Brownie Cupcakes

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A day late, but I feel I have a good excuse – yesterday I ran the NYC marathon! So, even though I actually baked these last Friday for Halloween, you can understand that when I got back to my apartment yesterday evening, I crashed pretty hard. Like 7:30 and I was in bed hard. Thus the Monday post this week.

Now, I know that Halloween is over and my cutely decorated cupcakes are no longer relevant in terms of decoration, but the base of these cupcakes in no way loses its relevance with the changing month. In fact, they are probably even better for all of the gluttonous eating coming up.

I also had a mini crisis when trying to identify these, but have decided they belong (relatively) squarely in the brownie category. The dense chocolate part is really the star of the recipe.

First, melt together the butter and chocolate in a microwave in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval until smooth.

 

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Stir in the sugar, then the vanilla extract.

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Stir in the eggs, one at a time, making sure the batter is smooth before each new addition. I don’t know what it is about brownie recipes, but I always feel the need to manually mix with a wooden spoon – maybe because that’s how I used to make boxed mixes growing up.

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Add the flour and salt, and stir to combine completely.

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Stir in the chocolate chunks. This really makes the recipe brownie rather than cupcake – when you bite into something and get a chunk, you are out of the realm of cupcakes.

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Spoon the batter evenly into 12 muffin tins lined with cupcake liners. It will look like there’s too much batter – don’t worry, because these are brownies they don’t rise all that much.

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Bake at 325°F for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with wet chunks – you don’t want to overbake brownies and end up with gross dry lumps!

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Allow to cool on a wire rack before decorating with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, depending on your taste.

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Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator – they are especially good chilled!

Look how cute they came out!

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Enjoy!

Brownie Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chunks

Directions:

  1. Melt together chocolate and butter in a microwave at 30 second intervals on 50% power, stirring until smooth.
  2. Stir in sugar, then vanilla extract.
  3. Stir in eggs, one at a time, making sure smooth after each addition.
  4. Stir in flour and salt. Mix in chocolate chunks.
  5. Pour evenly into 12 lined muffin tins and bake at 325°F for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with wet crumbs. Allow to cool completely before decorating.
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Sea Salt Brownies

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In school on Friday, a student asked me what I do over the weekends.  I realized that when I was a student, I, too, had a hard time imagining my teachers existing outside of the classroom.  Did they just do biology experiments all weekend?  Did they sleep at their desk?  Did they have a life?

Well, this weekend anyways, I spent my Friday night with a group of other teachers that I’m friends with.  We baked, made hexaflexagons (these will blow your mind), and were all in bed at a reasonable hour.  So you can decide for yourself if we have lives, but I definitely enjoyed myself.

Per request of said teachers, I found a brownie recipe to make this particular weekend.  However, though I do enjoy a classic brownie, I usually like there to be something at least mildly more complex about them (like my Mexican Brownies).  This preference developed one summer in college when a friend (hi Marj!) introduced me to the wonder that was the Atticus Bakery Salt Brownie.  It was fudgy, sweet, salty, and huge.  Basically everything I wanted in a dessert at the time.  And about a block away from the apartment we were subletting that summer, which was also pretty clutch.

Anyways, with these brownies in mind, I set out to find something that might be close online, and stumbled upon this recipe from Food & Wine magazine.  I basically did exactly what it says to, except without as much patience as they seem to think bakers of brownies have.

First, I directed my lovely sous chef of the evening, Kristen (she teaches Chemistry), to chop up some dark chocolate for me.

 

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Then, in a medium saucepan over the lowest of low heats, I melted together the butter and chocolate, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

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Once melted, remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cocoa.  Then whisk in the sugar.  Then whisk in the eggs.  Then whisk in the vanilla.  Then whisk in the flour.  You should be seeing a pattern here – whisk in all ingredients one at a time.

Pro Tip: The more utensils you use to combine ingredients, the more utensils you get to “clean” (i.e. lick) at the end of the process.

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Finally, the end result will look something like this:

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Now this is where I may have made an error according to the original recipe, but I’m calling it a decidedly better decision.  The recipe says to line a 9×9 inch baking dish with aluminum foil.  I lined an 8×8 dish without totally realizing that’s what I did.

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Pour the batter into the dish and smooth the top (this lets you use another utensil).  Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.

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Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes.  Even though that’s for a 9×9 pan, I also did 35 minutes for my 8×8 pan, resulting in an exceptionally fudgy brownie.  When you put the toothpick in at the end, there should still be batter on it when you pull it out.  I’m not gonna lie, that was the most exciting part of the recipe for me.  It gave me permission to underbake my brownies, which, let’s face it, we all want to do anyways when we make brownies but feel restricted by the “toothpick should come out clean” convention.

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Next, let your brownies cool for an hour in the pan at room temperature and another hour in the fridge.  I was not that patient, and compromised with myself at around 45 minutes, but I do actually think waiting the whole hour would be worth it for the ease of cutting.

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When they are ready to cut, you may notice the middle has sunk in a little.  That’s just an indication of how wonderfully dense and fudgy it will be.

