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Brownies

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I am pretty certain that this red velvet cheesecake brownie takes the cake for being an all-star red velvet recipe. If you’re at all familiar with what makes red velvet red velvet, you’ll know that it is a subtle balance of tang and cocoa. It’s chocolatey but not quite (from a scant amount of cocoa powder), sour but not quite (from the buttermilk). Another defining quality of red velvet cake is its cream cheese frosting. Last weekend, I happened to be in Grand Central and I bought a Magnolia red velvet cupcake to satisfy my craving. No dice – the frosting was a weakly flavored meringue frosting, ugh. My palate teased, I had to make some legit red velvet.

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This recipe though, was a winner. While it may not be a classic red velvet cake, it’s got the key elements in it – cream cheese and a cocoa-y tang. I love how simple it is to whip up – it didn’t require any finicky preparation method, and I enjoyed that the “frosting” in this brownie is dolloped onto the brownie batter and haphazardly swirled in. It ended up not looking too shabby even though I was supposed to reserve some of the brownie batter to layer on top of the cream cheese dollops so the swirls would be more refined.

The texture of the brownie is more cakey/fudgy than dense, like a traditional brownie. I personally like the brownies chilled since the cream cheese is a little more refreshing there. All those who have tried the brownies like it a lot (although I’ve learned to recalibrate the compliments I receive re: my cooking – very good means good, good means okay, okay means it was terrible.)

This recipe differs from the Food Network recipe it was derived from (which I made 4 years ago) in that there’s more butter in the brownie batter and less egg in the cheesecake filling, so it’s more moist and the cheesecake layer tastes less eggy.

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Red Velvet Marble Cheesecake Brownies
Makes 1 8×8 pan
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

This recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction had grams pre-calculated – yess!

Brownie Batter
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon liquid or gel red food coloring
3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
3/4 cup (95g) all-purpose flour

Cheesecake
8 ounces (224g) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

Make the brownie layer first. In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs together. Set aside. Melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl in 30 second increments until melted. Stir in 1 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, cocoa powder, salt, food coloring, and vinegar. Mix each of those ingredients into the batter in that order. Whisk in the eggs, then fold in the flour until completely incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the brownie batter into prepared baking pan, leaving about 3-4 Tablespoons for the top.

Make the cheesecake swirl. With a hand-held mixer on medium speed (or a stand mixer, which is what I used), beat the softened cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, egg yolk, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl until completely smooth – about 1 minute. Dollop spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top of the prepared brownie batter. Cover with the last few tablespoons of brownie batter. Glide a knife through the layers, creating a swirl pattern.

Bake the brownies for 28-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares. Cover brownies and store at room temperature for 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. Brownies will freeze well, up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

IMG_4283This brownie recipe is the strongest I’ve seen in a while, and will likely go in the hall of fame for being a delicious combination of flavors and textures that are irresistible to me. When I was making the recipe, I was at first a little suspicious. Why is there more chocolate than there is butter? There’s just as much sugar as butter! And one whole TABLESPOON of vanilla? That’s crazy!

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But I persevered and made the recipe as it is and I did not regret it. Firstly, the smell of this is intoxicating. It has the woodsy fragrance of bourbon and vanilla, without an alcoholic bite. It also smells a little comforting like a cup of coffee, even though there’s no coffee in it and I don’t even drink coffee. (But I can appreciate the scent memory it holds for most people.) Be sure not to overbake the brownie, but you don’t have to worry about the brownie not holding together because when the chopped chocolate solidifies, it’ll hold everything together. It’s less a cakey brownie than a chewy, dense one with crunch from the chopped chocolate and, so keep that in mind depending on what you’re looking to make. The sprinkling of fleur de sel on the brownies isn’t necessary, but it does heighten the sweet, earthy, caramelly and woody flavor profile.

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Melty chocolate when warmed up, crunchy chocolate bits when cooled

 

Since the ingredients in this recipe are so simple, I highly recommend using good quality vanilla extract and chocolate. I used Trader Joe’s bourbon vanilla, and their Pound Plus Semi-Sweet Chocolate. You do NOT want to use chocolate chips in this once, since it’ll throw off the texture. Take the effort to chop the chocolate, and you’ll be rewarded with craggy, crunchy chocolate bits with a chocolate-flavored batter.

Sweet and Salty Chocolate Bourbon Brownies
From The Vanilla Bean Blog
Makes one 9×9 pan

1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla (use genuine vanilla extract, since this is quite a lot of it)
2 tablespoons bourbon
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse salt [to taste]
Preheat oven to 325. Grease a 9 inch square pan, and line pan with a parchment sling.

