Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ramped Up Brownie Mix

With A Little Help From My Friends by The Beatles
So do you ever wonder if artists write songs with the thought in mind, "I'll bet this one will get alot of screams from the girls!"  This has crossed my mind as I've stood in concerts and have been one of the screamers, appropriately responding to the lyrics in the songs with my vocal volume.  I mean, I know they had ME in mind when writing them, right?  I'm pretty sure The Beatles didn't need to ask for our help, but I loved that they did anyway.  It gave everyone fits just thinking about the ways they'd like to help the Fab Four - and knowing that you weren't going to be able to do ANY of them made you, well, SCREAM!  Now, for today's post, I don't recall the box of brownie mix asking for my help, but I did just the same - and knowing the results has had me screaming "OH MY GOODNESS!"

The idea is almost ludicrous - that brownies, in any shape or form, need help of any kind.  Yet, that's just what I've done here.  I made some brownies for a wedding recently
and it's had me thinking about the moist and gooey treats.  "What if I married some of my favorite parts of my scratch recipe with the convenience and predictability of a mix?"  I wondered.  So I sat down with paper and pencil and did some figuring.  A little trial and error later, I've come up with a fix for a mix that rivals any straight scratch brownie.

I have another quick fix for brownie mixes that just involves folding a little sour cream into the batter.  It adds a nice moisture to the brownies and a slight tang as well, which, in turn, brings out the sweetness of the chocolate.  I've never tried cutting shapes out of that version, though, so I can't vouch for how it would do.  But I have cut shapes out of my scratch version and this hybrid version I'm sharing today.

Why cut shapes?  Mostly because it's a fun presentation!  Fun shapes cut down on the need for a bunch of doo-dah (technical culinary term) on top.  These brownies are so moist and rich that excessive toppers would detract from the wonderfulness upon which they were sitting!  I've restrained myself to a quick drizzle with melted white chocolate chips.  Done! 

The other bonus of cutting shapes is that you have a pile of scraps left over.  
DO NOT THROW THESE OUT OR EAT THEM YET!  I have an extraordinarily yummy thing to do with them and I'll be sharing that with you in about a week and a half.  For now, put them in a plastic storage bag, squeeze out the air, seal, and put them in the freezer until then.  You won't be sorry.  Promise!  I just had a shiver of delight just thinking about their future!

For now, make these brownies.  It makes a large batch but I'm sure that, with a little help from your friends, you'll find homes for them all!

Ramped Up Brownie Mix
fills a 13x18x1 1/2" sheet tray
1 brownie mix for a 9x13" pan, I used Betty Crocker's
2/3 c. all-purpose flour (83g)
1 c. sugar (200 g)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. kosher salt
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided ( 1 lb. 2 oz.) (510 g)
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate (2 squares)
1 c. butter (2 sticks) (247 g)
2/3 c. vegetable oil (156 mL)
1/4 c. water (59 mL)
5 eggs
1 t. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 13x18x1 1/2" sheet tray by spraying with a cooking spray and then lining with a sheet of parchment, allowing the paper to hang over the sides of the pan.
That extra paper will be your "handles" after they are baked.  Spray the parchment paper lightly.  Set aside.

Empty the brownie mix into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a microwave-safe bowl, place half of the chocolate chips ( 1 1/2 c.), the unsweetened baking chocolate squares, and the butter.  Melt, stopping to stir the ingredients every 20 seconds.  Don't be distracted from this task as it is easy to burn your chocolate - and it would be sad indeed to have to throw all that loveliness away.  It took about 1 1/2 minutes for mine to melt.  The butter melts first and, upon stirring, it helps the rest to melt. Heat until you still have a few lumps, then let the heat from the ingredients melt the remaining bits.  Be sure to stir well until everything has come together into a smooth liquid.  Set aside to cool a bit.

Add about 1/4 c. of the dry mix to the remaining chocolate chips in a small bowl and toss to coat.  This will help keep them distributed through the batter and not all dropping to the bottom of the pan while baking.

Add the vegetable oil, water, eggs, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix with a mixer until well-blended.  Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix again.  Fold in the chocolate chips with their coating ingredients until blended throughout.

Spread the brownie mix into the prepared pan, trying to get it distributed as evenly as possible.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, turning the pan half way through the baking and giving the pan a tap against the shelf to help any air escape that might be trapped in the batter.

Remove from oven when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes.  Take a knife and loosen up the edges of the brownies from the pan, then, using the paper "handles," quickly lift the brownies out of the pan and onto a cooling rack large enough to hold them.  Let them cool all the way.

When cool, transfer the brownies to a surface area where you can cut them into shapes.
Decorate as you like!
Share them and make someone smile!
And don't forget to save those scraps!!!


  1. how do you make your "decoration" (icing) so cute and not globby? I tried it and mine look terrible.

    btw... this is a super awesome website. Great job!

    1. Hi there, Kemper! With these brownies I used 1 cup white chocolate chips and melted them in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds with about 1-2 t. shortening. The shortening keeps them smooth as white chocolate can be a little chalky or globby. I don't melt the chips until completely melted, just mostly melted - then I stir until the heat of the already melted chips melt the rest. This way you don't run the danger of getting the chocolate too hot or - gasp! - burning your chocolate! Then, when it is completely smooth, I put it into a disposable decorating bag (find them at craft stores that sell cake supplies) or a heavy duty ziploc bag and snip a tiny bit off the tip or corner. Start tiny and if that's too tiny, then snip a little more. Before going straight to your goodie to be decorated, do a few practice squiggles on a dish or even your counter. The trick to making it look good is to make your squiggle path WIDE - going beyond the edge of the surface to be decorated and letting it land over the side a bit - and keep your arm movement smooth. Even if there's a break in the flow, keep your arm flowing smoothly. Those breaks will look great, too, and you can always go back and do a touch up! Give it a try! It's the same idea with icings - keep the path wide and smooth! Let me know how it goes! And thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you're enjoying the blog!

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