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Cut the brownies into 16 pieces.  As you can see, my cutting was quite difficult because I didn’t wait the full time (note the excessive chunks of brownie on the knife), but this doesn’t affect their enjoyability, I promise.  Store them in the fridge to keep them nice and dense.

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Though not quite the same texture as the one from Atticus, and definitely not as large, this recipe did become my new favorite brownie recipe.  If you’re unsure how you feel about adding salt, they would be perfectly delicious without it.  However, I highly recommend trying it with the salt, because once you go salted dark chocolate, you never go back.

Enjoy!

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Sea Salt Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • sea salt for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate over very low heat, stirring constantly until smooth.  Remove from heat.
  2. Whisk in, one at a time, the cocoa powder, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and flour.
  3. Line an 8×8 baking dish with aluminum foil and pour batter into dish.
  4. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes.  A toothpick inserted in the middle should still have batter on it.
  6. Allow to cool for 1 hour at room temperature in the pan.  Allow to cool an additional hour in the fridge.
  7. Remove brownies from pan and cut into 16 pieces.

Mexican Brownies

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When I told some friends, also first year teachers, that I would bake for them if they came over to my apartment to lesson plan, their request was obvious: chocolate.  So naturally I immediately thought of brownies.  Now, I personally am a huge fan of boxed brownie mix.  I think Ghirardelli does a perfectly good job, and, honestly, duncan hines are delicious too.  But a blog post about how to add water to chocolate powder wouldn’t be all that exciting, and there was the additional request of chunks, which boxed mix doesn’t do all that well.

Plus I’m a chocolate snob, and making them from scratch let’s me use what I want to use.

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to make these, I will tell you now that this will in no way be my only brownie post.  In fact, I consider brownies a category of their own, outside of bars, because of all the different kinds I like.  These are mexican brownies, so they have a bit of spice to them.  Texture-wise, they are more towards fudgy than cakey, but not so fudgy that they stick to your teeth.  There is a time and place for such dense deliciousness, but its not when you are also dealing with cinnamon and chili powder.

So first things first – melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl.  I used the microwave technique again of putting them in a bowl and microwaving on 50% power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring with a fork after each round.  And I used a Ghirardelli bittersweet baking bar because it was the highest percentage of cocoa I could find at A&P.

before melting

When there are still some smallish chunks of chocolate, just mix with a fork until it all melts.  You don’t want to scorch the chocolate and the heat from the already melted butter will usually do the trick to make it look something like this:

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Then, add the cocoa powder and mix until smooth.  You can let the chocolate mixture sit and cool slightly while you move on.

add cocoa powder

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until combined.

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Then, while continuously whisking, add the chocolate mixture to the sugar mixture.  Stopping whisking while you scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula is not going to ruin anything, don’t worry.

add chocolate

At this point, I’d probably recommend switching to a wooden spoon instead of the whisk, because the batter is about to get super thick and sticky, which is less fun to mix with bendy metal.

Add the flour, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and chili powder, mixing until just combined.  Over-mixing at this point isn’t the end of the world, but it will add air to your batter, making it a little more cakey than fudgy.

add dry ingredients

mixed with dry ingredients

Next step: fold in the chocolate chunks.

chocolate chunks added  This is where you can get creative and do your own thing, but I am highly recommending chocolate chunks rather than chocolate chips.  There is just something about them being a tiny bit bigger that makes them more chocolately and really works well in the brownie model.  I think they might retain more of their structure since they are bigger, so rather than little pockets of molten melty chocolate you get the satisfying crunch.  They’re awesome in cookies as well, but if you want chunky brownies, and you want those chunks to be chocolate, don’t bother buying chips.

However, nuts might be pretty good at this point as well rather than the chocolate.  I’m not totally sure what would work the best with mexican chocolate, but I’d probably go pecans to play it safe – they seem to work in most desserts.

Alright, time to spread in a greased 8″x8″ pan.  I just sprayed it with pam and poured the batter in.  Some people like to do the whole aluminum foil thing, but  as long as you grease the pan, they aren’t going to stick that bad.  And is it really that bad to have to clean out the leftover brownie pieces with your hands and eat them?

in pan before baking

Bake at 350°F for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out without batter on it (but with chunks of brownie sticking to it).  Let cool completely in pan.

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Once cool, cut into as few or many brownies as you like.  I did 16 because I can be mildly OCD and I liked cutting the sides exactly in half twice.

cut in pan

I usually store brownies just on the stove in the pan with plastic wrap over them.  They generally don’t last long enough to warrant anything further than that, but I’m sure you’d be fine to store them in airtight containers and freeze them if that’s your thing.

Enjoy!

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Mexican Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper (estimate a little under 1/2 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chunks

Directions:

  1. Melt butter and chocolate in microwave safe bowl on 50% power, stirring with fork every 30 seconds.
  2. Add cocoa powder and stir until smooth.
  3. Whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract in large bowl.
  4. Add chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.
  5. Add flour, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and chili powder, mixing until just combined.
  6. Fold in chocolate chunks.
  7. Spread in greased 8″x8″ pan and bake at 350°F for about 35 minutes, until toothpick in center comes out without batter.
  8. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Giving credit where credit is due: this recipe was adapted from Baking Bites.