Yes, plain old brownies ARE delicious! And, yes, they’re a constant on our list of baking favorites. But sometimes—particularly when you’ve been baking as much as we all have over these past few months—you just want a little something different. Plus, it can be difficult to resist tinkering with perfection—especially when such a deliciously plain chocolate canvas is so adaptable to our own whims and preferences.
Who could be better at looking for creative alternatives to regular brownies than the growing number of junior chefs in our audience? This recipe from The Complete Junior Chef Cookbook (Weldon Owen, 2019) starts with a stellar brownie recipe, then offers four tasty ideas for varying it. Craving caramel? Coconut? Marshmallows? There’s an easy brownie variation to satisfy.
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
- 6 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup, honey, or maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. MAKE THE BROWNIE BATTER
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in both sugars until blended. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, then whisk in the corn syrup and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
2. BAKE THE BROWNIES
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into about 12 squares.
GRAHAM CRACKER + MARSHMALLOW
Make the brownie batter as directed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 15 minutes. Crush 6 graham crackers with your hands and carefully scatter them evenly over the top. Place 12 jumbo marshmallows over the graham crackers, spacing them evenly. Continue to bake for 10 more minutes.
CARAMEL SAUCE + SEA SALT + MACADAMIA NUT
Make the brownie batter and bake as directed. Before serving, unwrap a 14-oz bag of caramels, put them in a small saucepan, and add 1/4 cup milk. Place over medium heat and heat, stirring often, until smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Top each brownie with a drizzle of caramel, a sprinkling of flaky sea salt, and a spoonful of chopped toasted macadamia nuts.
COCONUT FLAKE + CHOCOLATE CHUNK + PECAN
Make the brownie batter as directed. Bake the brownie until just set, 16–18 minutes. Layer 2 cups unsweetened flaked dried coconut and 1 package (111/2 oz) semisweet chocolate chunks over the brownie, then pour 1 can (14 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup chopped pecans. Return the brownie to the oven and continue baking until the topping is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 15–20 minutes longer.
Make the brownie batter as directed, but use 2 teaspoons peppermint extract instead of the 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Place 1 cup of hard, unwrapped peppermint candies into a large, heavy-duty lock-top plastic bag. Seal the bag closed and, using a meat pounder, crush the candies into small pieces. Sprinkle the crushed candies evenly over the brownie batter. Bake as directed.
Assembled from alternating layers of brownie, ganache, and a crunchy mixture of peanut butter and crispy rice cereal, these showy bar cookies will satisfy when you’re craving something sweet. The Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen developed this recipe for Favorite Cookies (Weldon Owen, 2016) and it’s still one of our brownie favorites. The key to easy layering is making sure that each component of this dessert is completely cooled before assembling the layers.
We first shared this recipe for Double Chocolate Brownies from Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH in January. Their book, Half the Sugar, All the Love (Workman Publishing, 2019) shows just how effectively sweet baking can be accomplished with less sugar. Instead, they use whole fruits and vegetables in recipes, adding fiber to help slow sugar’s absorption rate into the bloodstream. These genius double-chocolate brownies are a case in point: Sweet potatoes are cooked, combined with egg and almond butter, sweetened with maple syrup and folded into a double-chocolate brownie batter. The end result? A chewy, chocolate-y brownie with just one-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar per serving.