Chocolate Sheet Cake

My mom has had a recipe in her recipe box for a chocolate sheet cake for as long as I can remember. She kindly texted me a copy of it a few weeks ago when I really, really wanted to make a sheet cake. I thought it was a Texas sheet cake. It’s not, although it’s similar. Although I thought I wanted to make a Texas sheet cake, I trusted that I’d had and enjoyed this cake before, so I went ahead with it.

It’s been a while since I’ve tried a recipe that wasn’t published online or in a cookbook, so I was a little nervous. However, the cake was delicious. It’s basically a frosted brownie. I inadvertently halved the oil in the cake, but it still came out very moist and stayed moist for a week.  The cake itself was tender and chocolatey; it’s a definite keeper.  Our least favorite part was the icing, which came out sugary – crystalline and fragile. The cake definitely needs a light icing, and although this one provided just the right amount of coverage and kept the cake from drying out, I’ll try a ganache next time for a better texture.

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Belgian Brownie Cakelets

Anyone who’s read this blog knows I love chocolate. Let me introduce you to one of the purest and most delicious chocolate things I’ve made.

belgianbrowniecakelet2

Over the weekend, I finally made time to make the Belgian Brownie Cakelets from Smitten Kitchen. This weekend was dreary, bringing colder weather as well as snow for the first evening of spring. I didn’t have much in my house that I wanted to cook, though it was a good weekend to cook. This recipe really brightened the whole weekend.

The ingredient list is simple but decadent. Lots of chocolate, butter, and eggs; some sugar; a little salt and flour. It’s rich, but worth every calorie. The recipe itself was easy to assemble as well. Just melt together butter and chocolate; whisk in everything else; let rest; scoop into a muffin tin, then bake. It’s not a flourless cake, but it’s pretty darned close, and is better than most of those cakes that you find. You could substitute in some cocoa powder if you needed to make it gluten-free.

These were amazingly good, just as dense and rich and chocolatey as you might imagine. The cakes were soft and moist; when we microwaved them for 15-20 seconds, they became even richer and more decadent. They’re perfect for entertaining, since they’re individual desserts. Just garnish with a dab of whipped cream and a raspberry or mint leaf. It’s also perfectly fine to split a batch with your husband, for no reason at all except you can.

belgianbrowniecakelet3

Continue reading Belgian Brownie Cakelets

Fudge Brownies

Last week we had DirecTv installed. We had it before we moved to New Jersey, but decided to cancel it for a variety of reasons. However, in our area we get ZERO channels via regular or amplified antenna, so we decided to get tv service again. Alex and I went through our complimentary (but temporary) premium channels, recording new movies that we want to see again or that we didn’t get a chance to see in theaters. I knew we’d want a few movie nights, so I immediately wanted brownies to go with them.

Within the past few months I bookmarked the King Arthur Flour Fudge Brownies recipe, and I knew that was what I needed to make. I’ve been dissatisfied recently with my go-to recipe, Hershey’s Best Brownies. It’s not the recipe’s fault. I’ve changed, and it just doesn’t suit my needs any longer. I like them a little better when I add M&Ms or chocolate chips to them, but really, I just need a new go-to brownie recipe. This one is it.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I decided that writing a blog post would be a good way to put off something I don’t particularly feel like doing right now. Thus, I bring you something amazing I made a few weeks ago: Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars.

One Friday night, I really wanted to bake something but didn’t feel like the hassle of being in the kitchen for a long time. We were going to sit down and watch a couple of movies, and I didn’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen beforehand. Bar cookies are always the answer in cases like that, but I didn’t want to make brownies like I usually do. I was thrilled to come across the recipe for chocolate chip cookie bars instead. I could make something with all the deliciousness of chocolate chip cookies but with the convenience of making brownies!

This recipe has changed a little bit since I printed it out in December, but not too much. My printout calls for 2 1/4 cups of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and doesn’t include espresso powder or butterscotch flavor. My printout also called for 3 cups of chocolate chips and 1 cup of nuts (which I omitted). The recipe now says to pat down the edges, but my printout didn’t say to and so I didn’t. I loved the recipe just as it was printed out, and so I’m not sure how the revised one would turn out.

