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Thursday
Jan312008

Brownies Behaving Badly: Cakespy Challenges a Classic Treat

 

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Brownies are an impressively versatile treat; they take well to a variety of different fillings, but never lose their brownie identity. So why is it that the choices are always so...underwhelming at bakeries? Sure, you'll see the standards: fudge brownies, brownies with walnuts, and the occasional peanut butter, or perhaps mint "novelty" brownies, but nothing that really excites the palate. Luckily, we've got your back at Cakespy: recently we put brownies to the test by trying out a variety of very unexpected fillings, ranging from sweet to savory, from bitter to the completely shocking, to see what might work, what might not, and what might perhaps spawn a Brownie Great Awakening. Here are the details of our experiment:

 

Who tasted them?: Me and members of Seattle rock band Speaker Speaker.
What were the flavors?: We elected to make them in a variety of unexpected tastes and textures, and so finally settled on the following: bacon (in our case we used Morningstar farms veggie bacon), Monterey Jack Cheese, Saltines, salted peanuts, Jaffas, mint malt balls, Starburst, and Sour Patch Kids.
How did we make 'em? The recipe was a basic brownie recipe from the Betty Crocker Cookbook. They were made using a mini scone pan from Williams-Sonoma to yield little triangles; the dividers formed a nice barrier between the different types of brownies, thus making it possible to mix in the different fillings by brownie within the same batch. While we worried that perhaps the stronger flavors or smells might infuse the others another while baking, once we began tasting, this did not seem to be a problem.

And as for our expert thoughts?

First, the savories:

 

Bacon(Veggie) Bacon Brownie

(Veggie) Bacon Brownies (above): There have been a lot of bacon-and-sweets recipes going around, and while curious, we suspected that perhaps the recent popularity was largely based on shock value rather than intense tastiness. And while there is no denying that bacon in pastries provides a certain "Omigod" factor, the flavor was surprisingly good; smoky, salty, sweet, and savory, all at the same time. As taster Danny said, "It's like brownie...and then a wave of bacon". Overall, a sweet and salty success!

 

 

Monterey Jack CheeseDSC03682
Monterey Jack Cheese (above): Remnicient of a cream cheese brownie or a chocolate cheesecake but with a spicy, savory undertone, these felt and tasted very rich and satisfying. Think chocolate cheesecake, but a bit more savory. We would definitely make these ones again!

 

Saltines insteadSaltine Brownie

Saltines (above): These ones elicited the largest amount of taste associations, reminding us alternately of chocolate covered pretzels, Nestle crunch bars, and various other chocolate-with-a-crunch sweets. Overall, these went over well, probably the most "normal" tasting of the unusual flavors.

 

 

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Salted Peanuts (above): You'll see peanut butter brownies, or walnut brownies...but very rarely whole peanuts. The peanuts provided the familiar flavor of peanut butter, but with a satisfying crunch. The saltiness was rich and gave a very pleasing mouthfeel; a nice variation on an "expected" flavor.

 

And now, moving on to the sweet styles:

 

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Jaffas (above): They're all the rage in New Zealand (a soft-chocolate covered orange lolly candy), but we'd never heard of them until we interviewed City Down, the Cupcake Queen of New Zealand. Now we're addicted, and they're a very pleasant addition to brownies, a slightly unexpected variation on the now-ubiquitous orange and chocolate pairing.

 

 

StarburstDSC03700

Starburst (above): We placed a Starburst candy jauntily on top of the batter on this one, and guess what: It burned a hole through the brownie! You'd think we might be warned by this unholy-seeming sign but no: we ate that sucker. Our reactions were mixed: some thought they tasted very wrong, but to others, they tasted so right. Go figure.

 

 

Mint MaltballsDSC03694

Mint Malt Balls (above): We tried this to put a new spin on the chocolate-mint thing; while they were pleasant, they weren't really that different than your basic mint brownie, the malt being broken up and covered with batter to the point of having lost its crunch.

 

 

Sour Patch KidsDSC03688

Sour Patch Kids (above): What a surprise these were. None of us expected them to be delicious, but overall the sourness seemed to mix nicely with the brownies, perhaps lending a tartness that cut through the richness a little bit. A little went a long way with this flavor, but it was certainly a worthwhile experiment. Plus, baking them made the coating melt off, so that the candies resembled little jewels, making these the "prettiest" ones by far.

 

So, to sum it up? Brownies are delicious, no doubt about it. But as a treat with such an incredible range, why should we become content with so few choices? As we found in our tasting, some of the most unexpected flavors were very rewarding and surprisingly delicious. So don't be afraid to "mix it up" in your own kitchen; you might just stumble upon a happy accident!

Have you tried out something unexpected with your brownies that turned out well? Let us know!

Cakespy Note: Our apologies for not responding to your comments right away this week; we are out spying in NYC til February 7!