Heat the brown sugar and butter together in a saucepan until the sugar is melted into a gooey mass with the butter, stirring occasionally. Let cool. Whisk flour and baking powder together, and set aside. Add egg, vanilla, salt, and bourbon to the cooled butter mixture, and beat together. Stir in the flour, and then the chocolate, until just combined. Spread batter in the pan, and bake 18-22 minutes, until light golden brown, and a tooth pick comes out clean, being very careful not to over bake. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Let cool in the pan, then carefully lift sling from the pan and cut into squares.

IMG_4253This brownie is an elaborate affair. It involves a salted caramel filling and a whole bunch of different ingredients I don’t normally keep (heavy cream, sour cream, corn syrup), but the resoundingly positive response to these have been worth every minute of labor I put into these.

The texture is rich, fudgy, and just a touch gooey with the help of the salted caramel sauce filling and underbaking on my part. The directive on The Vanilla Bean Blog said to be sparse with the caramel, and due to my temporary shock at how much butter and sugar a 12×9 inch pan brownie contains, I was very sparing with it but definitely could have used more. I’m not that experienced in caramelizing sugar and the caramel sauce could have used more heat too.

I generally prefer to convert volume measurements (cups/spoons) into weight (ounces/grams) but this recipe must have been made with the homemaker’s cavalier measurement style in mind – using a 100g = 1/2 cup ratio for sugar meant that this brownie had almost a pound of sugar in a 12×9 pan and I freaked out and hastily retrieved maybe 1/2 cup/100g worth of brown sugar lumps to reduce the caloric content and the brownie still turned out perfect.

The fleur de sel and coarse sugar topping really makes the dish, so be sure to hunt down some turbinado sugar or the like.

Salted Caramel Fudgy Brownies
Link from The Vanilla Bean Blog, Recipe from Baked Explorations
Makes 1 12×9 inch pan

filling
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I used dark brown corn syrup to no ill effect)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

for the brownie
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate [60-72%], coarsely chopped
1 cup [2 sticks butter], cut into 1 inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar (I used probably about 1 cup and it was completely fine)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the assembly
1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar

make the caramel
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350 degrees F, or until the mixture is dark amber in color (keep a close eye on the caramel at all times, as it goes from golden brown to black and burnt very quickly), 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

make the brownie

Preheat oven to 350. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9×13-inch pan. Line the bottom and sides with a parchment paper overhang, and butter the parchment that is in the pan

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is just a trace amount of the flour mixture still visible.

assemble the brownies

Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about ¾ cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, making sure the caramel doesn’t come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use an offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer, leaving about a ½-inch border around the edges. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs

Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.

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I’ve missed baking with bourbon, and ever since I moved to my new apartment, I knew that this was the time to buy a handle of bourbon to fulfill all my baking desires. While I enjoy a nice top-shelf bourbon for sipping, Jim Beam works just fine when it’s going to be complemented with chocolate and copious amounts of sugar. The first recipe to kick off this bourbon baking dry spell was this batch of bourbon brownies.

The original recipe recommended a sea salt topping, but I forgot and now this is just a fudgy brownie with notes of woodiness. It’s not going to make you drunk but you can definitely taste the bourbon. I’d recommend eating these brownies chilled; it really enhances the fudginess. Whiskey and chocolate just go so perfectly together… I actually had some chocolate-infused, locally-made moonshine from King’s County Distillery and really enjoyed it.

As usual, I sub in gluten-free flour when adverse effects are minimal. I used Carol Fenster’s baking mix of 1 cup rice flour, 1/2-3/4 cup potato starch and ¼ cup tapioca starch/flour. The downside to this flour is that it tends to clump up and might lead to clumps in your batter.

Bourbon Brownies
Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes one 8-9 inch square pan

1/2 cup butter
2-oz dark chocolate (60-70% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup all purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt together butter and dark chocolate in the microwave. This should be done in 30-second intervals to avoid overcooking the mixture, stirring to ensure that the chocolate has melted. Allow mixture to cool slightly and transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk sugar and cocoa power into butter mixture. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, followed by 1/4 tsp salt, bourbon and vanilla extract. Whisk in the flour and stir until it is just incorporated, and no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Allow brownies to cool in the pan, then lift the foil to easily remove them before slicing.

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Don’t these brownies look like they have a crispy bacon topping? Yeaaahhh. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), those golden brown curls with the white edges aren’t crisp-roasted bacon strips. They are actually formed by marshmallows. Pretty neat, eh? I saw this recipe on Cookie Madness, and I was kind of surprised at how mine turned out. It doesn’t look nearly as neat as the one in the picture. It’s probably because I used cut-up pieces of large marshmallows instead of mini ones.

