently got their flyer and was organizing recipes for my recipe notebooks. And these were two of the ones I had marked to try.

 

What to do with egg whites?

20160504_214255930_iOSI have a cup of egg whites in my refrigerator taunting me to do something with them. I have these whites because Son made me a Parisien flan before he left for his job in Alaska. I showed him this  Parisien Flan from Nadia at Maison Travers and he made it for me! It was fabulous!

 

I’m thinking about a … (French word, meringue cake), it’ll come to me in a moment…Pavlova…Dacquoise! I describe this to Hubby and he looks at me with a blank face. I look through a few cookbooks for meringue recipes. Many of the recipes are for 2 egg whites with 2 cups of sugar, confectioners and granulated. That seems like a lot of sugar but sugar is important for the structure of a meringue. I have four egg whites so 2 cups of sugar will have to do. I suggest to Hubby that I could make espresso flavored meringue cookies and he says to go for it. I settle on adapting a recipe from Bakewise by Shirley Corriher. She explains the science behind the product. I do not have cream of tartar so must find a substitute: apparently 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice per egg white.

  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar; made by processing regular granulated sugar in the food processor for one minute
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (I didn’t have a full cup!)
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon Hersheys Special Dark Cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon flour

First I beat the egg whites and lemon juice with all but two tablespoons of the superfine sugar until stiff peaks formed.

Mix the rest of the dry ingredients to sprinkle on top of the beaten egg whites and fold in until incorporated. I confess that I do not like folding. I always worry about mixing too hard and flattening the mixture.

This is to be piped or spooned onto parchment paper and baked in a 200 degree (F) oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes. My oven is too small. I have three pans of meringue cookies and enough to make a nine inch circle for a Pavlova. I made this planning to dump a can of canned cherries mixed with sweetened yogurt on top and have a fancy dessert.

I don’t like my pastry bag so I just put huge spoonfuls on the pans. I don’t get marks for prettiness! These are baking away forever in the oven and I am on the phone with my sister when the timer goes off. I have never made meringues before, yes meringue topping for pies but not meringues. Smart phones are wonderful. I show her the meringues as I take them out of the oven and she says they look perfect. Now to let them cool. But wait, Hubby went in and took one off the tray. Yumm! They have a nice coffee flavor. Now I am not sure if cherries on top of the circle is the best flavor combination.

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It is a bit squishy because it is not completely cool.

I still need to do something with the large circle. I serve wedges with ice cream and Hubby pours on a bit of Irish Cream liquor. Too much of this will make us fat and drunk!

Red Meat and Chocolate Cake

This weekend we did a major meat shopping at a local meat market. Hubby likes red meat and when the weather is warming up, cooking steaks on the grill is a favorite meal. Actually we use the grill all year round. This is New England after all. We got a good price on the sirloin because hubby cuts it up himself.

We have plenty of steaks to hopefully last awhile. But son is coming home soon and he enjoys a nice steak too!

Ordinary Saturday evening meal: steak, potato, and green beans. By “ordinary” I mean no special recipe. (We do not eat steak every week, usually, but we may until this meat runs out.)

Now for the chocolate cake. I have had the urge to make a chocolate cake with frosting for awhile. I told the people at work that they may be eating chocolate cake at morning report someday soon. That day will be Monday!

In the King Arthur Flour sales catalog that they send out every so often there was this recipe. It is similar to a Texas Sheet Cake in that the frosting is poured on the cake in the pan. It is to make a 9 x 13 cake but I thought I would make two small cakes, one to eat and one to take to work so that I wouldn’t find myself eating an entire cake.

This is King Arthur Flour’s Favorite Fudge Cake. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/king-arthur-flours-favorite-fudge-cake-recipe. This is very good. Really good. Very rich and very fudgy.

