Friday, August 19, 2011

Brownie Balls! (8-13-11)

OK... Everyone who loves chocolate, raise your hand!!!!  This blog is for all of you!!  The only way I can describe the end result is: It's a piece of chocolatey heaven!

We make a lot of brownies here at the Nifty Novice home.  My hubby loves brownies, and I tend to make pretty good ones, so I make them for him.  He has made, I think, one good batch in all of the times that he's tried (which, to be honest, isn't that much because I can't bear to see something go wrong with an entire box of brownies).  He came home from work on Wednesday and said that they were having a luncheon at work and he wanted to bring brownies.  I told him I would make them on Thursday before going to my best friend's house.

I did not take pictures of this process as it is a regular for us.  However, I DID do something different this time... To ease the removal of the brownies from the pan, I lined the pan (actually, there were two pans... I made two boxes of mix) with aluminum foil.  I had read that a lot of people do that and it sounded perfect to remove it AND it saved the pan!  DOUBLE WIN!  The problem is that I had never done that before... So while I sprayed the bottom of the pan with oil spray, I thought the foil would stick on the side, so I sprayed the sides as well.  This is a baking no-no - as I was told by my baking idol, Jaime.  If you spray on the sides of the pan, the mix doesn't rise because it's sliding back down the surface (when I make a cake, I spray the entire pan, but then I put a dusting of flour over all of it.  That helps keep it stick-free but still allow it to rise).  Sure enough, BOTH pans came out with the brownies not even an inch high (oh - and I had followed the directions to add an extra egg for "cake-ier brownies"...Cake-ier my foot! LOL).  My hubby was kind enough to not tease me about them, but they also didn't get taken into his work the next day.  So now, I had two 9x13 pans with 1/2-inch brownies.  And this is where my journey begins...

I'm sure you've heard of cake balls or cake pops.  It's "all the rage" and definitely something I will be doing and blogging about more in the future...  I believed I saw a few mentions somewhere about making brownie balls or brownie pops.  Since I wasn't confident enough in what I was doing to make the pops (and didn't want to waste the pop sticks - not that I could find where I had them either but that's not the point!), I decided to make brownie balls.

Yup... That's how thick the brownies were. That may have also aided in the SUPER chocolatey taste - since they were so condensed...

First, take the brownies and cut off the edges since they tend to be harder.  Great to eat straight, but not as easy to work with to make the balls.  Then, I divided out the rest of the brownies into quarters.  I read in a book that it is how I am supposed to do it to help break them up (take the quarters, rub them against each other and it will create the crumbs).  However, I think because the brownies aren't real "airy," that didn't work.  Oh well... made it look like I knew what I was doing!  LOL

When you crumble, you don't want any chunks.  Try to get them as crumbly as possible.  I think that, again, this would be easier with something not as dense and moist as brownies - I had some chunks and whenever I moved the pile of crumbs around to keep smooshing, the crumbs would mash together and become a clump.  And no - I did not suddenly join The Blue Man Group!  I wear gloves.  :-)  This process is probably easiest to just dive right in there with your hands verses trying to do any tools.

Next, add store bought frosting (BTW - I would probably say it is perfectly acceptable, even from the anti-box-mix crowd, to use box mixes for the cake/brownie balls/pops, as well as store bought frosting... Just makes the process a lot easier).  The tubs come in like 16-ounces.  What I was reading was to use about 12 ounces for one cake.  I figured that since I had two batches of brownies, but combined, they would equal the size of one cake, that I would just use the entire 16-ounces and call it good.  Honestly, it worked pretty good...  I would probably have liked another scoop or two of frosting, but I could still work with what I had.  I used fudge frosting (to go with the fudge brownies!).

Just start mashing it into the brownies with the front and back of your spoon.  It can be a bit tough, but eventually, you'll see it all come together.  You want it to not be TOO frosting-like, but have enough frosting to be able to squish it together and have it keep its shape.

Next, I used the cookie scooper my mom got me for Christmas.  It was its maiden voyage!  Scoop, roll to make into a smooth ball, place on wax paper on cookie sheet.

