Chocolate Orange Brownies

chocolate orange browniesBrownies are probably one of my favorite things to bake, because they’re so versatile. You can make them plain, add different flavors, put frosting on them…whatever you like. In this case, I chose to mix in some orange zest and a few drops of orange extract, then add a chocolate buttercream frosting. The end result is probably one of the best treats I’ve ever made. Or at least, it’s among my favorites.

Next time, I plan to add a few drops of orange extract into the frosting as well…but these treats were absolutely delicious. The brownie base is more on the fudgy side, which I prefer, and the orange adds a nice kick of flavor to complement the fudginess.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 1 medium orange
  • About 4-5 drops orange extract

For the frosting

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and lightly grease the foil. I also always sprinkle the bottom of the foil with sugar when I’m baking brownies for a crunchy bottom crust.

In a mixing bowl, stir together oil and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Stir in cocoa powder, then salt, flour, vanilla, orange zest, and orange extract until the batter is smooth.

Pour into the baking tin and spread into an even layer. Bake for 30-34 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. These brownies are fudgy, but shouldn’t be too gooey in the middle when they’re done; the center will look mostly set on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before frosting; to make frosting, in a mixing bowl, cream butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and cocoa, beating on low speed to fully incorporate into the butter. Add 1 tablespoon milk and vanilla extract; beat to combine, scraping down your bowl a few times, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the second tablespoon of milk and beat for another 1-2 minutes.

Spread frosting over brownies; allow the frosting to set slightly before cutting into bars. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.

Irish Cream Brownies

Full disclosure: until today, I didn’t actually know the ingredients in Bailey’s Irish Cream. I suppose it never occurred to me to investigate the contents of a liqueur that I consume rarely and pretty much only in baked goods, despite its deliciousness. But it’s St. Patrick’s Day week, and some Irish cream brownies seemed like a good idea. They were, indeed.

Bailey’s Irish Cream, as you may know, is a mixture of Irish whiskey, cream, and cocoa. Why anyone thought to put these three ingredients together, I don’t know. But they’re a genius, and should be celebrated well beyond St. Patrick’s Day. Sláinte, friends.

Note: you can likely buy the 50 ml “mini” bottles of Bailey’s at your local liquor store (known as a state store in Pennsylvania). If not, a 50 ml bottle translates to about 3 1/3 tablespoons.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 50 ml bottle Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

For the icing

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 50 ml bottle Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs, Bailey’s, and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add the bottle of Bailey’s, stirring to combine. Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk to reach a thicker drizzling consistency. Drizzle over brownies; allow icing to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Midnight Brownies

The brownie-baking extravaganza continued last week with these midnight brownies, which I’ve named as such because they are delightfully dark. These treats use Dutch process cocoa, which is made by washing cocoa beans in a potassium solution to neutralize its acidity before they’re processed into powder. 

The end result of this process (apparently pioneered by the Dutch) is a darker cocoa powder, which yields a different type of flavor in baked goods. Dutch process cocoa is also usually paired with baking powder, an acidic raising agent, rather than baking soda, which needs to react with an acid to create a rise in baking. Science was never my strong suit, but I think if I had learned it with baking-related examples, I would’ve understood it much better. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin; sprinkle the bottom with sugar if desired for a crunchy bottom crust.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter, then stir in sugar and return to heat very briefly, until its hot – between 110 to 120 degrees – it will look shiny as you stir it (this helps the sugar dissolve better, which yields a crunchy top on the brownies). Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the cocoa, salt, baking powder, and vanilla. Stir in eggs, then flour, until batter is smooth. 

Pour into prepared baking tin and bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until brownies are set and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.

Easy Brownies

Brownies have been my go-to treat throughout Baking in the Time of Coronavirus. Why? They’re incredibly easy to make, and these are probably the easiest recipe I’ve ever found. I omitted the frosting from these treats, which I found at Tastes Better from Scratch, so I could ship them off to Maryland.

