Black Bean Brownies

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I admit to being skeptical about “healthy” desserts using alternative ingredients– they never taste quite right, and you end up eating more of them anyway because you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by the “healthy” moniker. So it took me a while before trying this brownie recipe, which uses black beans as a base and which is also gluten-free. But since I was trying to avoid flour this month (my usual diet is way too starchy) I thought this might be a tasty dessert option.

Reviews of similar recipes have been mixed– some people rave over them, others claim that the texture is off-putting and the bean flavor is too obvious. Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. These brownies are nice and chocolate-y, with no hint of bean flavor, even as an aftertaste. However, the texture is definitely not that of a regular brownie– they’re not chewy at all, nor are they gooey enough to be considered fudge-y. They’re soft, but not cakey– they’re kind of like a dry soufflé, in that they melt away easily in the mouth. And they’re not dense but I wouldn’t call them light either. In short, the texture is difficult to define, but not unpleasant.

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Peanut Butter Blondies

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Yup, it’s another peanut butter-chocolate recipe. And another Smitten Kitchen recipe, to boot. But these peanut butter blondies are easy to make, extremely tasty, and just as good frozen as they are fresh, so I’m not going to worry too much about repetitiveness or derivativeness (is that even a word?).

This recipe makes a full 9×13″ pan of ganache-topped peanut butter blondies, studded with chocolate chips and with just enough peanut butter flavor to hit your tastebuds without being overwhelming. They’re rich but addictive.

The texture is great, too, though I will note that many of the reviewers of the original recipe found the baking time to be too long, resulting in dry blondies. I baked mine just until a toothpick emerged with tons of moist crumbs, and also found the edges too dry for my taste– this may have been due to the fact that I used a glass pan, which retains heat better than metal pans and which will basically keep the cooking process going even after the pan is removed from the oven. If you’re using a glass pan, I would recommend taking the blondies out of the oven after 30-35 minutes. If you’re using a metal pan, 35-40 should be fine.

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Espresso Brownie Bites

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In case you haven’t noticed, I have a lot of baking pans. All different shapes and sizes. I have round pans and square pans, three different sizes of bundt pans, loaf pans, madeleine pans, and sheet pans galore. And I have muffin pans in jumbo, standard, and mini. So you’d think I’d be all set when it comes to baking pans. And I was. Until I encountered this:

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It’s a micro-mini muffin pan, and I was instantly smitten. See how tiny the wells are? So cute!!!

But what to bake in it? I’m fairly sure that a dense batter will always be necessary, because overly fluffy cakes would have no substance and might be too airy to release cleanly. For my inaugural bake, I decided to go straight to the densest type of recipe– a brownie from my favorite chocolate author, Alice Medrich. To give it an extra jolt of flavor (got to go intense for such tiny bites!) I added instant espresso powder to the mix. And then some chocolate ganache. And then coffee beans on top, because why not?

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Tahini Swirl Brownies

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I was invited to a last-minute barbecue the other day, and with nothing in the house to contribute I was forced to scramble for a dessert idea! A quick survey of my fridge revealed a mostly-used can of tahini, and as luck would have it I had a decent-sized chunk left from a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar of dark chocolate. Clearly, brownies were in order.

I did a search online and found a frequently-lauded recipe for tahini-swirled brownies from Milk Street Magazine. I lifted the recipe in its entirety, though I admit to making a careless error and accidentally using 4 oz. of butter rather than 4 tablespoons of butter! Oops! Luckily it didn’t seem to hurt the recipe any– the interior of the brownie was moist and plushy in a way I’ve never seen in brownies before, and I really liked it. I’m tempted to keep the revision, but I’ve printed the recipe below as written so you can try the original. You’ll have to tell me how it turns out for you!

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Patriotic Mint Brownies

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Adding another dessert to the list of “summer BBQ contributions,” here’s a batch of dark chocolate brownies, topped with a layer of chocolate and a colorful surprise!

I shamelessly stole… er, adapted this idea from Ruthanne at EasyBaked, as it was so neat-looking I had to try it! Since I was going for fun and pretty rather than gourmet I subbed in a doctored-up boxed brownie mix for her brownie base, but I kept the topping recipes the same. I doubled the recipe to fit a 9×13″ pan, since I was going to be feeding a crowd, and changed up the stripe pattern to be sure that my brownie squares would be just as pretty as her tart slices.

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Snickerdoodle Blondies

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These Snickerdoodle Blondies are basically like crack. Not that I’ve ever tried crack. Hmm, perhaps I’d better find a better analogy. The White Witch’s enchanted Turkish delight? (which, by the way, I will never make for Reader’s Digest(ibles) because I don’t like it) The lotus from the Land of the Lotus-Eaters? Anyone? Or perhaps I should just say that they’re like the butteriest, chewiest, most delicious sugar cookie in the world, kissed with cinnamon, redolent with vanilla, and utterly irresistible. Because they are.

Suffice it to say that these are good. Incredibly good. Addictively good. And they’re made from the most basic of pantry ingredients. Honestly, if I could figure out a way to make these without softening and creaming butter (which requires a mixer) I’d probably make them on a weekly basis and clog up my arteries with buttery goodness. Perhaps luckily for me, I do need a mixer (though don’t think I haven’t considered trying a different technique), so I only make these when I feel that there are deserving people around to eat them. Or when I need a last-minute treat to bring somewhere and haven’t shopped for specialty ingredients.

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Pralines n’ Cheesecake Brownies, or What to Do With Seized Chocolate

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I was melting some chocolate chips in the microwave the other day for a glaze, and I threw in the 2 tablespoons of butter called for in the recipe, figuring they’d just melt together as they usually do. I’ve never had problems with melting chocolate and butter together before, but on this occasion I guess the combination of having only a small amount of butter, and having it melt slowly along with the chocolate, resulted in just enough water being released from the butter to make the chocolate seize.

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Uh-oh. Seized chocolate. I hate it when this happens. Usually it’s the result of water getting into the chocolate, either from a bain-marie or from stray water droplets on a spoon or something, and I avoid it by going the microwave route. But I was well and truly stuck this time– the chocolate was the consistency of rapidly-drying mortar, and despite my melting some extra butter into it, hoping the fat would bring it back, there was nothing to be done. So I stuck it in the fridge and figured I’d make something with it later.

A week later the chocolate was still staring at me from the fridge and my husband and I were doing a fridge clean-out, so it was use it or lose it. I pulled it out, along with a partially-used block of cream cheese that was at least a month old and a jar of leftover praline paste from my Gateau St. Honoré, and tried to figure out something to do with them.

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