They look so neat and organized!  LOL  You may be able to see a few that aren't completely smooth all over.  I believe this is a result of the lack of frosting.  But it didn't affect anything in the long run (that I noticed at least!).  Put the pan in the FRIDGE to firm up.  Don't do the freezer.  I guess a lot of books say to use the freezer, but then all of the blogs and people making them say to use the fridge.  It does just as good of a job and you won't have the condensation issue that you would as they defrost.  And the condensation is a BIG issue when dealing with the Candy Melts that we use to coat.  Any moisture and the candy melts will seize up and be good for nothing.  I prefer the bags of the candy melts because they are 14 ounces... For this batch, I used an entire bag as well as about 1/4 of a bag that I had sitting around from a while back.

This is my setup.  I had a second cookie tray set up to put the dipped balls on.  Then, the space they created off of tray #1 would give me space on that tray to put more (since I knew I wouldn't be able to place them as close together as I did with just the plain balls).  The black cup contains Heath - Bits O Brickle Toffee Bits (just the toffee bits - not the ones with the chocolate bits as well). You can top it with anything you want - or nothing at all!  (But it gave me an excuse to buy one of my FAVORITE baking treats - EVER!  LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!  And I just saw that SKOR bits exist too!!  MUST get my hands on those!!)  I had a toothpick to help when I put the covered ball down, run the toothpick along the bottom of the ball so when the candy melts harden, you can take the ball off the sheet and it won't have a big "skirt" around it.  However, I used two spoons and were able to manipulate them to get as much of the excess candy melt coating off so that there were no real skirts created...

To cover the balls, drop the ball into the coating and then use the spoon to spoon coating over the balls.

I scooped the ball up with one spoon, scraped excess coating off with the other spoon, then rolled the ball over to spoon #2 and used spoon #1 to scrape.  Honestly, I probably should have added some shortening to the candy melts.  It would make them a bit runnier and then the coating, I believe, would be smoother.

Put the finished ball on the wax paper.  If you want to put a topping on it, you would do it now while the coating is still wet to hold onto the topping.  You can probably dip like two or three before it is too late to put topping on, but I would just do it right after each one to be on the safe side.  Maybe have someone (kid?) help you with this part!  The pops would be better for the topping because you wouldn't waste as much - you'd just dip the pop into the topping and call it good.  However with the balls, you need to sprinkle the topping, so you have a bit more mess.

I did about 1/2 to 2/3 of them with Heath bar topping.  I left a few plain (hubby said he liked them even just plain!), and did the rest with just the plain coating - no topping.

I put them in the fridge to harden up a bit more and here's the end result....

It's definitely sweet and VERY chocolatey.  But so yummy!!  And definitely a two-biter.  I have a big mouth and I have the need to bite half of it, admire the middle, and then pop the rest in!  LOL

I do have a lesson learned from this.  It's taken until this morning for me to figure out the problem.  After I put them in the fridge to firm up at the end (with the coating on them), I noticed that for some of them, if brownie was exposed (this was especially a problem on the bottom since the chocolate kind of goes out and leaves brownie there), it was "weeping".  It didn't even seem like enough to say that it was "sweating"... just some moisture seeping out.  Didn't change the flavor at all.  I have done some searching and it appears that after the initial balls have firmed up, before coating them, bring the balls back to room temperature.  They may have been too cold and while the condition would have been worse if they were frozen, it was just like condensation.  For us, I just put a layer of paper towel down and put the balls on top of that.  Works perfectly and no one is the wiser (except for now that I have exposed the secret! LOL).  I have a feeling this may not be as much of a problem with the pops because you can more thoroughly coat them and not leave any space for cake/brownie to be exposed.

This is definitely something I will be making more of in the future.  Everyone has really loved them!  While, considering wait times, it can take a while to finish them, its really not all that labor-intensive!

Update from 10-26-11: When making the candy melts, I read about adding vegetable shortening (i.e. "Crisco") to the melts. It will help thin out the coating so that it won't be so "heavy" in contrast to the brownie, as well as spread out the use of the melts.  I waited until the candy melts were about 75% melted and then added a tablespoon or two to the mix (about 1/2 of a bag of melts) and stirred it up...  I kept heating and stirring until the shortening melted, but if you get impatient, you can scoop out the unmelting shortening and toss it.  Make sure you keep stirring during use though...

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