Out Of The Box Brownies: Magical brownie recipes that start with a box
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Red-Wine Caramel Brownie Sundae

February 21, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Alcohol, Caramel, Chilled, Creative, Decadent, Nut-Free, Party, Super-Simple

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There is one thing that red wine has in common with brownies, ice cream, and caramel: this super-simple out-of-the-box sundae recipe! Look at that! Fancy enough to serve at the finest event; easy enough to make any night of the week. You’ll be amazed, as were all of my “beta-testers.”

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box brownie mix
  • Eggs, oil, and water as directed on the box
  • 1 and 1/2 cups red wine (I used a nice, plummy, smoky Shiraz)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, optional
  • About 8 to 10 ounces (about 2/3 cup) of caramel topping for ice cream
  • Vanilla ice cream (get the good stuff; you deserve it)

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DIRECTIONS

Mix and bake brownies according to the box instructions. I always use the “extra egg” version of the recipe, usually in small print as a footnote on the box. The extra egg means less fudge-like and more cake-like. When done, remove from oven and let cool.

While brownies are baking and cooling, you can make this amazing, super-easy sauce that will make your brownie sundae worthy of the fanciest of dinner parties, the most special of family events, or the most romantic of celebrations. It begins with a wine reduction.

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Start by pouring red wine and ground cloves into a saucepan. Place on medium heat, no higher. It’s okay to let it bubble, just not to the point of foaming or a “rolling boil.” Just a nice, steady simmer of small bubbles.

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Stir every 1-2 minutes until you notice the amount of liquid in the pan is getting low. Total cooking time will be maybe 15-20 minutes.

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Your wine reduction is done when there is just enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan. Don’t, I repeat, don’t let it go too far and boil away to nothing. At the end, the goal is to reduce your cup and a half of wine down to about 1/8 of a cup of intensely flavored wine.

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Mix your wine reduction together with the caramel topping. (You can make your own caramel from scratch if you prefer; it’s not as hard as you think. Try this simple recipe or this almost-as-simple recipe.)

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The intensely purple-red color of the wine reduction mixes with the toasty tan of the caramel to create a very pretty color.

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In a bowl or deep plate, put a brownie, one scoop of ice cream, and about a tablespoon of red-wine caramel — 2 tablespoons if your sundae feels like it!

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Strawberry Triple-Cream Brownie

February 09, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Chilled, Cream Cheese, Creative, Decadent, Fruit, Holiday, Nut-Free

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Three creams underneath a sweet strawberry pie-filling goo on top of a deep chocolatey brownie crust — it all adds up to decadent, sticky Valentine brownie bliss.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box brownie mix
  • Eggs, oil, and water as called for on the box directions
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) whipped cream topping, like CoolWhip (thawed, not frozen)
  • 1 tub (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp KoolAid unsweetened lemonade powder (optional)
  • 1 or 2 cans (21 ounces each) strawberry pie filling
  • 1-2 ounces rum or amaretto (optional; I used vanilla rum)

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DIRECTIONS

First, you’ll need to plan ahead just a little bit. Think about whether you want a thick and tall brownie or a thinner one.

  • If you want a thick brownie that you can cut into tall, towering servings, I suggest using a 9×9-inch pan (or its equivalent, say, 7×11). In this case, you can use either a regular or family-size brownie mix and 1 can of pie filling.
  • If you prefer thinner brownies that you can serve in big, wide slices, then use a 9×13-inch pan. In this case, you should use a family size box mix — one that says “9×13″ on the box — and plan on using almost 2 cans of pie filling.

Either way, yum. To help you decide, these photos reflect the “thinner” kind made in a 9×13 pan.

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To get started, make and bake brownies according to the box instructions. When they are cooled, you can begin making the creamy filling. Using an electric mixer on medium to medium-high setting, mix together the cream cheese, whipped topping, and sour cream until perfectly smooth, about 1-2 minutes.