This recipe was so easy to make. It couldn’t have taken me more than 10 minutes to mix everything together and put them in the oven. You mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. You melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar until it’s smooth. Once it’s cool enough that it won’t cook eggs, you add them and the vanilla; I didn’t bother to do them individually. Next you add the flour, and then chocolate chips. I plopped the batter into a greased 9×13 inch pan and baked them for 30 minutes in a 350F oven. They were done at 30 minutes. The toothpick definitely didn’t come out clean, but they were golden and shiny on top.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

As you can see, they went fast. I would actually consider them to be the best butterscotch brownie I’ve ever had, and they had a ton of chocolate chips in them. They were moist and delicious, very chocolatey but not overwhelmingly so, and actually were just as good a few days later. These were excellent.

Just imagine any soft chocolate chip cookie you’ve really, really enjoyed – and then imagine being able to have them to eat, and lot of them, by spending just 10 minutes making cookie dough and being able to bake them in a pan instead of having to spend a decent amount of time dropping them onto cookie sheets. That would be this recipe.

351: Thick Mint Brownies

We had another cookie exchange party this year, and luckily for me, our friend Amanda hosted it at her house. I’m not a big fan of mint, but since other people would eat them I decided to make Thick Mint Brownies to take to it. The picture on the website looked pretty good, and I thought it would be fun to make.

First, you make a mint filling layer of powdered sugar, butter and shortening, peppermint extract (2 teaspoons worth), flour, and cream. I used my electric mixer to mix all the ingredients together. On plastic wrap on the bottom of a 9×13 pan, I patted the mixture into an 8×12 rectangle. [As a side note, I measured all of my 9×13 pans, and they all are 9×13 at the top but narrow to 8×12 (or 8.5×12.5 inches) at the bottom. It makes sense, but I really didn’t expect that for some reason.] I covered the filling and put it, pan and all, into the fridge to chill until I made the brownies, 8 hours later.

The brownie batter was very dark. I melted butter in the microwave and added the brown sugar. I added cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla, and then mixed in the eggs. After adding chocolate chips, I poured half of the batter into a greased 9×13 pan. I slid the mint layer onto the bottom brownie layer, and topped it with the rest of the brownie batter. I spread the brownie batter to the edges and tried to pat some of it over the edges of the mint filling. I decided to skip the ganache because it seemed like overkill.

Thick Mint Brownie disaster

As you can see, these brownies didn’t turn out quite as expected. I had to bake them about 55 minutes before a toothpick came out clean, instead of the 40 minutes that they should have been baked. Also, the filling started overflowing sometime before the 40 minutes was up. Not only did it bubble up from the pan – it flowed onto the bottom of my oven. Very disappointing. With all of the extra baking, the edges burnt. I was able to cut the center brownies out and they were edible enough. Alex enjoyed the center ones, and they were apparently pretty tasty. They were definitely very minty. I think the chocolate chips in this recipe were too much.

It’s possible that I should have chilled the mint layer longer. The recipe said to chill overnight, which I usually interpret to be 8 hours – as in, I make the mint layer at night and decide to bake the brownies in morning when I wake up. However, it might work better if I chilled it for 24 hours. Also, I should have sealed the brownie batter around the edges of the mint layer by patting it down well along the sides to make sure there aren’t air bubbles trapped there. Maybe the recipe would have worked if I’d done those things, but I doubt I’ll make this recipe again.

287: Cooking Light’s Fudgy Brownies

Readers of this blog know how much I love brownies. I even did a brownie taste test, after all. So, when Cooking Light did a brownie makeover, I decided to give the recipe a chance. Their Fudgy Brownies made an 8×8 pan of brownies, so it wouldn’t be an overwhelming amount of food when I still had to play recipe catch-up for the month.

Notable things about this recipe: it called for both dark chocolate and cocoa powder, took an egg plus 2 egg yolks, and included milk. I’d never made a brownie recipe that took milk before. You melt together butter and chocolate (which I did in the microwave), add sugar and other liquid ingredients, and mix in dry ingredients until just moistened. Pour into a greased 8×8 pan and bake for 20 minutes. I think I had to bake mine a few minutes longer (I think I poured in extra milk on accident) until the toothpick came out a little sticky, which is how I know I like my brownies.

