In the vast and varied world of brownie recipes, there are the minimalist versions: pure expressions with no nuts, fries or almost frosting. Then there are the maximalist takes, stuffed to their fudgy edges with all kinds of sweet excess.
Certainly, my adult instincts appreciate the nuances of the more sober iterations. But the rest of my pandemic-exhausted soul cries out for indulgence: make mine as slimy, mellow, and richly embellished as it can be.
And so, I developed these brownie recipes to satisfy the depths of my chocolate craving, in three distinct ways: savory, nutty, and inspired candy bar.
The salty pretzel brownies are the most understated of the bunch, built on the technique of sprinkling a little flaky salt at the end to bring out the bittersweet nature of the brownies. Here, the salty pretzels work the same, adding crunch and toasted character alongside a salty zing. If you can, try to find small pretzels for the filling, which are particularly adorable, all lined up like twisted hearts on the cracked brownie surface.
Because a pretzel filling on its own wouldn’t be considered really maximalist (at least in my mind), I also slipped a graham cracker and a crushed pretzel crust under the brownie dough, giving the bars a culinary appeal with hints of salted caramel. .
Inspiration for the next brownie variation started with a bar Mounds coconut heart. But while experimenting, I realized that the difference between a homemade Mounds bar filling and a classic coconut macaroon is mainly in the ratio between sweetened condensed milk and coconut flakes. For these brownies, I added just enough syrupy milk to bind the coconut, then tossed “mound” balls over the dough. Both cookie and candy, they are on top in the best way.
And finally, I crossed brownies with pecan pie to come up with my last recipe. The brownie part is basically a dense and chewy substitute for the usual flaky crust. Then the pecans and all of their glorious honey goo rest on top, baking into a crisp, shiny coverage that looks a lot more subtle than it tastes.
Subtlety, after all, isn’t the point of any of these sweets, which are as exuberant as brownies can get, just when we need them most.
Recipes: Coconut Macaroon Brownies | Pecan Pie Brownies | Salted pretzel brownies