Friday, June 22, 2012

Is it ALL about the chocolate?

There are so many different brands of chocolate available in the market today and at so many different price points.  Usually, when I make brownies, I use Bakers’ unsweetened chocolate and their one bowl brownie recipe.  I always thought these brownies where good, dense, and yummy.  I am not a huge chocolate connoisseur, so I just assumed the chocolate flavor was sufficient.

A few months ago, I brought brownies into the office for Valentine’s Day.  The brownies slowly went through the week, but by Friday, I had to throw away at least 2 brownies.  I work in a small office, but treats, good treats, are never not consumed.  I took this to mean, the brownies were not up to my usual standards.  I have not made brownies since.

Then, I discovered these little Jet Puffed Mallow Bits and instantly knew I wanted to create rocky road brownies.  It is said that to do the same thing and expect different results, is the definition of insanity.  I did not want to insanely create another perceived “fail” brownie attempt.  After reviewing the recipe and seeing that it mirrored a lot of other brownie recipes; and reading reviews of the chocolate, which are less than favorable in a lot of places, I decided the chocolate was the variable that needed to change.

I wanted to use another brand of unsweetened chocolate, keeping all other aspects of the recipe the same.  At my local grocery store, the only other brand of unsweetened chocolate they had was the uber expensive, though decadently yummy, Scharffen Berger chocolate.  After paying two arms and a leg for the chocolate bar, I used it in the brownie recipe.

The batter seems oiler than normal when I mixed it up, but I refused to throw it out!  I paid too much for this chocolate.  I baked up the brownies, let them cool, and cut them.  They were not oily at all AND they tasted amazingly chocolaty (in a good way).  I brought them to my office, hoping for a better reception than the last brownies I made.  The office loved them.  They got moved up to 3rd favorite on one of my co-work’s list of things I have baked.  They got moved up to 1st on the list of one of my mom’s co-workers.  I guess it is all about the chocolate.

The add-ins to these brownie are special as well.  The Mallow Bits (think crunchy marshmallow pieces from hot cocoa packs) provide an interesting and pleasant texture to the brownie.  They do not dissolve away like regular marshmallows, but are not completely crunchy like they are before baking; they are chewy.  The almonds and chocolate chips both provide a nice texture to the brownies as well.  Mixing half the add-ins into the batter and topping the brownies with the other half truly make them special.  They look like what they are, a rocky yet yummy road to travel!

Rocky Road Brownies

1 Brownie Recipe (I used Bakers’ One Bowl recipe, with Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Chocolate)

More or less to taste:
1 container of Mallow Bites
1 1/2 cups Sliced Almonds
1 1/2 cups Mini Chocolate Chips


1. Make brownie batter as instructed.

2. Stir in half of the add-ins.

3. Pour brownie batter into prepared pan, lined with parchment.  Spread out the batter into an even layer.

4. Top brownie batter in pan with the remaining add-in sprinkled generously across the top.  Press down on the add-ins slightly to ensure they adhere.

5. Bake the brownies as prescribed in the recipe you have chosen.  The add-ins should add little, if any, time to the baking length.

6. Let brownies cool completely before removing from pan with the parchment sheet handles and cutting into pieces.  Note, if the chocolate chips are taking a while to setup (when I made these it was 90 degrees outside), place the brownies in the fridge to allow the chocolate to set, then remove, cut, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

There’s a Whole lot of Pink Going On

As a child, my mother would dress me, very frequently, in purple.  Not the deep, rich royal purple or the intense, alluring aubergine purple, but the frilly, light, 80’s inspired purple.  I look back on those days and cringe.  I was scarred for life, feeling like purple was a required piece of clothing as opposed to a color.  To make matters even more girly, my mother had my room decorated all in pink—two twin pink heart headboard beads, with pink blankets, pink pillows, pink ruffles, and even freaking pink frilly shames…. Sorry, just thinking about it brings up too much emotion.

I was never a girly-girl… Never!  My mother’s want of a prim, proper, and graceful daughter was crushed by a clumsy, pink/purple abhorring, tomboy.  Once I reached the age where I could dress and select my clothes myself, I completely turned away from all the purple and pink.  Did I mention I felt scarred for life?  Just now, as an adult, well over 20 years later, I can finally wear pink or purple (not together, that is just too much) without recalling bad childhood memories.  I am still not a girly-girl, but you do not have to be one to wear pink or purple.  

Every once and a while, I mention to my mother that if she did not push me so hard into pink and purple, I may have come around to those colors a lot earlier in life.  (Truth be told, as a kid I had no hair and my mom got tired of people thinking I was a little boy.  The girl colors, and glued on hair bows helped to set those people straight.  Thanks, mom!)

My co-worker asked me to make these cookies for her granddaughter’s 1st Birthday party.  To go with the princess theme, mom and grandma bought two pink tutus, pink Chuck Taylors, and pink onesies.  Mom also made a pink princess hat, that involved pink fur around the brim.  Yes, little granddaughter was going to be all girly-ed out for her first birthday party.

After seeing the above evolve over several weeks and making the cookies, I told grandma that her granddaughter will either grow-up to be really prissy and girl, or hate the color pink… trust me I speak from experience.  For the sake of mom’s and grandma’s sanity, I hope it is the former (the girly option).  Nevertheless, if she does hate pink, they should be able to take solace in the fact that one day she may come around; look at me, I did, and I am semi-normal :-D

To make these cookies, I used my favorite decorated sugar cookie recipe, royal icing, edible pearls, and luster dust.