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You can decide if you’d like to add a little lemony ZING to your valentine brownie. (This is optional, but I like the idea of cutting the sweet of the brownie and gooey topping with the zip of lemon and sour cream.) If you like, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of unsweetened KoolAid lemonade powder in about 1 teaspoon of hot tap water, mixing until completely dissolved. Add to your cream mixture and beat it for 30 seconds until it’s blended in.

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Pour cream mixture over top of cooled brownies and spread it evenly.

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If you’d like to add a tiny little KAPOW to your strawberry topping, do as I did and add 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of rum or amaretto. I used vanilla rum and it was delightful! You can just mix it right into the can if you want to save a dirty dish. If you’re using 2 cans of topping for a 9×13 pan, add 2 tablespoons of alcohol to the second can of topping as well.

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Pour strawberry topping over the cream layer. (Below you will see how “one can of topping is not quite enough” to fully cover a 9×13 pan.)

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Keep refrigerated. Before serving, let it set up in the refrigerator for at least an hour. I suggest that you serve this immediately after cutting, because the goo and strawberries have a habit of slowly oozing over the brownie edge, which is actually sort of seductive in a valentine-y kind of way.

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Mardi Gras King Cake I (Blondie)

January 14, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Blonde Brownie, Cream Cheese, Creative, Decadent, Fun For Kids, Holiday, Nut-Free, Off the Beaten Path, Party

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Mardi Gras revellers, take note of this stunning Fat Tuesday dessert greatness: this is my sweet take on a “King Cake,” which is typically a braided cinnamon bread with icing and colorful sprinkles. My version is less of a cinnamon bread and more of a big, uh, cinnamon cookie ring.

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Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, falls on the day before lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

The season of lent–with its actions of penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial–eventually leads to Easter, when Christians commemorate the death and rebirth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps that goes a little way to explain why inside of a traditional King Cake is a small trinket, usually a baby Jesus. King Cakes are popular at Christmastime, as well, a time when maybe a baby Jesus trinket makes a bit more sense.

Hey look, you got the trinket! (Look, I just follow the traditions; I don’t make ‘em up.)

Traditionally, whoever gets the piece with the trinket gets the HONOR of being king (or queen) of your Mardi Gras party and also the RESPONSIBILITY of bringing the King Cake next year. You might want to have a paper crown on hand. Here’s my friend Katie, after she got the baby trinket from my cake:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • 6 T margarine, melted
  • 1 box Snickerdoodle cookie mix (box includes 1 bag sugar cookie mix and 1/3 cup of cinnamon sugar)
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
  • Bundt cake pan–prepared with cooking spray and 3-4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 T margarine
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • A few dribbles of milk
  • Sugar sprinkles in green, gold, and purple
  • Baby trinket to push inside the crust after baking

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DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, scramble 2 eggs. Melt butter in microwave and add to eggs.

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Add sugar cookie mix. Do not add the cinnamon sugar at this point; save it for later.

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Mix in cream cheese.

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Prepare bundt pan first by spraying liberally with cooking spray.

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Add flour on top of the spray and shake, heavily coating all the surfaces that batter will touch. Shake out all excess flour. I kinda banged my pan against the counter to shake loose the extra flour so I could pour it out.

Now that your pan is prepared, pour about 20% of batter into it. Then evenly shake half of the cinnamon sugar onto the batter.

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Pour half of the remaining batter on top of the cinnamon sugar and spread it to cover the cinnamon.

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Evenly shake the remaining half of the cinnamon sugar on top of the batter.

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Pour the remaining batter on top and spread it to cover the cinnamon.

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Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick, looking for a moist, but nearly clean pull from the center.

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Let cool for only 10 minutes, then push your little trinket deep into the warm, soft crust of your cake.

With your trinket safely inside the warm cake, let your cake finish cooling completely on a rack. Don’t let it cool completely in the pan; it will be harder to turn out of your pan.

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Once it’s cooled, it’s time to start your icing. Smoosh margarine against the sides of a small bowl.

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Add sugar. Mix in a few dribbles of milk until it’s just thin enough to pour in big globs.

