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Take brownies to the next level in Eagle County

Vera Dawson
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

“This takes brownies to another level! Publish the recipe in your column,” said a friend as she licked the last crumb of one of these Brownie Cups from her fingers. The lady is a sound critic; I took her advice.

What makes this little gem so pleasing? The mixture of chocolates (both semi-sweet and milk chocolate are used in the batter) provides a richness and complexity that isn’t found in most brownies. The walnuts perfectly offset the chocolate’s sweetness and the cookie’s soft, moist texture. And, making them in a mini-muffin pan changes the taste and feel of the brownie in a very pleasing way.

Like most brownies, these cups come together quickly and rely on ingredients that are readily accessible … no need to drive to a Denver market in order to make these treats. More good news: I only dirty two bowls from start to finish. This is definitely a recipe with a lot of bang for the buck.

I wouldn’t substitute a regular-sized muffin pan for the mini-muffin pan with this recipe. While the batter will bake equally well in either pan, the brownies are rich; I know few people who would enjoy the bigger portion as much as the miniature. Better to leave them wanting more than wishing they hadn’t indulged.

One strong warning: Make sure you don’t overbake them. They lose all their remarkable qualities if they are hard and tough.

Make in a mini-muffin pan 2 inches across and 1 inch deep

Ingredients

1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

5 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into five pieces

1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1⁄8 teaspoon of salt

3⁄4 teaspoon of vanilla

1⁄2 cup of all-purpose flour

1 cup of milk-chocolate chips, separated

1⁄2 cup of chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the mini-muffin cups with paper liners and coat each of the liners with a non-stick spray. (I know, I know … that sounds like overkill. But, at altitude, batters such as this one stick much more easily. Greasing the liners will prevent half of your brownie from clinging to the paper liner when you try to remove it. Trust me … it’s worth the trouble.)

Melt the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips with the five tablespoons of butter. The easiest way to do this is to put them both in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave at just below 50 percent power for about two minutes. Remove the bowl from the microwave, stir, and, if necessary, microwave again for a minute at a time, until you can stir the mixture smooth. You may also melt these ingredients in a saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly. Chocolate burns easily, so, whichever way you melt it, don’t overheat it and watch carefully. If necessary, let the melted mixture cool until it is just warm before proceeding.

Whisk the sugar into the melted chocolate and butter. Combine the two eggs in a small bowl, add them, the salt and the vanilla to the chocolate mixture and whisk to blend well. Gently fold the half-cup of flour into the batter, stopping as soon as the flour is no longer visible. Add a half-cup of the milk chocolate chips (reserve the other half cup) and the half-cup of walnuts and stir only until combined. Don’t overmix or your brownies will be tough.

Fill the paper-lined muffin cups. This batter doesn’t rise much at all, so, if you want a plump, rounded top, fill each cup beyond the top of the liner. Sprinkle the remaining half-cup of milk chocolate chips over the tops of the batter in each cup and press them in softly so they don’t fall off while baking. You may not use them all.

Bake until the brownie cups are just set. This takes about 19 to 20 minutes in my oven. But times will vary, depending on your pan, the size of your mini-muffin cups, and your oven. So, start checking early. Don’t let the brownies get hard; that ruins them. The top should be dry and set but still soft. When done, remove them to a rack and take them out of the pan as soon as it is cool enough to do so. Let them cool completely on the rack. Store them for up to two days at cool room temperature in an airtight container or wrap them well and freeze them.

Makes 12

This is a variation of a recipe from “Cuisine At Home.”

Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at veradawson@aol.com.


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