Brownie Bites

brownie bites

Is there an easier way to say “I love you” than homemade brownies?

Well, maybe, but since these brownie bites do the trick so nicely, I’m probably not really going to bother to look.

What I have searched for is the perfect brownie recipe, and happily stumbled upon this one a year or two ago from Chasing Delicious.  You can read all about the evolution of the recipe here, but what you really need to know is that these brownie bites are crazy good. The tops are sleek and glossy, the sides are crisp and chewy, and the centers are dense and fudgy.  They instantly became a household favorite.

Their flavor is more chocolatey than sweet, so while the bites are terrific on their own, they also make a great foundation for a dessert bar –  they are so versatile you can tailor them to nearly any taste or occasion.  Served with ice cream and, say, a salted carmel or marshmallow sauce, they make wonderful brownie sundaes.  Or forgo the ice cream, add a drizzle of creme anglaise, then go nutty by garnishing with spiced pecans or walnuts. For chocolate fanatics, try topping the bites with hot fudge sauce and bourbon-spiked chocolate whipped cream.  To keep them finger-friendly for a buffet, crown them with piped meringue, then lightly brown the meringue with a kitchen torch.

A word of advice about these brownie bites – they never last long.  Although in theory 36 brownie bites should be enough to sustain a household of two adults for two days, alas, somehow it never is.  If you are making them to share (and you totally should), I recommend a double batch.

row of brownie bites

Brownie Bites
Makes 36 bites.  Adapted from Chasing Delicious, here.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate bar)
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour

Preheat oven to 325℉.  Lightly butter mini muffin pans.  Place pans on a baking tray and set aside.

Place the butter in the top portion of a double-boiler over simmering water (you can also use a medium heat-proof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water).  When about a third of the butter has melted, add in the cocoa powder and chocolate, stirring occasionally.  When about two thirds of the butter has melted, add in the sugar and salt. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate are completely melted – when mixed well, it will still appear gritty in texture.

Remove the top portion of the double-boiler (or bowl) from heat and let cool for five minutes.  Add vanilla and mix through.  Add eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition.  Add flour and mix  through until fully incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the prepared mini muffin pans, filling each well until it is just even with the top.  Bake in the lower third of the oven for about 18 – 22 minutes – the tops will be set and shiny, and a toothpick inserted in the center will be slightly moist with batter, but not runny.  Remove the pans from the baking tray.  Allow the bites to cool in the pans for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

The brownie bites will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Snickerdoodles

snickerdoodles

Hello, 2013.  So pleased to meet you.

While I made my list of New Year’s resolutions, I realized they were really more like New Year’s aspirations – stuff I really, really want to make/see/do but just haven’t quite gotten around to yet.  Some of the things on my list are repeats from previous years that are still pending, while some are debuting as the result of new inspiration.  So it appears that this will be the year I spend some time in Venice (the California one), learn some basic embroidery, and desperately try not to kill the succulents, herbs or lime tree I’ll be planting in containers in the courtyard.

Building on last year’s chandelier success, the Fun with Electricity theme will continue, and more lighting fixtures will be produced – hopefully a big kitchen overhead number made with recycled glass.  I’m going to swim more, fly a kite, go camping, visit at least one observatory, and sample all the outlandish ice cream flavors I can (starting with cap’n crunch).  I’m going to use as many different modes of transportation as possible this year, from aeriel tram to zip-line, and attend an Outstanding in the Field farm dinner.  I’m planning on making chinese potstickers for the first time, as well as brioche, giardiniera and a charlotte.  I’m going to try my hand at candy making, using the addictive Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook as a guide.  

And finally, I’m going to make more cookies.  Lots.  Starting with these practically perfect snickerdoodles, which I munched on while making my list.

Whatever you are doing in 2013, make it marvelous!

snickerdoodles cooling

Snickerdoodles
Makes about 30 cookies.  Adapted from Martha Stewart, here.

2 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350℉.  In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  Line baking trays with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low and add in one half of reserved flour mixture, mix until incorporated. Scrape down bowl and add in remaining flour mixture and mix again.

In a small bowl, stir together cinnamon, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, and 2 tablespoons sanding sugar.  Shape dough into about 30 (one inch in diameter) balls and roll in thoroughly in cinnamon sugar.  Place dough balls on prepared cookie sheets about three inches apart.  Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, approximately 12 -15 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire rack and let cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to one week.

2013

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Malt Buttercream Frosting

I adore cupcakes, but sometimes they can be a bit…unwieldy.  Gasp!  I know, I just admitted that. Publicly.  But it’s true.

Some of the “regular-sized” cupcakes can be a bit too much of a good thing, as the standard size has seemingly expanded over time.  If the cupcake is larger than the palm of my hand, it is going to require a plate, cutlery, and possibly it’s own zip code.  Most importantly, it’s going to require a commitment.  A commitment to finish the whole thing in one sitting, because there really isn’t a graceful way to save a half-eaten cupcake for later, and it would be downright shameful to abandon it.  Who needs a forlorn cupcake on their conscience?

At the end of a good meal, sometimes all you want are just a few bites of something celebratory.  Or maybe several bites of something celebratory. Either way, these perfectly proportioned minis have got you covered.

These little cakes are fluffy and moist, with a fine crumb and subtle vanilla flavor.  In short, the perfect, tasty foundation piece – terrific with nearly any topping.  They are a snap to make (about 30 minutes from start to finish) and can handily be made in advance. Just pop a batch or two in the freezer (unfrosted) and remember to unwrap before defrosting. Then top and decorate as desired.  Here, I’ve paired them with a rich and airy chocolate malt buttercream.

So have one, or two, or six – and celebrate!

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Malt Buttercream Frosting
Makes about 30 mini cupcakes, cakes slightly adapted from CosmoCookie, here.  

Vanilla Cupcakes:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
2 egg whites
3/4 cup superfine sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Malt Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup malted milk powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
nonpareils, for garnish

For the cupcakes:  Line cupcake pans with paper liners and preheat oven to 350℉.  In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.  In another bowl, combine the milk and egg whites and whisk together.  Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add vanilla extract and one third of the reserved flour mixture and mix until well combined.  Continue beating, adding in half of the reserved milk and egg mixture until well combined.  Alternate adding in half of the flour mixture, the remaining milk/egg mixture, and the rest of the flour mixture again, beating until well combined after each addition.  The batter should be smooth in consistency.

Divide batter evenly among the cupcake pans, filling each liner about  three-quarters full (approximately one and a half tablespoons per liner).   Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from pans immediately and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the frosting:  In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter for a few minutes on medium speed, until light and fluffy.  Turn off the mixer, and sift in powdered sugar, cocoa and malted milk powder.  On low speed, resume mixing until well incorporated.  Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt and heavy whipping cream, and beat for an additional 2-3 minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Chill frosting for a few minutes in the refrigerator, then pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish as desired.  Frosted cupcakes will keep in an airtight container for three to four days, refrigerated.