Confession: while many things are made from scratch in this house, brownies are generally not one of them. I am a huge fan of boxed mixes that I gussy up to be something entirely unlike your usual brownies. And a plate of really tasty brownies are a quick and easy thing that can be made to take to a barbecue or potluck when you’re headed to one, or when you have folks in for dinner, they make a great dessert when gently warmed and served with a scoop of ice cream***.
One of my mom’s favorite brownie mix tricks is to glug in a good sized wave of chocolate syrup, of the Hershey’s persuasion. A ‘glug’ would equal about 1/4 of a cup, I think. Mom, if you’re reading, does that sound about right? It adds extra richness and gooeyness, and I am a gooey brownie girl, not a cakey brownie girl. Anything I can do to make them chewier I’ll do, including undercooking them just slightly.
You can add chopped nuts, and not just walnuts ~ toasted pecans, peanuts, cashews, go crazy. Sprinkle them on top, or stir them in. Coarsely chop them so they are big chunks, or really mill them down so they aren’t as prominent, your choice. As we’ve talked about before, though, I am not a nut fan in my baked goods and thusly leave them out (unless I’m trying to stay away from them, in which case I’ll add extra and stir them in so I won’t touch them).
With the trendy advent of adding chiles to chocolate in the last few years, I made a pan of brownies over super bowl weekend that was a stunner. I realized that my buffet had nary a sweet bit on it, and when you’re having a chili bar you have to have something to cut all of the savory. They were a huge hit and something I made up on the fly ~ I was praying that they’d taste as good as they did in my head when I was adding in my adjuncts.
I mention below that you can use a gluten-free brownie mix with great success (and they are so, so good as a GF treat). Be sure, though, that you check your syrup and cherries to be sure that they are completely gluten-free and processed in a plant with good practices. I know that my GF friends are rolling their collective eyes at me for such a basic aside, but for those of you preparing these treats for someone with celiac disease, this can be a crucial note.
Cherry Chipotle Brownies
Makes a 13 x 9″ pan*
1 Family Sized brownie mix (denoted on the box, Pillsbury makes a good one but use whichever you’d like, even a gluten-free one)
1 1/4 t. chipotle powder
1/4 c. chocolate syrup (optional)
1 1/2 c. dried cherries (these are my favorite)
1 c. chocolate chips (optional)**
Preheat oven to 325/350*F as denoted on the box (this will depend on the color of your pan, I use my trusty Pyrex so 350*F for me). Prepare your pan with cooking spray or butter as directed on the box.
Stir the chipotle powder into the brownie mix in a large bowl, and proceed with preparation as outlined on the box, adding in the optional chocolate chips, if you’re using them. Fold in the cherries and optional chocolate chips right at the end.
Spread the brownie mix into the prepared pan, and bake for 28-31 minutes as the box designates.
*To make a smaller mix in a 9 x 9″ pan, purchase your favorite brownie mix, adding in 3/4 t. of chipotle powder and 1 cup of dried cherries, proceeding as outlined above with the package directions.
**Instead of stirring in your chocolate chips, you can sprinkle them on the top of your still-hot but fully-baked brownies, return them to the oven for a second, and then spread the melted chocolate chips on the top, making a chocolate glaze.
***About that ice cream! These brownies make a killer sundae when paired with a big scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream. You’re welcome!