Fudgy Brownies
Fudgy Brownies

These were good brownies. Slightly underbaked as all good brownies are, they were moist. These brownies were very rich from the high cocoa and chocolate content. There was no leavening in these, so they were dense rather than cakey.

How do they compare to other brownie recipes? Taste-wise, this is an intermediate step between Hershey’s Best Brownies and Best Cocoa Brownies [links to my reviews of them]. Cooking Light Fudgy Brownies are not as sweet as the Hershey’s brownies, nor quite as dark or rich as Best Cocoa Brownies (from what I recall of the two times I made the recipe).

Are Cooking Light’s Fudgy Brownies light? Sure, if you compare them to the rich, butter-laden Best Cocoa Brownies. Fudgy Brownies have much less butter than the Best Cocoa Brownies, as well as a tiny bit less sugar; however, they do have more flour. I don’t think they’re particularly lighter than the Hershey’s brownies, though. The recipe for Fudgy Brownies says that they have 147 calories per square; Hershey’s Best Brownies (in a 9×9 pan) says 135 for a comparably-sized square. [I always make the Hershey’s recipe in a 9×13 pan but it’s about the same.] Fudgy Brownies only has a little less fat (less butter but chocolate contains fat) than the Hershey’s, and it has both more cocoa and more flour than the Hershey’s Brownies. It’s nice to see that my standby recipe is about the same calorie-wise as the “light” brownies.

These Fudgy Brownies are good brownies, and the fact that they’re “light” (or from Cooking Light) shouldn’t scare you away. They’re moist, not too sweet, rich but not too rich. I don’t feel like I’m eating a “light” brownie when I eat one – and that’s because they’re similar enough to my usual Hershey’s brownies recipe. I think this is a good compromise recipe, as the flavor falls between the favorites of my taste test – richer than Hershey’s, but not as dark as Best Cocoa Brownies. I won’t give up either of those recipes, but I’ll make this recipe again sometime (but I’ll probably just use 1 egg in place of the 2 egg yolks, for simplicity). You should give it a try too.

207: Rocky Road Brownies

I love browsing the recipes at the Joy of Baking website. She has a ton of chocolate recipes. I was headed to Chicago and wanted to make something to share with my friends up there. I gave them a choice, and they voted for the Rocky Road Brownies.

I thought I had unsweetened chocolate, but I didn’t. I’d already been to the store once, so I decided to use a cocoa substitution (3 tablespoons cocoa plus 1 tablespoon oil for each ounce of unsweetened chocolate). I partially melted the butter, added the cocoa and oil, and melted it the rest of the way. The brownie batter came together easily – it was very simple. I baked them for 25 minutes, after which time you add the toppings that make them rocky road. In addition to marshmallows, I used almonds, pecans, and a mixture of semisweet and milk chocolate chips. This baked another five minutes to melt the marshmallows.

Rocky Road Brownies

Everyone liked these. I personally was not too keen on them, but honestly, that’s simply because I don’t like Rocky Road that much. The brownie batter was very dark and dense – Alex called it a little bitter when he tasted it – but I think that it went well with the sweetness of the chocolate chips and marshmallows on top. If you like rocky road, give these brownies a try!

Bonus: Brownie Taste Test

[If the Cooking Light Fudgy Brownies recipe (review here) had been published, I would have tried it in this taste test. It’s a good recipe that would have been worth comparing.]

As promised, I held a brownie taste test! I couldn’t decide between Alton Brown’s brownies, Hershey’s brownies, or Best Cocoa Brownies. Who better than my friends to help me decide? My friends are both scientists and food lovers – they like to eat, and they generally like to analyze things. Thanks to the willingness of my friends to sample and analyze brownies (much more analytically than I expected), I can.

