Tag Archives: granulated sugar

What I Don’t Know About Brownies. . . .

What I don’t know or understand about brownies could fill a cookbook. I have no interest in eating one, and I have never received high marks for the ones I’ve made. Looking at a brief comparison of four recipes shows one reason I might be excused for my incompetence:

Brownies

People can’t even agree on the ratio of butter to flour, even when two of the recipes come from the same chef. And moving between those baked in 8″ square or 9″ x 13″ pans, you still can’t figure out how or why the ratios change.

Probably, you just found your favorite recipe once and stuck to it. Me? I have just avoided making brownies. I do have one post on this site that reviews a packaged brownie mix that turned out very well, but I haven’t made any from scratch since then. So, I can’t answer why I’m putting myself through the torture of making brownies from scratch, again, but here I am. The good news is that my husband will eat them even if he thinks they aren’t premium.

To save myself the further headache of trying to create a new recipe from these 4, I’m just going to take the first recipe in the list and double it for a 9″ x 13″ pan, with a few changes:

  • I bought semi-sweet instead of unsweetened chocolate, mostly because I don’t think straight when I buy chocolate
  • I’m leaving out the baking powder—I don’t like it in banana bread, so why would I use it here?
  • Most of the recipes use pecans, but I’m using walnuts
  • And, of course, I added salt

Surprisingly, these brownies were dubbed “Quite a brownie—chewy, fudgy, and with frosting.” Maybe I should save this recipe.

Fudgy Frosted Brownies

  • Servings: 24 2-inch brownies
  • Difficulty: easy
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  • The brownies are adapted from The Martha Stewart Cookbook (1995) “Iced Brownies.”
  • The frosting is from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book (1961) “Creamy Cocoa Icing.”

Preheat oven to 350°; butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. I used a dark pan and the edges were pretty dark, but not burned. Stewart suggests a glass dish.

Brownies

2 sticks butter

4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate

2 cups sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups walnuts, barely chopped

  1. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler, then set aside.
  2. In large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
  3. Pour in butter and chocolate and mix until combined. I used a hand mixer.
  4. Continue mixing, adding eggs and vanilla, until well combined. It makes a glossy batter.
  5. Stir in nuts.
  6. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick in the center.
  7. Cool in pan, then frost and cut in 24 or more squares.

Creamy Cocoa Icing

2 2/3 cups confectioners sugar (I did not sift mine and it turned out fine)

1/3 cup cocoa

1/3 cup soft butter

4-5 tablespoons milk

Mix all the ingredients until smooth and creamy. I used a large spoon, but I’m sure a mixer would be quicker.

Links to the compared recipes from the web:

Best Ever Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate Brownies

Fudge-Topped Brownies

Martha Stewart’s “Iced Brownies” (not available online, see image below)

IMG_5656

 

Peanut Butter Pecan Cookies

With the addition of coconut oil as the shortening, the cookies have a slight coconut flavor, but they retain the classic texture of a peanut butter cookie—a little sandy, a little crisp, a little chewy. The chopped pecans are a bonus.

I started with the old Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book (1961) recipe for “Peanut Butter Cookies” (p. 206) and made just a few changes, adding the pecans and the semi-solid extra-virgin coconut oil for the shortening. The recipe says it makes 3 dozen cookies, but I only got 2 dozen, so I guess I rolled the balls a little too large, but the cookies seem the right size to me. I thought I was following the “size of large walnuts” direction, but when was the last time I saw  a walnut in a shell?

Peanut Butter Pecan Cookies

  • Servings: 2-3 dozen small cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 375°; line cookie sheets with parchment.

1/2 cup each:

  • extra virgin coconut oil
  • peanut butter
  • granulated sugar
  • brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Beat the coconut oil, peanut butter, sugars, and egg until creamy.
  2. Stir in the pecans and dry ingredients until well combined.
  3. Form the dough into balls of 1-1 1/2″ in diameter. I found this crumbly but moist dough forms better by squeezing and shaping with the fingers than by rolling. Place the balls on a cookie sheet, then press to flatten with the tines of a fork or the bottom of a glass or think of something creative.
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes. I generally err on the side of underbaking cookies, but they seemed to be browned enough after 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

More Cookies: Ratio of Butter to Sugar

I just had to know how adding some white granulated sugar back into those White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut cookies I made the other day would affect the texture and taste, and how it might change the cookie shape. I’m not going to become a test kitchen, making cookies endlessly, each with small additions of sugar, just to calculate the differences, but I wanted to follow up on that first test for some comparisons.

I was surprised that just a 1/4 cup extra sugar added a slight crispness, but not surprised that it didn’t really make the cookies spread. Adding 1/2 cup made them spread out a little, without taking away that softness of the interior, but adding a little crispness to the bottoms and edges. For me, because I like a soft, rounded cookie, it’s good to know that I can cut out some sugar to achieve that, but still have a good tasting cookie. Of course, I can’t discount the presence of those white chocolate chips in adding sweetness, but it’s one reason I felt I could cut out some extra sugar.

Update: My husband comments that the first thing you taste in the ones with less sugar is the butter. In the ones with more sugar, you taste the sugar first.

In the photos below, the cookies with the 1/4 cup addition are on the right and the ones with the 1/2 cup addition are on the left. I hope you can see the slight difference in size and shape. This all goes in my mental cookie file for when I’m thinking of changing a cookie recipe to achieve a particular purpose.  I’ve added the same recipe below that I posted the other day, but with the granulated sugar options included.

More White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Cookies

  • Servings: makes 4 dozen
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 350°

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar*

Optional: 1/4 or 1/2 cup granulated sugar; original recipe calls for 3/4 cup

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups all-purpose flour

12 oz white chocolate chips

1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until smooth, then add the vanilla and eggs, beating until smooth.
  2. Add the dry ingredients (soda, salt, flour) and mix to combine.
  3. Stir in the white chocolate chips and chopped nuts.
  4. Form in 1 tablespoon balls and place on lined cookie sheet. You can flatten the balls if you don’t want them to keep the ball shape.
  5. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes. They will be done with only slight browning.

The cookies with only brown sugar will be soft. The cookies with added granulated sugar will have some crispness to the bottoms and edges, which adds a nice flavor and texture.