Something sweet will be in order Sunday, preferably something chocolate.
Among the many chocolate choices, the simplest is the most satisfying: a good ol’ brownie, a little fudgy, a little crusty, preferably dressed up with nuts and chocolate frosting.
It’s not that hard to produce brownies from scratch. They’re easier than a cake and a whole lot easier than fudge. But if you really need a shortcut, we grabbed a box of brownie mix and searched the Internet for ideas on what to do with it.
A few of the ideas making the rounds of the blogs and Pinterest pins didn’t work so well. (Brownie waffles aren’t a good idea unless you love scraping burned batter out of the little grids.)
Other suggestions turned out much better, like turning brownies into a form of buckeyes, the chocolate and peanut butter candies, and beating the brownie mix into a cheesecake batter with a brownie crust.
That’s the thing about brownie mix. It’s kind of a blank palette that’s OK the way it is, but a lot more fun if you do things to it. Things like:
▪ Add a teaspoon of instant espresso powder.
▪ Replace the water in the mix with Kahlua or Amaretto.
▪ Replace 2 tablespoons of the water with 2 tablespoons of hot sauce, like sriracha. It gives it a little heat, but not too much.
▪ Toast nuts to bring out their flavor, then chop and add. (Use any kind of nut you like, but walnuts are particularly made for brownies.)
▪ Chop up candy bars and mix them in.
▪ Layer cut-up brownies with whipped cream in parfait glasses to make trifles.
▪ Bake the brownie batter in a cast-iron skillet at 325 degrees, then pour caramel topping over the top and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
Brownie Batter Cheesecake
Adapted from bettycrocker.com.
1 (1-pound, 2.5-ounce) box brownie mix, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup melted butter
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Mix together 3/4 cup dry brownie mix, flour and melted butter. Press into the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan. Cover with plastic wrap and use your finger tips to press and spread the dough to completely cover the bottom of the pan. (Don’t worry about bringing it up the sides.)
In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese about 2 minutes, until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the remaining brownie mix and heavy cream. Stopping to scrape down the bowl a couple of times, beat until no trace of cream cheese remains.
Spread over crust in springform pan. Bake at 350 degrees 45 to 55 minutes, until the center is mostly set and no longer looks wet.
Remove from oven and cool, then refrigerate at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. Run a knife around the inside edge to loosen the cake, then remove the rim. Keep refrigerated.
Yield: About 12 slices.
Buckeye Brownie Cookies
Adapted from the website Like Mother Like Daughter (lmld.org). The dough and the peanut butter filling are easier to handle if you build in time to chill them a little.
1 (1-pound, 2-5-ounce) box brownie mix
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup chocolate chips
2 teaspoons coconut oil
Beat together dry brownie mix, cream cheese, butter and egg with an electric mixer. Batter will be sticky. Chill 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Mix together peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar in a separate bowl and chill while batter chills.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using about 1 1/2 tablespoons, roll brownie dough into balls and place on baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, until the tops are crinkly.
While cookies bake, roll the peanut butter mixture into small balls, each about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, and set aside.
Remove cookies from oven. Cool briefly, then slide parchment paper onto a cooling rack. While cookies are warm, press your thumb into each cookie to make a depression. Place a peanut butter ball in each one.
Reline baking sheet and continue with remaining batter.
Let cookies cool. Combine chocolate chips and coconut oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave about 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each, until smooth. Dip a fork in the melted chocolate and fling chocolate over the cookies on the parchment. Cool completely.
Yield: About 32 cookies.
Sriracha Brownies With Mexican Chocolate Frosting
1 (1-pound, 2/5-ounce) box brownie mix
2 tablespoons sriracha
2 tablespoons water
1 to 2 eggs (depending on the mix)
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 1/2 to 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Make brownies according to directions on box, replacing the water with a mix of sriracha and water. (If the mix doesn’t call for water, you can still add the 2 tablespoons sriracha.) Spread in a prepared pan and bake according to package directions.
Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
To make frosting, beat butter until fluffy, then beat in confectioners sugar and cream. Beat in the cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne. Spread over the cooled brownies.
Yield: About 8 brownies.