Posts tagged brownies

Secrets to Prettier Brownies

Peanut butter topped browniesWhy is it always holiday cookies? Have you noticed that brownies never seem to make it onto the treat-giving trays.

Sure, glorified Chex mix studded with chocolate and powdered sugar pops up (affectionately known as puppy chow at our house). But brownies seem relegated into the last-minute-I-just-remembered-I-had-to-make-something category. It’s too bad.

Here’s my theory–most brownies just aren’t pretty enough. I thought about that the other day as I was flipping through a flyer for holiday gifts and the Perfect Brownie Pan Set was right on page one. Really? A whole pan dedicated to baking neatly cut brownies. Again, my thought is that folks really want to make brownies good enough for the cookie tray. But forget about an extra pan!

If you really want to spruce up your brownie, try a few of these tweaks. And hey, if it doesn’t work for you, you can still buy the brownie pan later…

•Wax paper to the rescue!

Brownies get crumbly when you cut them in the pan. Try coating your regular brownie pan–mine is a 9×13″ casserole dish–with cooking spray. Then press in a piece of wax paper onto the bottom and sides of the pan (parchment paper works even better–but I always have wax paper on hand, not so for pricier parchment). Once the brownies have cooked and cooled you can lift them out of the pan on the waxed paper and then cut.

•Chill, then cut

Using a paper lining–either waxed or parchment–is the first step, the next is to wait to cut your brownies. If I’m not in a rush, I’ll put the whole brownie pan in the fridge overnight and cut on day #2. If I need the brownies that day, it’s into the freezer for an hour or so. Once the brownies are chilled, then lift them out of the pan, using the paper, and then onto a cutting board.

•Cut diagonally

Resist the urge to just start cutting. Look at your rectangle’s worth of brownie and make your cuts from corner to corner instead of just across. Diamond-cut brownies are so much prettier! (And you’ll have to eat all the extra ends:)

•Top it

Now that you have a perfectly cut brownie (no extra pan insert required), it’s time to add pizzazz. My standby is to melt about 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips along with a tablespoon of butter in the microwave until smooth. Then, using a fork I drizzle chocolate across the cut brownies. Another trick: fill a Ziploc baggie with 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter. Place the sealed bag (make sure there’s no extra air) into a cup of warm water. Let it sit for a couple minutes and then trim a small hole in one corner of the bag. Make peanut butter patterns on your brownies then add chopped peanuts to complete the look. Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour more to set.

•Top it again

Along with drizzling chocolate or peanut butter over your brownies, what about adding crushed Oreos, candy canes, mini chocolate chips…I could go on, but you get the idea.

Do you have any tricks for making your brownies, well, more presentable?

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Thank you, Jeff Potter for cooking like a geek!

Photo credit: Amazon

No, no, I’m not knocking Jeff Potter, after all, his book is called Cooking for Geeks.


I heard him interviewed on NPR’s Science Friday and I must admit, anyone who’s taken a piece of a rocket to refashion his oven so that it can reach temperatures hot enough to mimic a wood-fired stove, well, I want to know/read more.

So far, I’m only a few pages in, but flipping through the book is like having science experiment after delicious science experiment all centered around one of my favorite things–cooking. There are few recipes in the book, which I like. Instead of giving an ingredient list and directions, as a cookbook would, Potter explains the whys and hows of certain food techniques. Do you know why you use baking soda for some recipes and baking powder at other times–sometimes both? Nope, neither did I.

The section on flavor is not to be missed (and there’s an explanation of how to make your own Lego ice cream maker tucked in those pages–who knew?!). When my middle daughter spied me looking through the book, she asked what it was about. I happened to be on the page explaining the primary tastes–bitter, salty, sour, sweet, umami–so I gave her a quick lesson. She seemed disappointed that chocolate hadn’t earned its own category. (I’m with her on that.)

We’ve already had one success pulled from the pages–orange brownies. Get this, you hollow out oranges and pour brownie batter inside and bake. Easy, easy. Potter used one orange and trimmed it from the top. Instead I cut the oranges in half before filling. The kids could not wait to eat these. Okay, now back to reading…

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Brownie stuffed oranges

This idea comes right from Cooking for Geeks, which has been a hit at our house. Thank you, Jeff Potter!