I used the same ingredients in all of these recipes unless otherwise noted. A few comments on each brownie recipe:

Alton Brown’s Brownies: I actually used sea salt in these instead of regular iodized salt, because it called for kosher salt. Obviously, this is a mistake, because it made the final product a little salty. [This was interesting, making it a bit like a salted caramel.] These were made in the stand mixer. I lined the 8x8inch pan with parchment paper to hopefully cut down on edge browning. I coated the paper with regular cooking spray, rather than spray with flour.

Hershey’s Brownies: no change from the methods described. I may have mixed them a little more than I usually do. I also think I had to bake it a little longer than I thought I should.

Best Cocoa Brownies: No parchment paper for these. I melted the butter in the microwave to mix with the cocoa. These were baked 30 minutes.

The setup for the brownie taste test
The setup for the brownie taste test

I labeled the brownies A, B, and C, and I was the only one who knew what they were until the end. I didn’t give any particular instructions on how to rate them, but luckily my friends do analysis for a living and devised criteria to use to evaluate them. A few chose a clear, overall winner, while others thought that certain brownies would be good for specific purposes. I’ve compiled the feedback I got:

Brownies A
little chewy, rich
A is more cakey, chocolatey
A is best for a snack
more cakey and less sweet – very un-me
least chocolatey, best mouth-feel

Brownies B
good. yummy.
I like the texture the best – very fudgy. Reminds me of a much-better, yummier Krusteaz brownie mix
Best as a dessert
Best texture and crispy edges
Fudgy, soggy

Brownies C
Darker and rich, not as much as A
C is really chocolatey, the best chocolatey flavor, but I like the texture of B best
Best as a treat for coffee
Best taste (rich and chocolatey)
Dark and rich – great texture, dense

Someone also made a chart (thanks, Brian!), which I thought was awesome:

Typicalness Chocolate Flavor Texture Intrigue Overall
A 3rd 3rd 1st 1st 2nd
B 1st 2nd 1st 3rd 3rd
C 2nd 1st 2nd 2nd 1st
How much like a brownie I’ve had before 1st = moist and cakeyC was a little too fudgy Unique flavor Want more!*indicates desire to consume brownie in the future, not necessarily a “best/worst”

If I give you the differences between the brownies, can you guess which is which? Alton Brown’s recipe has no leavening, but has a lot of air incorporated into it, much like a cake; Hershey’s [which has leavening] and Best Brownies [which doesn’t] are stirred by hand. Best Brownies has a slight bit more margarine proportionately when compared to the other brownies.

Cocoa to flour ratio:
AB’s [over-stuffed 8×8 pan]: 1 1/3 cup cocoa to 2/3 cup flour
Hershey’s [9×13 pan]:  3/4 cup cocoa to 1 cup flour
Best [8×8 pan]: 3/4 cup cocoa to 1/2 cup flour

The general consensus was that C was the superior brownie, with 2 people [of 8] preferring B.

This means that most people preferred the Best Brownies, while 2 people preferred the Hershey’s Brownies. Not surprisingly, the Hershey’s Brownies were rated as typical [Alex has fed everyone M&M brownies made from this recipe, more than once!], and I think that some people liked that. I do think of them as prototypical brownies. The Best Brownies seemed to satisfy a desire for rich, intense chocolatey flavor.

Alton Brown’s Brownies had their advantages too, and weren’t unsatisfying – the recipe received positive feedback.

I think that ultimately which recipe you want depends on what you want out of your brownie. Intense flavor? Best Brownies. Good, typical, no-fail brownie that’ll please most people (including people who don’t like dark chocolate)? Hershey’s Brownies. Cakey brownies? Go for Alton Brown’s Brownies.

Overall, I decided that I liked the Best Brownies best as well. I enjoyed their rich chocolate flavor and density. These are the ones that I saved to take to work for my snack.

Runner-up: I still like the Hershey’s Brownies – they’re still satisfying, and the recipe yields enough to share with a crowd. The Hershey’s Brownies recipe is versatile as well – Alex adds M&Ms to them, and I’ve converted them to cheesecake brownies before as well.

I don’t think I’ll make Alton Brown’s Brownies again, unless I get a metal 8×8 pan. The edges still burned on these, even though I used parchment paper with them. I didn’t have problems with the edges tasting cake-like, at least. In general, though, I don’t want to have to use my stand mixer to make brownies. I think making brownies should be a low-intensity activity, and I don’t want to have to use kitchen appliances other than a microwave and my oven to do it. Using my stand mixer to make brownies just feels fussy.

