Maryland Brownies

MarylandBrowniesI'm writing this post while I'm sitting on the runway, waiting for a flight route to open to Chicago. And what else do you do when you're stuck in a plane for an hour without beer, wine or whiskey? Write about brownies of course!

There's a brownie recipe Amy and I make a lot. It's super easy and only requires one bowl. It's called "Best Cocoa Brownies". And. It. Is. THE. BEST.

I never imagined I could improve on this recipe. Then one day we were at the Beer, Bacon and Barbecue festival in Timonium and we came across this homemade chocolate shop called Parfections.  They had this decadent chocolate bark with Old Bay and peanuts. They called it Oriole Bark. Why, you may ask, would anyone in their right mind put Old Bay in chocolate? Well first, because we're in Maryland. We put Old Bay on everything. Second…well it's Maryland. Stop asking stupid questions.

It hit me one night, while eating and entire batch of brownies and then moving on to some Oriole Bark…I COULD MAKE ORIOLE BROWNIES!!

Alcohol might have been involved. Lots of it.

I was on a mission at that point. I think I texted everyone I know about this drunken brilliant idea! So this is probably not news for most of you that are actually reading this.

I tried various measurements of Old Bay: 1 teaspoon, not enough, 2 teaspoons, getting there, 3 teaspoons…perfect!

Then it came down to peanuts. How to introduce them into the batter and when. I tried mixing them into the batter in the last step, but I didn't really get the essence of the nuts (get your mind out of the gutter people, I know what you're thinking). So in the end, I just chopped them up and tossed them on top of the batter in the pan right before baking. And there you have it…perfection.

Maryland Brownies


10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cold large eggs

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 to 3 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1/2 cup chopped un-roasted peanuts


Position rack on the second position from the bottom of your oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the sides of a 8 x 8 pan with foil and apply a light coat of nonstick spray.

IMG_1619Make a double boiler. Simmer about half an inch of water in a medium sauce pan and place an aluminum bowl over the top so that the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in the bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth. Once all the butter is melted, the mixture should be hot to the touch. Remove the bowl from the heat and let cool until it's still pretty warm but not too hot to touch.

Add vanilla and stir until blended. Then add one egg at a time and stir until blended as well. After you mix in the second egg, you should have a pretty smooth mixture. It should be shiny and thick. Add the flour and Old Bay and mix until you don't see anymore flour then mix another 20 or so strokes.

IMG_1626Spread the batter in the prepared pan evenly. Use a rubber spatula sprayed with non-stick spray to spread it around if you need to. Top with the chopped peanuts. If you want an extra strong Old Bay flavor, shake a little more over the top of the brownies, about a 1/4 teaspoon.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Check with a toothpick. The center should be slightly moist and not come out completely clean. When done, remove from the oven and lift the brownies out from the pan. Do you smell the roasted nuts and Old Bay! It's AMAZING right?! But WAIT! DON'T EAT THEM YET!

IMG_1627Once cooled, put the brownies in the refrigerator.  This is an important step, people. First, it mellows the flavor of the Old Bay and second, it will make the brownies super fudgy. Once cooled, cut the brownies into 16 squares and serve, or just eat as a single brownie.

Cinnamon Banana Chocolate Chip Mini-Muffins

I'll preface this with the fact that I suck at baking. All of the things that make someone a good cook always prove to be the ruin of any aspiring baker. When I'm cooking a recipe and I'm missing something, I just improvise and use something else we have instead. But with baking, YOU CAN'T FUCKING DO THAT...and it drives me nuts. I hate working within boundaries -- I want to experiment, goddamn it! But baking is all chemistry, and you can't substitute white sugar for brown sugar and expect everything to come out the same. Science is a motherfucking bastard!

So with that, I believe I finally found a baking recipe that I can make and NOT fuck up. Hopefully this is the first of many to come that I'll write about here. 

There are a lot of reasons to like this recipe. It's extremely easy -- mind-boggling easy. And it's a great way to use over-ripe bananas; which with three kids, we almost always have. 

(Speaking of over-ripe bananas: peel them, throw them in a plastic freezer bag, and save them for when you want to make this recipe.)

But the thing I like the most about this recipe is that I can make a double batch of these and I have snacks for the boys' lunches for a couple weeks. Since these are mini muffins, they fit inside the boys' lunch boxes and I can include a couple or even three if I want to. A couple days after baking, I put them in a plastic container, freeze them, and they keep for a long time. Considering how much a box of granola/cereal bars cost at the grocery store (what's the latest cost of a box of 8 bars? $4? $5?), this recipe is a real money saver. Plus let's face it, our boys beg for them every night.

And with that, my Cinnamon Banana Mini-Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour's recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, because who the fuck has "cinnamon flav-r bites" on hand? What even ARE cinnamon flav-r bites? 

Makes about 96 mini muffins (I know that sounds like a lot but trust me, they'll go quickly).

1 cup butter
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups mashed banana (about 4 over-ripe bananas)
2 large eggs  
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup milk
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon (heaping)
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour (I prefer to use White Whole Wheat Flour if I can find it)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips


(Note, you may have noticed the bottle of Lagavulin in this picture and yes, drinking and baking go well together. I feel the cinnamon in this recipe pairs quite well with the flavors of the Lagavulin.)

Preheat oven to 350. Place racks in top third and bottom third of your oven.

Grease a non-stick mini muffin pan with butter or non-stick spray. (Because paper muffin cups are a pain in the ass. I promise they will pop right out when they're done baking.)

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: baking powder, baking soda salt, cinnamon, all purpose flour and whole wheat flour.

In a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until completely blended, smooth and white. Start at a low speed and then increase to medium speed. It should look like this.


Add the mashed banana to the mixer and mix until blended. But don't beat it to death. Some large banana chunks are good. 

Add the eggs one at a time, vanilla, and milk until blended. This takes roughly 30 seconds to a minute.


Reduce the speed of the mixer to it's lowest setting and mix in the dry ingredients. DON'T OVER MIX. Only mix until it's just blended and turn off the mixer. Add in the chocolate chips and mix for a few seconds until evenly distributed.


Using an ice cream scoop (4 mm is just the right size or roughly 3 tsp), place a heaping scoop in each cup of the prepared muffin pans.


Place the filled muffin pans in the top and bottom racks of the oven and cook for 6 minutes. At the end of 6 minutes, swap the rack and cook for another 6 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the tops are golden brown. 


Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Then remove the muffins from the pan and move to a cooling rack if you have one. 

Eat what you want, and then stack the rest in plastic containers to keep fresh. They keep fresh for a couple days and then you should freeze them.