Oranges + Brownie Batter = Yum. That’s it!

Well not quite. Here’s how we did it.

  1. Prepare your favorite brownie batter. (Add lots of Ghirardelli chocolate chips.)
  2. Cut 3 oranges in half. (I used the extra brownie batter to fill an 8×8″ pan).
  3. Hollow out each orange until you reach the white interior (if you don’t get quite to the white part, no worries, more orange flavoring in your chocolate!).
  4. Place the orange halves on a shallow baking dish.
  5. Fill the orange pieces half way up with batter (don’t fill to the top since the brownies will grow).
  6. Bake as directed in your brownie recipe. The orange brownies will take slightly longer to cook.
  7. Eat happily!

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Spinach-Blueberry Brownies

Spinach-Blueberry Brownies

Ingredients
6 tbsp Unsalted Butter
¾ cup Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
2 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Purple Puree (see below for recipe)
¼ Cup Flour Blend (see below for recipe)
¼ Cup Rolled Oats, Ground
1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder

Directions

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate chip together and set aside.
  2. In a mixer, mix together eggs, vanilla, sugar, and purple puree and slowly add in the chocolate mixture.
  3. Add the flour blend, rolled oats, and cocoa powder in a separate bowl and add to the liquid mixture. Mix until well combined.
  4. Spray an 8×8 square baking pan and place brownie mixture into the pan. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean in a 350 degree oven.
  5. Cool and serve

Flour Blend: 1 cup All Purpose Flour, 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour, 1 cup Wheat Germ

Purple Puree: 4 cups cooked spinach (drained) 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen), ½ tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp water. Combine all the ingredients and place in a food processor and puree until smooth

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Mudgie’s Deli’s Famed Brownie Waffles

Mudgie's Deli decadent brownie

Brownies in any form make me happy. Well, maybe not blondies–those are just wannabe brownies using a glorified cookie dough recipe. Last week, for Valentine’s Day I was able to interview Greg Mudge for my Crumbs blog at MetroParent, the owner and creative force behind Mudgie’s Deli an eatery located in an area of Detroit that’s experiencing its own little renaissance (Mudge is a big part of that effort).

While Mudge did a great job answering a few foodie questions I posed to him, what I was really anxious about was if he’d be willing to share his deli’s recipe for brownie waffles. He did! I made these dark, rich waffles for my family for Valentine’s Day. They were amazing. Of course, I had to put my own spin on Mudge’s waffles–instead of topping them with the expected vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce, I opted for coconut ice cream (courtesy of the Mexican grocers), crushed pineapple and a little Hershey’s chocolate sauce (just to make it look fancy. Let me just say, I’ve had some pretty amazing desserts in my day and this one topped them all–not too sweet, interesting flavors, entirely satisfying (and sooo easy).

Here's my version of Mudgie's Brownie Waffle

So if you’re looking for a quick, easy, decadent dessert, whip out these brownie waffles. One more note–I discovered Mudgie’s on Twitter after our interview. Mudge posts the daily specials for the deli. While I won’t make it to the eatery any time soon–the specials are great ideas and new flavor combos I’m planning on using at home. I’m following!

Mudgie’s Deli Brownie Waffles

1/2 lb butter

3/4 cup of your favorite unsweetened cocoa

3 eggs

1 to 1 and a 1/2 cups sugar ( depending on how sweet you prefer)

1 tablespoon vanilla

dash of salt to taste

1 teaspoon baking powder

1.5 to 2 cups all purpose flour

Whisk eggs, softened butter, sugar and vanilla , in a separate bowl mix flour, salt, cocoa, and baking powder. while stirring slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture until smooth. Batter should be fairly thick , If batter is a little thin add a touch more flour. You want the batter to scoop not pour.

Pre-heat waffle iron.No need to grease iron the butter in the batter will do the trick. Add a proper portion to the waffle iron, cook thoroughly. Top brownie with a scoop or two of your favorite ice cream and hot fudge. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve.

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