No. 174 & 175: S'more Brownies & Blood Orange Brownies

We had a scare this week.

The gardener left the gate to the yard open when he left on Monday. Mr. McCormick let the kiddos out like usual and a few minutes later, he realized that Ballack was gone.

Some of you know that we lost our first little kiddo, Tuffy, when he was hit by a car. It was completely heartbreaking. We can't imagine repeating that experience.

Luckily, Ballack's adventurous spirit took him straight to the action at our neighbor's house across the street. These folks are always outside having fun in the yard and playing with their kids. I'm sure our little guy thought, "Yeah! A party!" and ran right over.

Our neighbor saw Mr. McC come out of our yard and asked if he was looking for a little black dog. Ballack was found less than 10 minutes after being let outside. Whew.

Saying, "Thank you" with Brownies

I believe in thank you notes; handwritten testaments to the appreciation you feel. They take some time, and the investment in a 50 cent stamp, but they are so worth it.

One year, at around 10-years of age, I became pretty lax about my Christmas thank yous. In March, right before my birthday, my Aunt Janett called to chat.

She casually mentioned she wasn't sure if I even wanted any birthday presents since I had never said thank you for those given at Christmas. She just wanted to check if she had read the situation correctly.

Wow. Talk about shining a light on a blind spot. I think I had notes written and posted to all my aunts, uncles and grandparents within the hour. I'm still very grateful to her for that life lesson.

Of course, now I realize my mom was probably in on it too ... :)

In my family, the only potential substitutes to handwritten notes are giving over your best baked goods or looking that person in the eye and telling them, "Thank you" from your heart.

According to the McCormick etiquette guide, these are the three ways to properly say, "Thank you. You are just the best!" and show you really mean it.

In that spirit, I wanted to make two batches of brownies on Wednesday evening. The first would be a "Happy 4th of July!" gift for Mr. McC's office pals. The second would be a thank you gift for our neighbors.

S'more Brownies

I love S'mores. I have been known to make individual portions in the microwave during the wintertime, just to get a fix. These S'more brownies were for the lucky folks at UC Berkeley.

Ingredients

Crust
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (8 whole graham crackers)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

Brownie
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour

Topping
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 to 4 cups mini marshmallows*
About 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs (1 whole cracker, crumbled)

*I used large marshmallows for a super thick layer. And did you see how much butter goes in this recipe!?

To make

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 8x8-inch pan with foil so it hangs over the edges a bit. Spray with nonstick spray.

Prepare crust. In a medium bowl, mix butter with crumbs, sugar and salt. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Baked crust

Prepare the brownie layer. Place butter and chocolate in microwave-safe bowl. Melt for 1 minute; stir. Melt another minute; stir. Keep microwaving at 1 minute intervals until mixture is completely melted.

Melted chocolate and butter

Add sugars, vanilla and salt into the melted chocolate and mix together. Add eggs and beat vigorously until you see a thick and glossy batter. Stir in flour and mix just until incorporated. Pour batter over the baked crust.

Final batter

Bake until top is set and toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean, 35 to 40 minutes. You don't want to overbake the brownie - a little gooey inside is good.

Remove pan from the oven. Turn up heat on the oven to broil. Sprinkle chocolate chunks over the baked brownie. Add a nice, thick layer of marshmallows next. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top.

Ready to broil

Place your pan of brownies back into the oven, 6 to 8 inches away from the heating element. Toast under the broiler until golden, 1 to 2 minutes under the broiler should be plenty. And keep an eye on these so they toast and don't burn.

Cool for a few minutes, then use foil to remove brownies from the pan and set on a cutting board. Carefully pull the sides of the foil away from the marshmallows and brownies. Cut brownies into 12 squares using a wet, large knife to cut the brownies. Slice through the brownie, then clean the knife and slice through again with a clean, wet knife. Keep cleaning off the knife after each cut for the cleanest cuts.

Blood Orange Brownies

Hello there. Come close. I must whisper something to you. Even closer ...

Some of the best brownies of my life have come out of a box.

Shh!! Not so loud. Let's keep this a secret.

The secret is Ghirardelli's Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix. It's amazing, luxurious, decadent, rich and thick. I love these brownies. I always have a Costco-sized box of this in my pantry as an easy dessert back up plan.

This recipe is almost cheating since it is really all about the mix with a swap out on the oil. It's so easy and was inspired by these blood orange olive oil brownies from Sonoma Farms.

You are so welcome, neighbors!

Ingredients

1 pouch Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate brownie mix
1 egg
1/3 cup blood orange syrup or blood orange olive oil*
1/3 cup water

*I love Round Pond products so very much. This amazing syrup and olive oil sells out every year. You practically have to hoard it.

To make

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine egg, syrup and water in a bowl. Mix well. Add brownie mix and stir until just combined.

Pour batter into a buttered 8x8-inch pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.

The results

Oh my goodness, why haven't I made S'More brownies before this?

Final s'mores

The reports from Cal are that they are terrific, and I'm just hoping Mr. McC brings some leftovers home tonight. These brownies are also incredibly gooey, not at all crumbly and dry at the edges.

This recipe couldn't be simpler. There are quite a few steps involved, but the author gives you all the tips you need. I highly recommend the foil method and cutting with a sharp, wet knife. It made everything so much easier, especially cleanup.

The blood orange brownie batter tasted exquisite with a citrusy sweetness that perfectly complimented the chocolate. The pan baked to perfection thanks to the power of that awesome mix. The one photo I took ended up being completely blurry, so I have no evidence to offer.

I didn't cut in and take any sections, but I can only imagine they taste as divine finished as the batter did in the bowl.

What's your favorite brownie recipe? Any other fun variations I should try?

Wishing you and yours a very happy Independence Day!

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