Upscale Brownie Bites

I love to cook, and bake.  There are two places I can be found when my mind is full, and that’s in a kitchen, or writing.  I’m a bit fonder of the results from my kitchen…or maybe I’m just more confident in them.  In all my kitchen endeavors, I seem to be known most for my baking.  This means every time we are invited somewhere, asked to bring something, or help out with food, I’m assigned dessert.  And I DO NOT mind a bit.  However, sometimes those things pile up.  Before you know it you’re taking cupcakes to the baseball party, end of the year party, and have to throw something together for those people coming over all in the same day.  Like I said, I DO NOT mind this.  But sometimes I have to shut down the perfectionistic and creative side that would love to make something fantastic, delicious, and spend all day in the kitchen doing so.  Sometimes, you just gotta get ‘er done, and not care if Creme Anglaise is a part of it or not.  So when I want fun with a little fancy and more importantly easy, I pull this out.

 

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There is one box mix in my pantry at all times, and only one.  I have tried lots and lots of brownie recipes from scratch, and they just don’t compare.  So whatever, Ghirardelli for life.  My one caveat to the directions is to add coconut oil instead of the canola/vegetable oil as directed.  It adds great flavor, and is healthier.  A dash or two of cinnamon and pinch of cayenne make things really fun if you’re feeling adventurous!

 

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I pour them in a mini muffin tin, sprayed with coconut oil and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Run a knife gently around them while still warm to help loosen them a bit.  Let cool completely then remove from pan.  You could stop right here and throw them on a plate, but I like to go a step further.  While the brownies are baking I make some ganache (recipe and directions here).  As I pop them out of the tin, I dunk the tops of them in ganache and lay them out for the chocolate to firm up a bit.  I then throw some berries (any kind will do) on top.  Blueberries and raspberries are pretty easy to plop on; for the strawberries I cut slits and spread them out like a fan, making those a bit more time consuming.  If you have mint or basil in your garden, throw a few sprigs on top (it adds great flavor too!) and you’re ready to go!

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These are great little hand held bites that are perfect for places where portability is key.  And they’re so pretty.  And easy.  And yummy.  And you should make them.  I won’t judge if only half of them make it to their intended destination because the others made it into your mouth.  That may or may not have happened here.  Maybe my intended destination was my mouth.

Recipe for Happiness (chocolate filled cupcakes with chocolate ganache)

I’ve been making a lot of cupcakes lately.  I always make a lot of cupcakes…it did use to be my job, but there has been a greater influx than normal.  Partially because it’s that time of year…birthdays, baseball parties, showers, teacher appreciation week, etc.  And partially because cupcakes make people happy.  And I, and a whole lot of people I know right now, happen to need a little bit of happiness.

Maybe you could use a little bit of happiness right now.  Or know someone who may need some.  So I’m going to give you the recipe for happiness.

First the cupcakes part.  This is pretty easy as far as cupcakes go.  Although I make it a goal to simplify most of my recipes as much as possible.  Ain’t nobody got time for sifting, and two separate bowls for dry and wet ingredients.  Pshh.  One bowl baby.  And a saucepan, but who’s counting?

Start your water boiling in your saucepan.  While you’re waiting for it to boil…and NOT watching it…you get your flour, sugar, and salt all mixed in your mixing bowl and ready for the chocolate mixture.  I go ahead and pull out all the other stuff I’m going to need too, because I’m NOT watching that darn pan and I am going to need it anyways.  Once it starts boiling, you add your butter, let that get mostly melted and add HEAPING tablespoons of cocoa.  I mean as much as can possibly fit on that spoon.  And you don’t need an actual measuring spoon for it, a large spoon will do.  Stir, stir, stir until it’s all combined and bubbling a few seconds.

Then pour your chocolate mixture into your mixing bowl with the flour and sugar, and mix.

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Once it’s good and combined, add your buttermilk/sour cream/yogurt to cool it off before adding eggs.  Then plop those in and throw in your baking soda.  Make sure and read the can to make sure it says baking SODA and not baking POWDER.  Because baking powder does not make them rise as pretty.  I speak from experience.  Then some vanilla, and boom.  Pour, bake, repeat.  I can usually squeeze 36 cupcakes out of this recipe.  And unless you have a very fancy oven, (lucky you!) you’re not fitting that many cupcakes in at a time.

In between all that baking and repeating, make some buttercream.  And maybe some ganache if you’re extra organized.

