Sunday, March 28, 2010

How do I love brownies? Let me count the ways...

...With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Brownies are truly an American staple, surfacing somewhere in the early 1900s.  They are easy to transport, easy to make, easy to feed a crowd with.  Almost everyone loves brownies.  I don't think I know a single person that doesn't.  There are also some great variations to the humble brownie.  I've made brownie S'mores, brownies with raspberry jam, brownies with frosting, brownies with and without nuts.  (Without nuts now because Ben will pick every nut out that he finds and leave them in a neat pile on his plate.  He does the same thing with tomatoes :-P)

Paula Deen has a wonderfully easy recipe for some super brownies.  I thought..."How can I change this up a bit?  I wonder what it would taste like with..." So, I decided to do an experiment with my family as willing and eager participants.

Her basic premise is this - Get a box of brownie mix, mix it up according to package directions, slap 1/2 of it in a pan, put some big ol' chocolate bars on top, then top with the rest of the batter, and bake according to directions on the box.  You get a brownie with a wonderful ooey gooey layer of chocolate/whatever goodness.  She recommends using  Symphony Bars with Almonds and Toffee

I wanted more variation.  Plus, I thought the brownies were too thin in a 9 x 13 pan (sorry Paula hon').  Besides, taste testing this could be kinda fun, you know?  I bought three bars of Chocolate - Well, two bars plus a package of teeny bars - Symphony Bar with Almonds and Toffee ; Butterfingers Bar (Giant size) ; and Andes Creme de Menthe Thins.  I decided in the interest of all waistlines concerned, I would make one tray of brownies, but with the three different flavors.  We would then taste all three, and see which was the preferred bar of choice in this decadent, yet remarkably simple dessert.

I bought a box of Milk Chocolate Brownie Mix by Duncan Hines.  I figured it would give a different flavor to the chocolate.  Get whichever you prefer - the Darker Fudge original, or the Milk Chocolate, either works.  I make the chewy/fudgy brownie, but this recipe will also work with the cakelike brownies - it's all a matter of taste.

I stirred up the batter, but used a smaller pan - 7 x 11.  If you don't have a 7 x 11 pan, then use the 9 x 13, but be warned, the batter will be thin, and you will have to carefully spread it.  You can also use a  9 x 9 or 8 x 8" square pan.  If you are a brownie fanatic, or having a crowd over, I would suggest making two boxes of brownie mix and using the 9 x 13 pan.  If you use the 9 x 13 pan, you will need THREE LARGE BARS of the chocolate of your choice.  Got it? I didn't confuse you with too many choices?  Your head stop spinning? Good!  WarningQuick rant ahead - I think a 9 x 13" pan for brownies is a stretch.  They come out very thin, and it's very easy to overcook them.  I think the 8 x 8" pan is too small, unless you're a two person family.  I think the 7 x 11" pan is perfect. Besides, you then get to eat the leftover chocolate you trim off the bars to make them fit into the pan. 
From L to R:  Symphony, Butterfingers, Andes

Now, put 1/2 of the batter in your pan of choice, which you have sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Carefully lay the chocolate bars on top of the batter, then pour the rest of the batter over the bars.  Whatever pan you use, you will have to spread the batter evenly over the top of the chocolate bars. 

Bake as directed on the box, unless you are using a dark 7 x 11 pan like I did - then you bake the brownies for about 40-42 minutes at 325 degrees, or about 37-39 minutes at 350 degrees and a regular colored pan.  If they are done, they edges should "pull back" from the sides of the pan, and the brownies should be uniformly puffed up and the surface look a bit dry like my picture.  (If the brownies have a depression in the middle - they aren't done.  Continue cooking, check them every 2 minutes - you don't want to over cook them.  Overcooked brownies = bricks you can build a house with) Cool, then cut into bars and enjoy.

The results of the taste test were split.  Ben actually refused to eat the brownies, because he was full  from stuffing his face at Pizza Uno's with his skating buddies.  (dude - the boy refusing brownies?  Unheard of!)  However, he did try them and gave his opinion when he got home from stopping momentarily by the house for whatever reason 15 yr olds fly by like tornadoes...Hubby preferred the Symphony Bar brownies, where I fell in love with the Butterfingers - Here's the breakdown:
From L to R: Symphony, Butterfingers, Andes

1.  Symphony Bar Brownies - Chocolatey with a nuts and toffee layer that is delicious.  If you use brownie mix with walnuts, you'll get even more nutty goodness.  A definite thumbs up.  Hubby's fave.

2.  Butterfingers Bar Brownies - These had a great flavor.  A layer of Butterfinger flaky goodness that gave the brownies a hint of peanut buttery flavor and a chewiness that only Butterfingers can deliver.  It made the brownies taste richer if that makes any sense.  Ben and my favorite.  A thin layer of Butterfinger filling. (If someone had not thought of this before - they should have.  OMG this brownie is heaven - and verrrrry dangerous.  MUCH too easy to eat more than one...RESIST!!!)

3.  Andes Mint Brownies - VERY minty the first night, perfect the next morning. (Oh? did I say morning?  erm...I meant afternoon - everyone knows one does NOT eat brownies for breakfast!)  I think if I were to make a whole pan of them,  I would ice them with chocolate frosting because the mint sort of overpowers the chocolate in the brownie a tad, and I think the icing would balance it.  A nice little stripe-y layer of mint. (Oh, and here's a question for you:  Where does the green from the Andes Mint go when you cook it?  The mint stripe is white!  Does a leprechaun with anger management issues come and magically steal the green away, because only HE can wear green?)

I didn't even bother printing the recipe out, since it's so simple.   I did however, give you three variations - See how many more you can come up with!  I was tempted to try the Hershey's Cookies and Cream bar, but I reeeeeallly don't like white chocolate - which isn't even chocolate BTW - It's made from cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids.  Not a hint of chocolate liquor or cocoa solids in it.   But that's a rant for another time.

Enjoy your brownies, however you make them!


  1. butterfinger ones sound very good! I like the symphony ones, you know that. I've had those before. they're amazing. so i can only imagine how good the butterfinger ones are!

    I don't eat brownies here. I actually eat really healthy! But i still gained weight haha.

  2. symphony is my favorite candy bar in the world! i MUST try that.

    meg, how do you gain weight if you eat healthy? i bet you gained like half a pound or something lol.