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Brownies Behaving Badly: Cakespy Challenges a Classic Treat



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.




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:



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.




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)

Fun! Now I really want to try various cheeses in my brownies.

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

This is so amazing!! I am definitely trying this out. And I want one of those pans!!

February 1 | Unregistered CommenterAlejandra


February 2 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

Fun! I like to put 1/3 cup of my sourdough starter into my brownies to add a little *zing* (and keep me from just throwing it away). Maybe tonight will have to be a brownie night.

February 2 | Unregistered Commenterchou

This looks like my idea of fun!!

Speaking of chocolate + cheese, I was at a Vosges chocolate shop this week and was told that their chocolate-covered artisanal Taleggio cheese is one of their most popular items.

February 2 | Unregistered CommenterSurcie

Awesome post! What a great idea!

February 2 | Unregistered CommenterStef

MMM....mint malt balls and jaffas!!! i haven't tasted them in so long and baking!!! i need to bake more and learn new recipes and oh, what an awesome idea to do!!!

February 3 | Unregistered Commentercotton candy

marshmallow creme and pretzels!

February 3 | Unregistered Commenterpumpkinpie

some of that is a little scary, I think.

February 3 | Unregistered CommenterALF

I love brownies!! And I love all the things you did to them in this post. That cracked me up about the faux bacon one. So very creative (and daring!).

February 3 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

Your cereal krispie experiments had me rolling around with tears in hysterics, and this post has done it again! Your willingness to experiment and challenge the traditional sweets means I just have to take my hat off to you :D Nice work!

February 3 | Unregistered CommenterEllie

Excellent! I am a particularly big fan of the sweet/salty combo. Potato chips, pickles, pretzels, salted caramel, spiced nuts~ bring it on! Oh wait- do I have to bake these or are you taking orders?!?!? ;-)

February 4 | Unregistered CommenterTempered Woman

Nice! I think this proves that chocolate makes anything taste good. I see more experiments with that divided pan around!

February 4 | Unregistered CommenterTaylor

I don't know if we can be friends, Cakespy, if you're going to go around sullying delicious bacon with chocolate. There is a time and a place for chocolate. Bacon is timeless, placeless, home and friend to everyone on this planet! Bacon is the greatest of all foods, salty and sweet! Suprisingly ( to me) the Saltine combo sounds excellent!

February 5 | Unregistered Commenterfeathermar

Stephanie: Isn't the diagram just the kicker? Glad you liked it :-)

Kevin: It's like breakfast and dessert all at once??? ;-)

Ruby Red: The recipe didn't end up being vegan, but was vegeterian. I think making a vegan version would be easy and yummy though!

Natalie: Not like you needed permission to be delicious.

Moonrat: Thanks! You know, just staying on the issues that matter.

Geggie: Yes, it was awfully fun!

Emiline: Yes, it took some guts but it was worth it I think! Those cheese ones were a real surprise.

Gigi: Thanks! Those pans are killer, you should get one!

Jules: Those jaffas are extremely addictive. But what intrigues me more are those guiness ones! I have had a cake made with it and it was moist and lovely.

Em: A little disgusting but funny -- what more could we strive for! :-)

MKE Cupcake Queen: That sounds simply delicious--but yes, holy heat!

TW Barritt: Yes, it's a great new use for the pan! Try it out!!

Liz Squared: Can't wait to see your kitchen adventures with pantry leftovers, dude!

Happy Cook: Thank you!

Slush: Yes, saltines are awesome, but they just got better!

Lydia: Bravely soldier forward and try some adventurous brownies!

Bethany: I found some new ice cream products I think you'll like in NYC!

Katy: Yup, they really missed the boat on the Sour Patch kids, didn't they? Sigh. ;-)

Marceline: Oh, those both sound so good!

Lydia: So sad! I feel a tear. It's so awful when a great place is gone and your pastry fix is lost. :-(

Robin: Yes, isn't it an intriguing combo? Very filling and satisfying!

Katiez: Ah yes, those ones! :-) With the savories to munch on afterward...

Brilynn: The yogurt covered raisins sound intriguing: like white chocolate chips and raisins sort of, but more creamy. Yum!

EB: Bold, or maybe crazy. :-)

Rosie: Wish you could have been there to have tasted with us!!

Alicia: Wouldn't that be fun?

Alejandra: Ooh, get one! It is the best.

Zen Chef: You said it.

Chou: Ooh, that sounds good!!

Surcie: Aren't those Vosges folks just an inspiration? That sounds delicious.

Stef: Thanks!

Cotton candy: Your name has me wondering what cotton candy brownies would taste like...?

Pumpkinpie: That sounds awesome!

ALF: Yes.

Vegan Noodle: We want to see you do some vegan versions! Seitan brownies?? :-)

Ellie: So glad you liked it! It's about sweetness but fun too, you know?? We try not to be "too" serious.

Tempered Woman: Come on over if you're in Seattle! :-)

Taylor: Yes, although I don't think it is what they intended with the pan it is a nice benefit!

Feathermar: Oh man, please can you forgive us?? :-) Maybe if we added a side of bacon for some "pure" deliciousness ?

February 6 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Here is the link to my guinness brownies that I mentioned earlier :)


February 6 | Unregistered CommenterJules

Thanks Jules!

February 7 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

wow, you are awesome.

February 11 | Unregistered Commenterkickpleat

Kickpleat: I think it's the brownies that deserve the glory here but thanks for the kind words! :-)

February 11 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

Another great baking experiment!

February 12 | Unregistered Commentereatme_delicious

Awesome! I loved this and totally want to make the cheese brownie now ... Yum!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterAnne-Marie

Re: Sour Patch Kids brownies.

Make sure to cut the sour patch kids prior to putting them in the brownie batter (works well with dark chocolate brownies, since the candy adds a lot of sweetness).

It's hard to slice the finished brownies with the sour patch kids in tact. They just drag and mess up your attractive brownies! So chop them up before putting them in--plus they look more like jewels that way...!

August 22 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie
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