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I personally wasn’t very fond of the brownies, because I thought it had too eggy of a taste, and not enough chocolate. I don’t even like marshmallows all that much… I just had some around and I felt a need to use them. I didn’t use chocolate chips in my recipe because I thought the marshmallows would provide sufficient sweetness, but evidently I was wrong. I would highly recommend the use of chocolate chips and pecans as per the original recipe.

Marshmallow Brownies
Makes 1 8X8 inch pan
Adapted from Cookie Madness

Ingredients
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut up
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, slightly cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8 inch square metal pan with foil or parchment paper.
Melt the butter in a large (3 quart) heavy saucepan set over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, add chocolate and stir until smooth. If you are using a metal saucepan and butter is very hot, you can remove the saucepan from the heat and then add the chocolate, letting it melt over residual heat. Remove from heat when melted.
With a large rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir both sugars and salt into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and stir until well mixed.
Fold in the marshmallows.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly.
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out moist but clean.
Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 30 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill for a few hours.
When brownies are very firm and cold, lift from the pan and cut into squares.


This is an incredible recipe that satisfies the two different dessert cravings I often have: the chewy, and the creamy. While I could’ve baked a slice of chocolate cake with a fudge ganache and a buttercream frosting, why wouldn’t I just mix up this super-easy brownie pudding? The texture of this is exactly what it looks like: it has a thin, crackly crust that sizzles ever so slightly on your palate, and once you get past that initial thin layer it’s just full of chocolatey ooey gooey goodness. I also added a splash of bourbon because bourbon has never once failed me in my chocolate baking endeavors.


I mean seriously. Just look at that. This was delicious warm, and I didn’t eat this with vanilla ice cream but I’ll bet the differing textures of cold, warm, creamy and fudgey would have been a veritable party in your mouth. This recipe is very forgiving, and because it’s baked in a bain marie (or water bath), would not screw up easily. You’re also bound to have most, if not all of the ingredients in your pantry. I highly recommend this recipe for impressing boyfriends and small children. You can thank me later.

Brownie Pudding
Makes a 1 quart casserole
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 stick unsalted butter
2 large eggs (I used two medium and it was fine)
1 cups sugar
6 tbsps good dutch processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
A splash of bourbon – I wanna say a tablespoon, but it is up to your discretion
Vanilla ice cream, for serving – which I found entirely unnecessary considering how delicious the pudding was

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter in the microwave. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on med-high speed for ~ 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together to remove the lumps. Set aside.

When the egg-sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low. Add the vanilla seeds, framboise (if using), and the cocoa-flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter. Mix again just until combined.

Pour the brownie mixture into a 9×5 or 8×8 pan. Place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish. Bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked. This dessert is between a brownie and a pudding- so it should.

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.


I don’t think Ovaltine is very popular in America, so here’s a quick lowdown on what it is. It is a delicious malt chocolate dairy product that you dissolve into hot water and drink. It’s often marketed as a restorative energy drink or something that you imbibe to kickstart your day right. I had some lying around, and since I hardly ever drank it, I decided to make a cake out of it.

There are many things about this recipe I would like to highlight. Firstly, it’s in weight measurements, so you can’t really make this if you don’t have a scale. Secondly, I used whole wheat flour instead of regular and as usual, it imparts a slightly chewier texture to any baked good. Thirdly, this cake is a lot less chocolatey than it looks: although it is a rich dark brown, the flavor is more mild and milky than deep and chocolatey. Fourthly, I didn’t have enough Ovaltine powder, but if I did, I would’ve sprinkled it all over the top for extra flavor. I really like raw Ovaltine powder. Fifthly, the texture of this is more like a cakey brownie. It’s a little bit fudgey but also a little bit cakey.

With that said, bake away!

Ovaltine Brownie Cake
Makes 1 9-inch pan
Adapted from Pencil Kitchen

87g butter, softened
87g white sugar
1 1/2 eggs (beat two eggs and use half of the mixture)
1 tsp vanilla
A pinch of instant coffee powder
100 ml milk (I used chocolate milk instead of regular, because that’s all I had. It was okay!)
125g Ovaltine powder
15g cocoa powder
100g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Dissolve 50g of Ovaltine and coffee into warm milk. Let cool to room temperature.

Sift together flour, cocoa, 50g Ovaltine, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg mixture and stir in vanilla.

Beat in the flour mixture and milk alternately, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool in pan for ten minutes.

Invert cake onto a plate. Brush the cake with melted salted butter and dust with remaining 25g of Ovaltine, or more if you prefer.