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

It is an interesting recipe because the butter is actually melted and not creamed with the sugar. The butter is melted in a saucepan or a bowl in the microwave. Then the cocoa, and hot water are mixed with the butter, and then the dry ingredients are added, and then the eggs and buttermilk and vanilla. Put in greased pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. I used one 8 inch square pan and one 9 inch round pan. In hindsight I should have used an 8 inch round pan instead. I do not have two 8 inch square pans. I do have two 8 inch round pans but I was not certain if there would be enough room to pour the frosting on top. Now I know they would have worked out just fine.

The frosting is also made by melting the butter. Melt 1 stick of butter is a small sauce pan. Stir in 1/4 cup cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder) and 6 tablespoons buttermilk. Then beat in 4 cups powdered sugar until smooth. I did this by hand.Pour the frosting over the cake while the frosting is still warm. The cakes are supposed to be cooled completely. Mine were almost completely cooled.

The frosting settles into a smooth glaze that does not remain sticky. It did not stick to the plastic wrap I used to cover the cake.

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Second piece!

Easter Brownie Bites

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Hah! I finally have an excuse to make something chocolate! This is totally inspired by Sofiabakes: http://sofiabakes.com/2016/03/23/brownie-creme-scotch-eggs/

A while back I made brownies but the recipe was seriously too fussy for regular use: https://mykitchenmythoughts.com/2016/02/14/brownies/. But now I want to make some so I can put Cadbury mini-eggs in them. And then smother them with chocolate ganache! I can take these up to daughter’s family for the Easter weekend and not eat them all myself; oh okay, I would share a few with Hubby.

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I bake the essential recipe’s Brownies from the Bittman How to Cook Everything Cookbook on page 881. My step-daughter swears by these brownies, well, not really swears by them, but you know what I mean! It is super simple and makes a chewy brownie.

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt the butter and chocolate. Stir until smooth. Stir in the sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Gently stir in the rest of the ingredients. Pour into prepared 8×8 pan and bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes. Do not overbake.

However I am going to bake them in mini muffin pans so will guess at the baking time. I found that they were done at 20 minutes and even though I coated the pans with cooking spray they wanted to stick to the pan a bit.

easter brownie bites and mac and cheese pot 005I put a mini-egg in each brownie bite as soon as it comes out of the oven. I had considered baking the candy inside but was not sure how that would work; so I didn’t. I am now thinking that the Cadbury mini-eggs are not creme eggs so the effect may not be what I am expecting based on the inspiration! I melt about 1/2 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips for the frosting. I added about 1/2 teaspoon oil so it would pour. This may be the downfall of getting the chocolate glaze to “crisp up”. I’ll give it a little time. I sprinkled the brownie bites with a spring sprinkle mix. They look a bit messy but a bit fancy too.

Let’s see what Hubby thinks of these. Maybe not the fairest test since he doesn’t really have a sweet tooth. I’ll just have to taste them myself!! Ummm, they’re good! Hubby says they are a rich chocolate with a burst of gooey richness. Success!

I do put them in the fridge to harden the glaze. The next day (yes, there are some left!) they are a nice bite of brownie with a piece of candy inside, not creamy. But they are a really rich chocolate; a bit too rich for Hubby. More for me!!

 

Best Ever Chocolate Cake

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This is the cake my Mom always made. It has become a staple of my household as well. In 2007, when looking through her multitude of recipe clippings I found the newspaper clipping that she kept, had written “Best Ever” on the side of the clipping, and then had typed into her own recipe notebook. I have made a scrapbook page to grace the cover of one of my most organized recipe notebooks. I had printed a copy of this recipe and kept it on the inside door of a kitchen cabinet at one time when I was raising my kids!

I had somewhat decided that I would not make desserts for a while as I have gained a bit of weight over the past three months. Most likely due to Holiday baking but also due to the lack of usual physical movement due to this broken ankle. It is partially healed but will need a bit more time. Aye yi yi!  However I needed an excuse to try out the newest Buttercream frosting from Nila at http://thetoughcookie.com/2016/02/08/how-to-make-swiss-buttercream-swiss-meringue-buttercream/. 

