Almond Joy Brownies: A Hershey Inspired Dessert

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This month, I made a trip to Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, PA on the way back from visiting my alma mater.  One of my memories as a child is going to Hershey Park in the summer to ride all the thrilling amusement rides and to visit Chocolate World.  The best part of Chocolate World was the ride inside that detailed the process of making Hershey’s chocolate.  As you walk into Chocolate World, you are blown away by the smell of chocolate emanating from the building.  The aroma is overwhelming and you become immersed into a magical world where nothing matters except all the chocolate treats that you can purchase there.  Needless to say, I went home with a goodie bag.

When i returned home, I felt the need to whip up my very own chocolate creation inspired by Milton Hershey himself.  I put a Hershey twist on brownies.  I used Pillsbury Dark Chocolate brownie mix and doctored it up to make Almond Joy Brownies.  I made the batter as stated on the box, then added 1/2 tsp of coconut extract, 1 tsp of almond extract, and 3/4 cup sliced almonds to the batter.

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I poured the batter in a 13×9 inch pan and then topped the batter with coconut flakes.  I used Toasted Coconut Chips from Creative Snacks Co.  This sample bag was given to me by one of my sales reps this summer.  If you use regular coconut, be sure to toast it in the oven before you top off the brownies.

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Bake the brownies as directed on the box.  The result is a twist on a classic and your dinner guests won’t be able to pass on dessert.  Top a brownie with the ice cream of your choice and hot fudge sauce to make an even more irresistible dessert.

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A Basic With a Twist

What’s better than a fudgy brownie at the end of a long day? A fudgy cream cheese brownie!  So easy and so delicious!

I’ve had cheesecake on my mind because my mom and I had a conversation a couple weeks ago.  My mom made a comment that she went to a big chain restaurant out on Long Island, where apparently you have to display calorie counts on the menu.  She noticed that the cheesecake on the dessert menu was fewer calories than the other cake options.  This surprised me because I’ve always considered cheesecake to be an extra indulgent treat. But hey, I’ll take it!

Rather than making a full blown cheesecake, I had a meeting for school earlier this week, so I decided to make cream cheese brownies.  And since we’re so close to Valentine’s Day, why not make them pink!  (or at least pink, plus a little golden brown tint from the oven)

One of my friends made cream cheese brownie cupcakes for a team meeting a couple months ago, so I took that inspiration along with a recipe from the old reliable Smitten Kitchen.  At the end of the day, all you need for great cream cheese brownies is a box brownie mix (I don’t make brownies from scratch), cream cheese, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  So worth it!

Cream Cheese Brownies

Yields 16 2 inch squares, Adapted from recipe on Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • Your favorite brownie mix (plus all of the ingredients needed for that)
  • 8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg yolk
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 -1 cup mini chocolate chips
  • red food coloring gel (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350, and prep an 8×8 pan with spray and/or parchment.
  2. Prepare the brownie batter according to the directions on the box. I usually make the “cakey” version rather than the “fudgy” version, which typically just takes an extra egg.winning combination
  3. In a separate bowl use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, and salt until well combined. Add the food coloring if you want it to be pink.  Fold in the mini chocolate chips.blobs of goodness
  4. Pour the brownie batter into the pan. Put the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie batter in blobs.  You can swirl it a little to even out the top.looking good
  5. Bake for 25-50 minutes until just lightly golden brown.  Allow to cool and enjoy!cute little hearts

Too Good To Be True?

Yes it is too good to be true.  I should have known.

I saw a ringing endorsement for this recipe on Peas and Thank You, a blog that I love.  It was for vegan brownies with black beans in them.  The claim was that you wouldn’t even realize that there were black beans in the brownies.  I, of course, ignored Mama Pea’s advice on altering the recipe by adding several ingredients including chocolate chips.  I should have listened to her, she is wise.  Instead I foolishly went forward with the original recipe.

This was not an easy process for me.  I gathered the ingredients, some more unique than others.  And hauled out my mother’s food processor since I was at her house (I don’t have a food processor).  I failed to remember, however, that my mother’s food processor is from a time in history long before I was born.  Getting it off the shelf in the pantry and bringing it to the counter was a workout in itself.

A moment for the Cuisinart

Remember that scene in Zoolander when the two male models are trying to figure out how to get the files from the computer and they basically turn into primates dancing around the computer and hitting it?  That’s what I was reminded of as I was trying to work this Cuisinart.  After the initial struggle, I managed to get the ingredients blended together in a uniform fashion and poured the batter into the baking pan.

Even though I went into this with optimistic ideas about the recipe, this step was a red flag for me because as I swiped a sample of the batter, I doubted the magic of the oven would make significant improvements.  But I gave it a go to see if the oven could prove me wrong.

It didn’t.  I won’t say that the brownies were bad, but they weren’t good.  They did not taste like brownies, you could certainly detect the black beans, and they weren’t sweet at all.  That was partially my fault because I did not add the optional sugar, but I was going on good faith that I didn’t need it.

My main issue with the recipe was that if I’m indulging in a brownie, I would like it to taste indulgent.  I am not interested in consuming frivolous calories that are not spectacular tasting, unless they have specific health benefits.  I feel like these don’t serve either purpose, so these brownies were a miss for me.  Try the recipe, and form your own opinion.  I’m thinking Mama Pea’s version might be a good variation to try out in the future.

Low Fat Vegan Black Bean Brownies

From Happy Herbivore

Yields on 8×8 square pan

Ingredients

  • 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 whole bananas
  • ⅓ cup agave nectar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup raw sugar (optional) (recommended, especially if your bananas aren’t brown)
  • ¼ cup instant oats

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350, and prepare 8×8 square pan.
  2. Buzz together all ingredients in food processor, except for the oats.
  3. Fold in the oats.  Pour batter into pan.

    lick the spoon at your own risk…
  4. Bake for 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Have you ever tried a “healthy” recipe with the best intentions, only to be let down?