 

DSC03630Business Time

 

 

 

 

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Reader Comments (47)

Okay. This totally surprised me and is awesome.

The cheese one floors me. I love the idea of using that pan and your little diagram.

I bow down before your creativity. (and to get those crumbs...) :)

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

This sounds like a really tasty experiment. I like the sound of the bacon a cheese brownies.

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Hahaha. Thanks for the entertainment. While I believe you are slightly insane for having done this experiement, it sounds like you had a lot of fun. And props to you for taking risks! It's good to see people go outside the box, and it seems like you got some awesome flavor combinations! The veggie bacon brownies have me wondering the most...

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterRuby Red Vegan

I am so excited about veggie bacon brownies. I always wanted to add veggie bacon to my French toast cupcakes and you've just given me permission.

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

thanks again for your invaluable research.

January 31 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

where do you come up with this stuff? craziness, i tell ya.

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterGeggie

Great ideas! I love this post, since I love brownies so much. I like mixing sweet and savory flavors, too.

I don't think I'd have guts to put cheese in brownies, but you really pulled it off.
I DO think the Sour Patch Kids Brownies are the prettiest. They look like chocolate fruitcake.

I put beer in brownies. Here is the link:

http://sugarplumsweets.blogspot.com/2007/10/oktober-fest-brownies_28.html

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterEmiline

You're crazy! You know the good kind of "crazy". Wow, what a sampling of brownies! I love the pan that divided everything, very cool.

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterGigi

Fantastic idea! We have jaffa cakes in the UK and I agree they are highly addictive.

Like emiline the oddest thing I've put in brownies is Guinness stout. It makes beautiful rich brownies.

January 31 | Unregistered CommenterJules

Hahaha! That's so funny (and a bit disgusting). But I'd try the sour patch kids one any day - with two of the best things in life, brownies and sour candy, what could possibly go wrong?

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterEm

I mix in some food processed chipotle pepper into my brownies...and top with a cinnamon icing. Holy Heat, Batman! Yum! LOVE this challenge!

February 1 | Unregistered Commentermkecupcakequeen

I vote for the peanuts and the veggie bacon! Although I am intriqued by Monterey Jack Brownies. Great idea - now I also have another use for that scone pan!

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterT.W. Barritt

ack, deliciousness overload! I'm so glad they all turned out, cause odd flavours need more play! gosh, I want to try all of them... and next time I make brownies I'll DEFINITELY scour through the pantry for add ons first. :D

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterLiz²

This is what i call a variety of brownies.
Wonderful ideas

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterHappy cook

I would happily try almost any of those variations. The saltines in a brownie sound extremely good.

Great experiment!

February 1 | Unregistered Commenterslush

Now I realize how boring I've become -- brownie-wise, that is! I do love the idea of the salty additions. Peanuts will be top of my list.

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

This is SOOOO yummy! I want to try them all! I love the idea of the scone pan too! Have fun in NYC!

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterBethany

Love them!!! Not surprisingly, there is no way to ruin a brownie. Cook's Illustrated sent me a "sample" magazine and one of the articles was "How to bake the perfect brownie" -- thier secret was six ounces of unsweetened chocolate! Too bad they didn't think of the sour patch kids...

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

This furthers my belief that you can make brownies with anything. My current trend is replacing the chocolate part of the recipe with various branded chocolate bars. Toblerone and After Eight mints have both worked amazingly.

February 1 | Unregistered Commentermarceline

There was a lovely little cafe in Vancouver that sadly closed down, because they made the best brownies in the world. Cranberry cream cheese brownies. I've made ones with the same name, but they came nowhere close to the majesty of these. I still miss them.

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

What a great experiment! I love it...I'll have to try one of these combos one day.

This reminds me when I made potato chip cookies for a cookie exchange I recently hosted. I was intrigued when I found the recipe. Everyone kind of looked me funny when I told them what they were but were all pleasantly surprised. Sweet and salty make a great mix!

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

What an interesting experiment! I'll take the peanuts, please... and maybe just a slice of the cheddar!
You forgot the old traditional variation from the 60's....

February 1 | Unregistered Commenterkatiez

I knew the bacon brownie would be good, (what's not to love with bacon, although i'm suspicious of your veggie option...) but the cheese one surprised me.
I wonder what it would have been like if each add in were mixed into the batter instead of simply placed on top? I suppose not too different...
I recently put yogurt covered raisins in brownies and those were really good, I also like adding jam, and dried strawberries, and, and... you're right, you can add anything to brownies.

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterBrilynn

You are a bold, bold crew. Really isn't anything better enrobed in chocolate?

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterEB

This is such an interesting read. We have Jaffa cakes over in the uk which is orange choc combo but bacon, chasse and veggies now that's a new one on me lol I would just love to sample to see what they tasted like!! :)

Rosie x

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterRosie
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