These treats were baked especially for Mike’s young cousins, AJ and Tommy; their parents, our Uncle Al and Aunt Sam; and our Aunt Penny. Al and Penny are Mike’s mom’s youngest siblings, and they moved from suburban DC to a more rural part of Maryland a few months back. Mike helped with the move, and naturally I sent treats, which prompted the boys to ask if “Amy would bake for us too” on a more regular basis. Tommy said these brownies “taste like the stars,” which I take as high praise indeed. They are delightfully fudgy with a crackly top, exactly how a brownie should be.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin; I always sprinkle the bottom of the tin with sugar when I’m baking brownies for a crunch bottom crust.

In a mixing bowl, stir together oil and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Stir in cocoa powder, then salt, flour, and vanilla until the batter is smooth.

Pour into the baking tin and spread into an even layer. Bake for 30-34 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. These brownies are fudgy, but shouldn’t be too gooey in the middle when they’re done; the center will look mostly set on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting; store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 24.

Monster Brownies

Halloween is days away, and I’ve spent most of the afternoon baking for the kids in my life. My goddaughter Maureen, her little sister Margo, and our nephew Dylan are all receiving these monster brownies, a fun treat involving a very basic brownie recipe, some Halloween sprinkles, and candy eyes.

Note to other bakers: candy eyes will dissolve in the oven, so I strongly recommend placing the eyes immediately after you remove the brownies when they’ve finished baking.

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled for about 1 minute
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee (it’s fine to use leftover coffee from the morning)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Halloween sprinkles
  • Candy eyeballs

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking tin with foil and spray with baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and coffee and mix well to combine. Whisk in cocoa powder, espresso powder, and salt until well blended, then add flour and mix until just combined; you don’t want to over-mix your batter. Pour mixture into prepared tin and scatter sprinkles over the top.

Bake for about 30-32 minutes, being very careful not to over-bake. Brownies are done when a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs stuck to it. Remove from oven and immediately press candy eyeballs into the top, giving a bit of thought to where your cut lines will be.

Cool brownies completely; cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container; if shipping, pack well between layers of waxed paper or parchment.

Mississippi Mud Brownies

Mississippi mud treats apparently come in many forms; cake, pie, and brownies. Wikipedia says the cake version is the original, resembling the banks of the Mississippi River. Having never been to the banks of the Mississippi, I’ll have to take Wikipedia’s word for it.

Though I usually avoid chocolate as a potential migraine trigger, I had a small bite of these brownies, and it was heavenly. It reminded me a bit of fudge, the homemade kind that a favorite aunt or beloved neighbor might make each Christmas. The original recipe comes from Grandbaby Cakes, and I adapted it just slightly to increase the amount of icing and fully cover the treats. Next time, I might mix some pecans into the brownie batter in addition to the topping.

Ingredients

For the brownies 

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted chopped pecans
  • 3 cups miniature marshmallows

For the icing

  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking tin with baking spray.

In a large saucepan, heat chopped chocolate and butter on low until completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, then eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour in two batches until batter is smooth and pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 25-27 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Top with toasted chopped pecans and miniature marshmallows.

For the icing, heat butter, milk, and cocoa over low heat and cook until the butter melts. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and add 2 cups powdered sugar, beating to combine. Add vanilla and remaining powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Working quickly, pour icing over the pecans and marshmallows, coating completely. Allow to cool about 1 hour, until icing is set. Cut into squares; store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 24.

M&M Brownies

As a godmother and aunt, care packages are my thing. I love pulling together fun items and pairing them with baked goods, packing them up and sending them to Maryland, North Carolina, California, and the other places where my dear ones live.

For my goddaughter Mo and her little sister Margo, craft projects and art supplies feature heavily in the Aunt Amy care package. Since it’s back to school time, I wanted to send the girls some back-to-school (even-if-school-is-the-kitchen-because-of-coronavirus) treats. These fudgy chocolate brownies, complete with miniature M&Ms, accompanied some fun “paint your own solar system” string lights for the girls last week. They went crazy, apparently, over both the brownies and the string lights. It’s always nice to make people happy.

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled for about 1 minute
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee (it’s fine to use leftover coffee from the morning)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • About 1/3 cup miniature M&Ms

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking tin with foil and spray with baking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and coffee and mix well to combine. Whisk in cocoa powder and salt until well blended, then add flour and mix until just combined. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of M&Ms to sprinkle on the top. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle remaining M&Ms on the top.

