|Ghost blondie in the spotlight. Photo: Monika Bartyzel.
One of the easiest ways to get into the Halloween spirit with minimal special equipment is baking Halloween-themed brownies and blondies.There's no special skill required, yet the resulting treats are just how we like them: dense, rich and classically sweet. They can also be embellished with frosting to give the witch creepy eyes, the pumpkin a green stem or the ghost the proper shade of white.
Read on for two recipes prime for the task, with little twists that make these treats thrive.
Halloween Brownies and Blondies(click thumbnails to view gallery)
In honor of the closing of Gourmet, we decided to use an excellent recipe from the magazine housed over at Epicurious. These brownies completely pop with a few select refinements, mainly to decrease the sweetness. First, while 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate is required, subbing in a little of your favorite dark chocolate (we like 85%) will give the brownies an extra kick and richness. Second, we took down the sugar content, at the suggestion of many commenters. Either fill each cup up to not-quite full, or pull back about an eighth of a cup. Oh yes -- and add nuts or candy corn at your own risk. These are going under the cutter, after all, and nuts can get in the way.
Adapted from Bruce Weinstein's "The Ultimate Brownie Book"
1 (10-11 oz.) package butterscotch chips
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup tightly packed yellow (light brown) sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
Alton Brown's kitchen lube
Optional: A quick mix of red and yellow food coloring to amp up the orange color.
Preheat oven to 350, and line a high-sided baking pan with foil before giving the surface a good rub with Brown's lube.
In a double-boiler, or heat-safe bowl over simmering water, melt and mix together the chips and butter, stirring constantly. Once a good portion of the chips are melted, take off the heat and stir until the rest melt. This should only take a minute or two, once off the heat.
Mix the sugars and eggs until the sugar has dissolved -- approximately 5 minutes. Then add in the butterscotch mixture and vanilla, mixing until uniform.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pinch of baking soda, then fold this into the wet mixture until just combined and no clumps of flour remain. Folding it allows you to scrape the flour from the sides with every twist of the bowl.
Scoop the mixture into the pan, smoothing it out so it's about half-way up the pan, approximately 1/4-1/2". If you want thinner brownies that crisp up, go thinner, but don't go too thick or the cookie cutter won't work. If you have a smaller pan, the batter should fill it, but for full-length pans, just spread the batter as far as you want it, then create a new wall in the pan with the extra folded foil.
Bake about 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
When the brownies and blondies are cooled, use sturdy cookie cutters (medium-sized) and press out shapes, steering clear of the crisp outer rim. Cheap cutters might seem convenient, but if the cutter is poorly constructed, the metal will pop apart while using it. (We speak from experience.) The size is also important. Sure, you could use those tiny bat and moon cutters, but the end result won't look like anything other than an indiscernible clump. Don't use cutters with lots of long, stringy parts. Spiders look cool, but it's a real pain keeping all the appendages attached when pushing the brownie/blondie out of the cutter.
Coming Soon: Malted treats, creepy cupcakes and more.