So Best Ever Chocolate Cake is my “go to” recipe but I did not want a big cake to sit around my kitchen for me to nibble away on all week! I decide to make half the recipe (it divides very nicely) and make 12 cupcakes. I can always send the “leftovers” to work with hubby.

best ever cakes 016Original ingredients: (full recipe)

  • 1 cup lard or shortening
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup sour milk
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

And Mom’s version:

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Mom would have used shortening or oleomargarine.  Mom would make cake for Sunday supper. She would bake most of her cakes including this one in a 9 x 13 baking pan. She would sprinkle on powdered sugar. And here’s how to serve cake: cut the cake into two parts. Cut one part into six equal pieces. We kids thought “equal” was very important! Serve the family (2 parents, 4 children) dessert. Save the other half of the cake until the next night’s supper and do the same thing. Mom had a similar approach to those rare occasions when she bought ice cream from the grocery store. This was when the package was a rectangle and a full half gallon! She would open the rectangle flat. She would slice the rectangle of ice cream into six equal (emphasis again on the equal) parts and serve the family. The flattened open box was then put on the floor for the cat to have her treat.

Over the years I have altered the ingredients from time to time. I use butter now and not shortening. I usually keep buttermilk in the fridge so that can be used instead of sour milk. At times, recently, I use coffee instead of the hot water. I once “improved” the recipe using Shirley Corriher’s book Bakewise for the “scientific” version based on ratios and weights of flour, sugar, eggs, and fat. That required more eggs and using half butter and half oil. If I remember correctly that cake was more evenly baked, the top was not puffed up and the color was slightly lighter as was the texture. I think my son liked that cake.

Even though I had intended to only make a dozen cupcakes I thought it would be interesting to make the original (I have lard in my fridge to use!) and then make my more “modern” version. There will be family home for dinner tonight to test these on.

For the first set I use lard (I am not going to use oleo), regular cocoa, and make the sour milk. I even sift the dry ingredients together. For the second batch I use butter, buttermilk, coffee, and Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa. I whisk the dry ingredients together. Otherwise I use the same method for mixing the batter as per the original clipping. This is how mom taught me. She also had me sift the dry ingredients three times and only stir the batter clockwise. We did not always have an electric mixer available.

There is a definite color difference. The “modern” version rose a little higher as well but not too much so. I will have to remember which are which once I frost them!

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Now that I think about it, I could have piped the buttercream on one batch and spread it on the other!

Let us see what the family thinks. They were excited about the experiment. We spent 10-15 minutes in discussion and deliberation after dinner. My son had grown up eating this cake. His first response was that both tasted like he remembered. Hubby liked the darker version because it looked as if it would be richer and more chocolaty. Stepdaughter (I hate the prefix “step” but it is what it is!) liked the look of the lighter brown one and noted that it had a nice “muffin top” which was appealing. Everyone thought that if they were presented on different days and not in comparison with each other, the difference would not be evident.

Results: The lighter brown cupcake was the original recipe. The darker brown was my modernized version. The modernized version was described as moist. The original version was cakey. There  was no discernible taste difference. After several cupcakes were tested, and devoured, with and without the frosting, the preference was for the original recipe. When the changes were described the suggestion was to make the original but use butter and buttermilk. This is exactly how I have been making this cake for the past 10 plus years!

 

 

 

Brownies!

brownie 001I was sitting in my kitchen reading blogs on brownies. Some of you make wonderful sounding brownies and other chocolate goodies! So I began to contemplate brownies. I got out all the chocolate in my baking pantry to see what is there. I have semi-sweet chips, Special Dark Chips, German’s chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, Hershey’s Natural cocoa, and Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa. These are out on the counter when son walks in and asks what I am making. When I mention I was thinking of brownies, he says he likes chewy, not cakey, and no add-ins such as chocolate chips or nuts. He also likes the shiny crust on top. Me, too.