Bake for about 30-32 minutes, being very careful not to over-bake. Brownies are done when a cake tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs stuck to it. Remove from oven and cool in pan completely before cutting.

Remove from pan and cut into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature, or store between layers of waxed paper, well padded, if shipping.

Mocha Chip Brownies

Mike’s coworkers seem to like coffee and chocolate, so this week I decided to bake another mocha-themed treat. These brownies are adapted from a recipe I found at King Arthur Baking Company, which recently re-branded from King Arthur Flour. King Arthur has been a great guide for me in my baking; I’ve mentioned their Cookie Companion many times on this blog. Their recipes tend to turn out very well, and I imagine they have an extensive test kitchen, not unlike Better Homes & Gardens. Test Kitchen Baker is my dream career, and I like to think I’m on my way with how much adaptation goes on in my kitchen.

This recipe is a spin-off of King Arthur’s toffee coffee brownies. Instead of topping my icing with toffee chips, I chose to go with miniature chocolate chips instead. There are also chocolate chips in the brownies themselves, so that seemed like a good idea.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

For the icing

  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin and sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and espresso powder, then whisk in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then chocolate chips. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.

To make icing, place espresso powder and hot water in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Add powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon heavy cream, stirring until smooth. Add 1-2 more tablespoons of cream to reach a spreadable consistency of icing. Spread over cooled brownies, then sprinkle with chocolate chips. Allow icing to set before cutting into squares. Makes 24.

Hazelnut Brownies

You’ve had Nutella, right? Was your life ever the same afterward? No, it was not. Because you’ve probably put that delicious chocolate hazelnut spread on everything from pretzels to graham crackers to toast. And why wouldn’t you? It’s delicious. I miss it very much in migraine life.

While these aren’t Nutella brownies, they are a wonderful combination of chocolate and hazelnut. I adapted King Arthur Flour’s “On the Fence” brownie recipe, which yields a somewhat cakey, somewhat fudgy treat, by adding a tablespoon of hazelnut liqueur and some chopped toasted hazelnuts to the batter, then topping the baked treats with a hazelnut buttercream and more toasted hazelnuts.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut liqueur
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons hazelnut liqueur
  • Chopped toasted hazelnuts

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 baking tin.

In a large microwave-save bowl, melt butter. Stir in sugar and microwave for another 45-60 seconds, until the mixture is just hot. Stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs, vanilla extract, and hazelnut liqueur. Stir in flour, then chopped hazelnuts. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and allow the mixture to incorporate fully; this will take a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and hazelnut liqueur and beat until combined.

Frost brownies and sprinkle with chopped toasted hazelnuts. Cut into two-inch squares; store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Bourbon Pecan Brownie Bites

I could literally bake every day. Granted, flour is a bit scarcer right now as we’re Baking in the Time of Coronavirus, but fortunately these bourbon pecan brownies, which I adapted slightly from the Better Homes & Gardens Baking book, only uses 3/4 cup of flour.

Truth be told, I have a few extra bags of flour tucked away in my cupboards at any given time and no, I am not one of those people buying out all the flour at my local grocery store as if I’m going to have to make homemade bread for the rest of my life. But it’s been interesting to think about recipes that use less flour, or just different types of flour, as I’ve seen empty shelves at the grocery store, and I’m taking it as a challenge to become a more creative baker. We’ll see how it goes.

Ingredients

For the brownies

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 1/3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

For the frosting

  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled just slightly
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

*You could substitute semisweet chocolate chips for this, and that’s how the original recipe is written, but I only had chunks for some reason and decided this would be a great way to use them up.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 x 8 baking tin with foil, extending the foil over the sides, and spray lightly with baking spray.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and water; cook over medium heat until the mixture just boils. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chunks until melted. Allow to cool for just a moment before stirring in the eggs and vanilla, then stir in flour mixture until completely combined. Stir in pecans.

Pour batter into prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack; brush top of brownies with bourbon. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, then add powdered sugar all at once and continue to beat until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter. Add bourbon and vanilla and beat for 2-3 minutes, until fluffy.

Spread frosting on cooled brownies, then drizzle on melted chocolate. Sprinkle with pecans.

Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares for bite-sized treats (or larger for regular-sized brownies). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 25.