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Spread this thick icing on top of your King Ring. Be generous with the icing; remember, you’ll be crowning royalty when you serve this!20130114-205806.jpg

Quickly, while icing is still wet, sprinkle with the colored sugar in a pattern that will please your Mardi Crew.

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One final piece of advice: When you serve your frosted cinnamon King Cake at your Fat Tuesday party, remind your Mardi Gras guests to bite carefully until the  Baby Jesus trinket is found!

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Super Bowl Truffles with Bacon and Porter Beer

January 14, 2013 By: Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador Category: Alcohol, Creative, Decadent, Nut-Free, Off the Beaten Path, Salty-Sweet

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When the Super Bowl rolls around, I take my brownie blogging duties very seriously, and this year I’ve concocted a beer-and-bacon truffle that will please football party-goers across the nation. Behold! The Super Bowl Truffle, featuring a porter beer reduction with a smoky bacon kick.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box brownie mix (I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate)
  • Eggs, oil, and water as called for on the box
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 12-ounce bottle of porter beer (I used Breckenridge Vanilla Porter)
  • 1 pound of raw bacon — cooked, drained, and crumbled (I used a shortcut with a 4.3-ounce bag of precooked Hormel Crumbled Bacon, which is the equivalent of 1 raw pound)
  • 12-16 ounces of chocolate candy coating (the kind you can melt and pour into candy molds)
  • A few pinches of flaked margarita salt, optional as a garnish

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DIRECTIONS

Bake brownies as directed on the box.

If you’re NOT using pre-cooked bacon, cook your bacon and drain it while the brownies are baking. Set the cooked bacon aside for later.

When the brownies are done baking, remove them from the oven and let cool.

Into a large, deep skillet, pour the brown sugar and porter beer.

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Cook on medium heat until it begins to get syrupy, stirring occasionally. (Don’t get impatient and turn the heat on high.) Using medium heat, it will take maybe 20 minutes or more to get a syrup-like thickness. When a liquid is cooked until it’s thick, that’s called a “reduction.” It concentrates the flavor; that’s why beer selection is important. A slightly bitter beer will turn into a very bitter reduction. To be safe, I chose a mild, rich, smooth porter.

Chop your bacon into fine crumbles. Add MOST of the bacon crumbles into your thickened beer reduction — but set aside about 3 tablespoons of the bacon crumbles to use later as a garnish. 20130114-203644.jpg

Cook for another minute or two. Mine was bubbly and thick. Remove from heat.

One more thing about the bacon…I took a shortcut and used pre-cooked Hormel bacon (this 4.3-ounce bag said it was the equivalent of 1 pound raw). If you do the same shortcut, be sure to check for a 1-inch-square “freshness packet” that may be inside; you don’t want to pour that into your reduction. See photo below. 20130114-203622.jpg

After cooking your porter beer reduction, it’s time to cut those brownies. First, cut off all the edges, which will be too crisp to be a part of your tender truffles. I ate my crusts as soon as I cut them out of the pan. You should, too.

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Cut your crust-free brownies out of the pan and into a large bowl. No need to cut them into squares or be neat about it. Add the bacon-and-beer reduction.

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Stir the brownies and reduction together until they’re well mixed into a thick, smoky-sweet dough. Get about a tablespoon of dough and roll between your palms into a truffle-sized ball. Place onto aluminum foil. Repeat until all the dough is gone.

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I’ve kind of fallen in love with this Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil. It really IS non-stick!

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In a microwave-safe container, melt your chocolate candy coating. I like to use a small container so that my truffles have a nice, deep bath to dip in. Drop one ball in so it gets coated completely. Then, using two forks, fish it out. Place it onto foil and, before it has the chance to dry, immediately garnish it with a sprinkling of bacon crumbles and maybe some margarita salt.

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Repeat this one truffle at a time: Dip, garnish. Dip, garnish. Dip, garnish. Until you’re done. Your football-loving sports fans who come over to watch the game will be amazed at these eye-popping chocolate treats that are easy to serve and eat: The porter-beer-and-bacon Super Bowl Truffle!