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Monday, March 18, 2013

Simple Pleasures Are Best

That's something my sister-in-law often says and usually she's right.

I'm thinking right now about the brownies I bake.  No, not from scratch - while I love the idea of from scratch baking I almost always use a box mix of some kind, at least for cakes & brownies.  But I have my ways of making them special.  And they're all simple and easy.

For brownies, I almost never make a batch without adding something extra.  Walnuts or pecans are a natural (unless you're making the brownies for someone who cannot have or does not like nuts).  To make them extra tasty toast them before adding.  This is as easy as placing the nuts on a baking pan in the oven for a few minutes, or in a skillet on the stove top.  Toast just until they become fragrant, shaking or stirring a few times to prevent burning.

Another addition is chocolate.  I like to break a chocolate bar up into little pieces, or just toss a handful of chocolate chips into the batter.  Pour it into the pan and scatter a few more pieces or chips over the top.  The bits melt to different degrees making the brownies extra special.  Bits of caramel or candy bar can also be tried.

You can add spices to the batter while mixing.  I like to shake in a little cinnamon for a subtle boost of flavor.  A shake or two of cayenne pepper adds a pleasant bit of warmth and a hefty pinch of sea salt - well I got those last two ideas from adding chocolate bits that contained those ingredients.  I figured if it's good for chocolate it's good for brownies.

Finally, if you like those marbled cheesecake brownies, well it's as easy as this.  Combine one beaten egg with one package (8 ounces) cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla.  Beat well.  Pour the brownie batter into the pan, then plop spoonfuls of the cheesecake mixture in as well.  Use a knife or skewer to swirl the two batters together in a marbled effect until it's as mixed as you wish.  Bake as usual.

Next time you bake a batch of brownies, whether from scratch or from a mix, try one or two or all of these ideas to make them a little special.

Quotable quotes; in the category Oh, So That's What That Smell Is!

"Childhood smells of perfume and brownies."  David Leavitt, American Novelist

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