Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Week 46 - Faux-stess

I used to love baking. Cookies, cakes, brownies, it didn't matter. I think it probably had something to do with the soothing and therapeutic aspects of the prep work, especially mixing all the ingredients together. It was also so precise. If you followed a recipe and did exactly what it said, you should be able to get the final product just right. I found it harder to screw up than cooking. The past few years though, as I've been cooking more, the balance has definitely shifted, and I bake far less than I used to. A's been more interested in baking now, and I'm happier tinkering around with savory dinner dishes.

This left me in a difficult spot when it came to the Week 46 challenge and it's faux-stess theme. When it popped up on the list the first time, I was like, "Please don't tell me it's some sort of fake Hostess challenge." Sadly, it was. The task was to make our own version of Hostess foods, or if we didn't like Hostess, we could make another processed food our own. I was drawing a pretty big blank on the second option, other than maybe making a crazy cake to substitute for "processed" cake mix, so that wasn't really going to work. Growing up, I wasn't really a huge fan of Hostess foods. People were devastated when Twinkies disappeared, but I didn't really care. Every so often I'd have one of those chocolate cupcakes with the white swirls, but that was about it (and I didn't really have any interest in making those). This challenge was turning out to be a real pain, but I didn't want to skip it because it was doable. After much googling, I discovered Hostess made brownie bites at some point, so I figured I would just make brownies and be done with it. A couple weeks after the challenge week, to celebrate National Brownie Day yesterday, I finally got around to doing it.

I didn't make just any brownies though. For some time, I'd been really intrigued by the Pioneer Woman's 3 ingredient Nutella brownies. I was so interested that over a year ago, I bought Costco sized containers of Nutella to make many pans full of brownies, so sure that I would love the recipe. (I'm guessing the Nutella might have been on sale, but it's been so long that I don't really remember.) It just seemed so easy. 2.5 cups of Nutella + 1 cup of flour + 3 eggs, baked for 25 minutes at 350 degrees, and you have a batch of delicious chocolate hazelnut brownies. Have I ever mentioned we love chocolate hazelnut a lot?

The mixing part was relatively easy, but after I put it into the greased 13x9 pan, I started having some doubts. I would have expected to bake brownies with that amount of batter in a square pan, but followed the instructions about using the larger rectangular pan. That meant that the batter barely reached the ends of the pan when it was spread out. The layer was so thin. I was worried we were going to end up with some really crispy brownies, but I put it in the oven, crossed my fingers, took a shower, and hoped that when I got out, there wouldn't be a brownie disaster in the oven.

Luckily, the brownies weren't burned to a crisp. But they also didn't rise very much. They weren't much thicker than the layer of batter that went into the pan. While warm, they also fell apart pretty easily even though I had let them cool for a bit. Later in the night, they stayed together a little better, but still not as well as "regular" brownies. It was only after letting them sit overnight in a plastic bag that I think they really got the nice chewy consistency of a good brownie. They really grew on me the second day.

As far as taste, they were okay. We both had high expectations due to our love of chocolate hazelnut, but there wasn't a ton of flavor here - chocolate or hazelnut. Maybe it was because the Nutella was a few months past its best by date, or maybe it just wasn't as powerful of a flavor as we thought it would be. The brownies were fine, definitely edible, but not an experiment we need to try again when there are so many other brownie recipes to explore first.

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