You know what makes buttercream so good?  Butter.  And salt, to balance the sweet, but mainly…butter.  Don’t trust anything with that shortening business, it’s all about the butter.  So go ahead and throw two room temp sticks of it into the rinsed out pan you just used for the cupcake batter.  Because the goal is to only have to unload the dishwasher once a day.  Mix the butter until it’s all whipped together nicely.  Throw a little salt in.  Then throw a couple cups of powdered sugar in.  Mix, mix, mix, until it’s all nice and fluffy.  Then a little vanilla and taste.  More salt?  More sugar?  I never make this recipe the same.  It depends on the humidity, my mood, the way the wind is blowing.  Sometimes I need extra sweet, sometimes I need extra salt.  Measurements are approximate.

Set that aside and grab a microwave safe bowl.  I know, we didn’t count the bowl, but it couldn’t be helped.  I use my microwave for about three things: popcorn, melting chocolate, melting chocolate and heavy cream to make ganache.  The end.  Throw a bag of Ghiradelli semi sweet or dark chocolate chips in your bowl.  Don’t use any other brand, unless you have money and time to burn want to drive around and get Valhrona or something else fancy, but when given the choice between store brand, plasticky brand and real chocolate, always go real chocolate.  It will be well worth the extra $.50!  Add about a cup of heavy cream to the bowl.  Microwave 15 seconds, stir, repeat.  Until it looks like this.

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I like my ganache on the thicker side for spreading.  If you want it thinner, add more cream.  When you have leftovers (don’t worry, we planned for leftovers!) you can thin it out a bit with more cream after refrigerating and dip strawberries, oranges, banana, pineapple, brownies, ice cream, or just your fingers in it.  This happens to be my go to quick dessert.  Always have Ghiradelli chocolate chips, and heavy cream on hand, and you’ve got instant dessert.  And s’mores made with ganache?  You’re welcome.

Now for filling the cooled off cupcakes.  I’m cheap and don’t use pastry bags.  Quart sized freezer bags all the way.  Snip the tip, add your coupler and tip.  I used a small round tip with a large opening.  Like a Wilton #12.  Load up your bag with the buttercream.  Insert your tip about halfway into the cupcake and squeeze.  Stop when you see the top start to poof up…you don’t want it to crack and break. Slowly pull your tip out.

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There are other ways of doing this, like cutting or punching it out, filling it then inserting the top back.  But that’s a pain, and the name of the game is simple.  Do what works for you.  You will get cupcake on your tip though, so you’ll want some napkins handy to wipe off excess in between fillings.

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After you’re done filling, spread the ganache over the top of the cupcakes and to the sides.  Switch out your filling tip for a smaller round writing tip, like a Wilton #2 or #3, and write something…or you can do the traditional loops.  I needed to spread some love, hugs and kisses, so that’s what I went for.  Hopefully these cupcakes help you do the same.

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Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 heaping tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup water*
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk/sour cream/plain yogurt**
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.  In saucepan boil water.  Once boiling, add butter and cocoa.  Boil for 30 seconds until combined.  Remove from heat.  In mixing bowl add flour, sugar and salt.  Add in chocolate mixture and mix until combined.  Add buttermilk/sour cream/yogurt and mix.  Add eggs one at a time.  While stirring, add baking soda and vanilla.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, add batter to lined muffin tins.  Bake for approximately 12 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when they spring back when pressed.

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla

Whip butter and salt.  Add powdered sugar and mix until combined and fluffy.  Stir in vanilla.  Taste and add more salt or powdered sugar as needed.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 12 oz. bag Ghiradelli semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

In microwave safe bowl, or double boiler add chocolate and cream.  In double boiler, stir until melted.  In microwave safe bowl, heat in 15 second increments stirring in between, being careful not to scorch.  Add more cream for a thinner consistency

* For richer cupcakes, you can use coffee, but I would recommend decaf.  This is also the same chocolate cupcake base I use to make my Irish Car Bomb cupcakes (chocolate stout cupcake, Bailey’s irish cream frosting).  I use Guinness stout instead  of the water.

** I seldom have buttermilk on hand, or want to take time to make it.  I always have sour cream or plain yogurt on hand, so it’s simpler for me to use one of those.  My yogurt is not greek, but I think greek could be used without a problem.  I would recommend adding 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk to help offset the thickness though.  Just make sure it’s plain.