I’ll go back and forth between making Hershey’s Brownies and Best Brownies. It’ll mostly just depend on how I feel and how much I really, really want chocolate 🙂

I want to thank all my friends for eating so many brownies for me! I couldn’t have done it without you!

127: Fudgy Brownies

[I would actually recommend Best Cocoa Brownies, Cooking Light’s Fudgy Brownies, or Hershey’s Best Brownies over this recipe (all link to my reviews). They’re primarily made with cocoa, which makes them relatively easy. Can’t choose? Check out the brownie taste test I did to help you decide.]

Alex asked if I would make something over the weekend, so I told him to look through my cookbooks again. I thought I was in the mood for chocolate, so we chose the Fudgy Brownies Recipe from the Pillsbury: Best Cookies Cookbook. I normally don’t make brownies from melted chocolate – I only use cocoa – but I thought I’d go ahead and give this one a try.

***

Fudgy Brownies

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup margarine (1 stick)
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
(Glaze, which I didn’t bother to make, because a good brownie shouldn’t need it)

Melt chocolate and 1/2 cup margarine over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool slightly. In medium bowl, beat together sugar, vanilla, and eggs until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt, and chocolate mixture. Blend well. Spread in greased 13×9 inch pan and bake at 350F for 30-38 minutes. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.

***

I didn’t have enough unsweetened chocolate left, so I had to substitute 3 tablespoons cocoa and one tablespoon vegetable oil for one of the 1oz squares of chocolate. I melted the chocolate and margarine in the microwave at half power, stirring periodically, until it was thoroughly melted together. I think I added everything to the bowl with the chocolate, so I didn’t really follow the ingredients order exactly.

I don’t have any pictures of these, unfortunately. They were tasty enough, I suppose. I ultimately wasn’t in the mood for them by the time I ate them. I may also just prefer cocoa brownies over chocolate brownies. The texture of these was good, though, and they were rich.

There’s nothing wrong with this recipe. I think that I’ll still make cocoa brownies because they’re more convenient. If you like brownies made from chocolate, though, give this recipe a try.

103: Espresso Brownies

I find it very fitting that my Espresso Brownies are the final recipe that I made in April – another milestone recipe! My husband doesn’t like coffee, so I knew that I would need company to help me eat these. We had a friend come to stay with us last weekend and a crowd at a barbecue to feed, so I finally had my chance to make them!

The recipe for Jamaican Coffee Brownies said I could use espresso instead of the special coffee, so that’s exactly what I did. Very finely ground espresso goes in the rich brownie batter, and brewed espresso goes in the ganache on top. I normally don’t make frosting or ganache for brownies – I believe that a good brownie doesn’t need adornment – but I did for this recipe, since the ganache would add flavor (from the brew), rather than just add sweetness and moisture as frosting generally does. As I made these, I could tell that the brownie batter would be rich and delicious on its own because of its high cocoa content. I did add the pecans because I thought that such a rich brownie might need the contrast, but I made the mistake of grinding them in my magic bullet instead of chopping them by hand, so most of the pecans disappeared into the batter.

While the brownies baked, I made the ganache. I didn’t understand why I would need to simmer the espresso, so I didn’t bother with it. I’ll tell you why it should be simmered – the hot espresso on its own is not hot enough to melt all of the chocolate chips. My bowl wasn’t microwave-safe, so I had a few partially-melted chocolate chips that ended up on the brownies. I don’t think that it hurt it any. I didn’t bother with any crystallized ginger – coffee and chocolate was enough for me.

Espresso Brownies

These were really good. They definitely have a strong coffee flavor, so you have to love both coffee and dark chocolate to like these. These were very easy to make, if you have a coffee grinder and can make espresso/really strong coffee. The flavor is intense, so they’re not a brownie for the faint of heart! They were very moist and very rich. Our crew at the barbecue devoured them – they were much more popular than I had anticipated. I would definitely make these again if the right occasion arose.