Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Black & White Brownie Delight

This is a guest post written by my good friend "A", a founding member of the Straw Hat Society and fellow cooking enthusiast. We were both intrigued by the cover recipe of the January issue of Family Circle magazine. She tried it and submitted the following review:

My first thought, after reading this recipe, was, "This had better be good. Very good." It looked like a lot of effort, and fairly pricey too (the chocolate mousse mix alone cost $4.00). Because I felt I was spending enough on this recipe as it was, I made a couple substitutions so that I could use things I already had: I used light brown instead of dark brown sugar for the bottom layer, and ordinary chocolate chips instead of chocolate chunks in the garnish. I also used a 10 x 14 pan, since I don't have a 9 x 13 pan. Oh, and instead of nonstick foil, I just used regular foil and sprayed the piece lining the pan with cooking spray. This made things a bit difficult when it came time to spread the bottom layer in the pan. This batter is pretty stiff, so when I tried to spread it out in the pan, not only did it not want to stick to the foil, but the foil kept sliding around. Remembering that the pan was larger than the recipe called for, I finally left the batter as a rectangle somewhat smaller than the pan.

The recipe tells you to put the next two layers into bags and pipe them on. This is not necessary. Both these layers have the consistency of cake batter, i.e. light and fairly thin, so I just poured them onto the middle of the previous layer(s) and spread to the edges with a spatula. This worked just fine.

The magazine claims the prep time is 25 minutes, but it took me about an hour and 45 minutes from the time I started until the time the pan went into the oven. An hour later, when I took the foil tent off, the batter had risen to completely fill the pan, so I was glad I'd used the larger

The finished product is pretty heavy and rich, so you do want to cut them small. 32 pieces from a 9 x 13 pan is definitely reasonable. As for the flavor - I was kinda disappointed. They taste okay, but not special enough, I thought, to justify all the work involved. They're not very chocolate-y; really, you taste the peanuts more than anything else. They're not bad, just not, I thought, very flavorful. However, I took some into work and my coworkers were delighted. My boss kept purring (apparently that's what Rachael Ray does, but I don't have cable so I've never seen her). Since I've only worked there about a month, that's probably a good thing....

"A's" Verdict: Not bad, but I probably won't make them again.

Black & White Brownie Delight
(Source: Family Circle magazine, January 2007)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
½ cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
⅔ cup sugar
2 eggs
⅓ cup all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ⅓ cups sugar
2 eggs
⅔ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup milk

2 packages (2.8 ounces each) chocolate mousse mix
1 cup milk
⅓ cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts
⅓ cup chopped chocolate chunks
¾ cup prepared caramel topping

1. Heat oven to 350°. Prepare nonstick foil as follows: Fold 24-inch-long sheet of nonstick foil over upside-down pan, crimping it to hold the shape; set aside. Repeat with second sheet of foil; this will be used to line the pan. To ensure even baking, after lined pan is filled with batter, place pre-formed foil “tent” over top of pan – do not let it touch batter. Line 13 x 9-inch baking pan with one of the prepared foil sheets, extending up the long sides and over short ends.

2. Blondie: Mix flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium-size bowl until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. On low, beat in flour mixture. Stir in peanuts. Spread into pan; level top.

3. Cheesecake: Beat cream cheese in a medium-size bowl on medium speed untiol smooth. Add sugar, eggs and flour and beat to incorporate. Place mixture in large plastic bag; snip off end. Pipe over blondie layer to cover, gently spreading to smooth top.

4. Brownie: Stir flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a medium-size bowl. Beat butter and sugar in second bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in peanut butter until well blended. On low speed, beat half flour mixture, then half milk, into butter mixture. Repeat. Place mixture in large plastic bag; snip off end. Pipe over cheesecake layer to cover, gently spreading to smooth top. Place second prepared foil “tent” over top, crimping edges. Do not let foil touch top of batter.

5. Bake at 350°, covered for 1 hour; remove foil and bake 25 to 30 more minutes. Place on rack to cool 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

6. Garnish: Prepare chocolate mousse mixes as packages direct, using only 1 cup milk total. Spread smoothly onto top of bar. Cut into 32 pieces. In a small bowl, combine chopped peanuts and chocolate chunks. Stir in caramel topping. Spoon over individual pieces and serve.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle, caramel topping bottle

Compost: eggshells


Tim said...

It is a suprise that the final result was a bit of a let down. The ingredient list is pretty impressive!

Anonymous said...

Shoot, I was looking forward to making these! Any hints on how to make it better, or should I just start over looking for a "wow them" chocolate-y recipe for Valentines Day treats?

ps. I love the "compost" and "recycle" additions at the bottom of the review. It makes me feel as though I'm really not the only one who does this kind of thing! May I add "reuse: foil tent" :)

Anonymous said...

I saw this cover photo and was also planning to make these. As I initially suspected, it needs some tweaking. What are your thoughts about using A)hazel, macadamia, or pie nuts instead of peanuts? I don't care for peanuts in brownies, B) Adding some kind of flavor to the cheesecake, and C) changing the final sauce to mimic/enhance/complement the flavor of the nut from A.

I too was planning to make this as a treat for my friends on VDay. I'll check back in case others have suggestions.

OldRoses said...

You can try my Valentine Cookies, pink heart shaped cookies dipped in chocolate. They are easy to make and look great in a pretty basket or other decorative container. I always get "WOW!"s when I give them as gifts on V-day.

A, do you have any special Valentines recipes you would like to share?

A said...

Hi, this is "A". No, sorry, I can't think of any special Valentines recipes at the moment. Anonymous, the caramel sauce on top does complement the peanut flavor. I should have said that in fact the garnish (caramel sauce, chocolate, peanuts) is really the most flavorful part! I think other sorts of nuts would work. I also think adding flavor to the cheesecake would be a good idea. It's almost bland as it is. I would vote for chocolate, but then that's just me...