Recipes abound! I bring out a few recipes and am undecided. He refers me to look at Shirley Corriher’s book Bakewise. After all, he says, he made the cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and it was great. So I start reading the section on brownies. Very interesting. I had just been reading the King Arthur Flour blog on brownies and the shiny crust. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2015/05/31/make-brownies-shiny-crust/ . There is no real agreement on what makes cakey, shiny crusts, etc. I know that my favorite brownies were very chewy and came from a recipe on the back of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips way back in the 1980s. I have lost that little clipping and have been searching for the best brownie recipe ever since. For about 10 months in 1999 I made a batch of brownies weekly and tested them on my teenagers and their friends. I did not have a standard rating scale but only listed where the recipe came from. After these many trials the best brownies were determined…to be from a mix! It did not even matter which brand. The box brownies were chewy and always had the shiny crust!!

That was then, this is now. I have honed my baking skills and knowledge and much less frequently make brownies from a box. That elusive perfect brownie is still out there. Brownie recipes that I have used make up well and do not go uneaten. I just have not determined a “go-to” standard recipe. Brownies are basically butter, chocolate, eggs, sugar and flour.

We decide to go with the Shirley’s Fudgy Brownies from Bakewise, page 411-412. This recipe calls for 1 ½ cups of butter and four different sugars. It also uses 4 whole eggs and an additional 3 egg yolks. Wow! We run to the grocery to get the light corn syrup as the fourth sugar. There is also powdered sugar, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. For the chocolate the recipe calls for 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped, and 1 ounce German’s chocolate.  There are a lot of ingredients in these brownies! We left out the pecans.

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 ounce German’s Sweet Chocolate
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups spooned and leveled bleached all=purpose flour

(In reading this now I realize that I only used ¾ cups of packed brown sugar but also used ¾ cups granulated. The page must have flipped over to the Shirley’s Cakey Brownies recipe! No worries!)

Her instructions are to melt the butter with the chocolate. In a separate bowl beat the eggs to blend the whites and yolks and then add the other ingredients, except for the flour. Add the egg mixture to the chocolate mixture. Then stir in the flour without over beating.

We get all this put together. In beating the egg mixture I beat them in the stand mixer for a few minutes more because this will give the shiny crust. Apparently it is a “meringue” from the egg whites and sugar that rises to the top of the bake.

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The oven has been preheated to just 300 degrees F. All ready to go in but son has the idea it should sit in the pan a bit to even itself out. While I wait for that to happen I reread the recipe. OOPS!!! I only used half the amount of butter. I used 1 ½ sticks instead of 1 ½ cups! What to do?

 

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adding the missing butter

I scrape the batter back into the mixing bowl. I melt another 1 ½ sticks of butter and add that to the batter and blend. This is a necessary step because the fat to flour ratio makes the difference between fudgy and cakey.

 

I then pour this back into a re-prepared 13 x 9 inch baking pan and pop it into the oven. This time I don’t bother with the foil just sprayed the pan. It has taken 45 minutes of prep time at this point. Well, 5 of those minutes were adding in the butter that I had forgotten to add in the first place by my miscalculations!

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shiny crackling crust

52 minutes later a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. Take this out of the oven right now so as to avoid overbaking. We want fudgy and chewy. There is definitely a shiny crackling crust! That was a success.

Do you know of anyone, ANYONE, who waits until the brownies completely cool before cutting? I don’t think it is a natural thing to do. I would be concerned if there were a chocolate brownie lover out there who actually follows that step of these recipes. Granted, cool brownies cut more cleanly. But why is that important? Son pokes and prods at the side and takes a nibble. The only thing left to do is to actually cut a square and taste it. Very rich and sweet. It is fudgy and has its shiny crust.

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definitely fudgy

These are successful but the recipe is a bit too fussy to become a “go-to” for me. It is a “keeper” though because it is in a book. The book is worth reading as she explains the science of baking and some history of recipes and is just plain interesting.

Some of these will need to be individually wrapped and frozen for later enjoyment.