Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boozy Brownies

When trying to decide what kind of special treat to make for St. Patrick's Day, I turned to the March issue of Cooking Light Magazine for inspiration. They had a full menu for St. Patty's, from starters to after-dinner coffee, and I thought much of it sounded great and worth trying. However, these brownies really caught my eye. They're called Black and Tan Brownies, and they are basically two-layer bars with beer as one of the ingredients. Initially I was surprised to see a recipe like this in Cooking Light. Beer? Real butter? Pure unsweetened chocolate? All baked into a brownie? How could that be healthy? But hey, I figured if Cooking Light was telling me I could eat this, guilt-free, who was I to argue?

I really wasn't sure how this was going to go. I mean, it could either have been an ambitious kitchen experiment gone terribly wrong, or it could be my next great discovery. Only time (and my trusty taste-testing husband) would tell. So I dove in. The first step was very simple and came together quickly. I whipped together a blondie layer (the "Tan" part of the brownie) and baked it in the oven for 15 minutes.

When that part came out of the oven, I was instructed to assemble the brownie layer, or the "Black" half of the brownie. This is the part that contained beer. A whole cup of it. The recipe recommended I use Guinness Stout, but we had purchased a double chocolate stout just for this occasion.

When the finished product came out of the oven, I discovered that the blondie layer had risen too much on the sides and not as much in the center. As a result, the whole entire pan of brownies had a funny-looking border of blondie around its edges, making it look kind of like a brownie picture in a yummy frame.

This was simple enough to fix. Once it was entirely cool, I carefully sawed off the edges of the brownie and cut about 24 squares. I now had 2 dozen cute little black and tan brownies, and four long, skinny borders to taste test! And taste test I did. These are really good brownies. The beer does pair well with the chocolate, and it's not overwhelming or overpowering. I am not a fan of the taste of beer, so I didn't know whether I'd like these. But the flavors are complementary and make for an intriguing, delicious adult treat. It's a good thing my children are not brownie fans, or else this probably wouldn't be the best brownie to make and keep around the house. They were great for Andy to take to work, though! He loved them, and they were devoured quickly at his office.

Black and Tan Brownies
adapted from Cooking Light, March 2010
makes 24-36 bars, depending how big you cut them

Tan Layer
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I omitted)
Cooking spray

Black Layer
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Guinness Stout (I used different beer; it was fine)
4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Place one rack in lower third of oven; place another rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To prepare Tan Brownies, place 6 Tbsp. butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs and 1 tsp. vanilla. Weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 oz. flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine this flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir well. Add flour mixture and pecans, if using, to sugar mixture, beating just until combined. Spoon into a 13x9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly with a knife or rubber spatula. Bake at 350 in lower third of oven for 15 minutes.
3. To prepare Black Brownies, melt chocolate and 4 Tbsp. butter in a large microwave-safe bowl on HIGH for 1 minute or until melted, stirring after every 20 seconds until smooth. Add granulated sugar, stirring until well combined. Add 2 eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla, and beer, stirring with a whisk until well combined. Weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 oz. flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine this flour with the salt, stirring well. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring to combine. Pour mixture evenly over Tan Brownie layer.
4. Bake on the center rack at 350 for 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out almost clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack; cut into squares.
*Note: I lined my pan with aluminum foil, then sprayed foil with cooking spray. This worked well; the foil peeled off easily when brownies were inverted onto a flat surface.

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