We’re still puttering around with the various food restrictions, trying to find tasty things to make that we can all eat  (as a reminder, Jeff is gluten-free, I’m dairy- and soy-free, and we’re both vegetarian; plus we have a good friend who is gluten- and dairy-free and vegetarian who eats with us regularly. )

So you can imagine, when I saw this on the shelves at Trader Joe’s the other month, I snapped it up:

Trader Joe's Gluten-free brownies

Trader Joe's Gluten-free brownies

In the teeny fine print on front, it proudly proclaims:

“This mix is free of Wheat, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Milk & Dairy, Soy, & Corn.”

Also, no preservatives  or artifical colors or flavors.

(What’s left, you may ask?  Good question – mostly brown rice flour and cane syrup. )

You mix in oil, egg, and water (although I replaced the oil with a half-half mix of applesauce and hazelnut oil).  Chocolate chips are optional (although of course I added some! )

The finished product was very gooey and almost imperceptibly GF – we served them at our Fourth of July party and got tons of raves, but nobody twigged to the fact that they were pretty much everything-free.  Sounds like a win to me!

Gluten- Soy- Dairy-free brownies!

Gluten- Soy- Dairy-free brownies!

For another take on these, check out Baking Bites.

Chocolate-hazelnut brownies

Chocolate-hazelnut brownies

The other week I tried Sweets Made Here’s Ferrero Rocher Cupcake Recipe, and while I loved the results (as did all of my tasters), I did feel that the cupcake part of the product got dry really, really fast (a problem with cupcakes).  Also, eating them was a messy process.

So, the idea came to me to simplify and reorganize.  I have a brownie recipe I adore, after much testing, maybe I could jazz it up?

Ohh yes, I certainly could.  The idea was simple: One pan of brownies (jazzed up with hazelnuts and Frangelico); use the back end of a wooden spoon to poke holes in the warm brownies; fill the holes with Nutella; spread chocolate chips (or callets) on top and heat to melt; sprinkle chopped hazelnuts on top.

They are… amazing.  I’ve served them at parties twice now, and after a couple of hours not a crumb was left.  Plus, I could hear people telling other folks who hadn’t had them yet about them.  There was much raving.  And now, I share with you!

Chocolate-Hazelnut Brownies

(Brownie recipe adapted from Hershey’s Easy Baking, a book someone gave me as a gift last year)

Makes 1 9×13 pan

Ingredients

Brownie:

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp Frangelico or Hazelnut extract
4 eggs
3/4 cup Ghirardelli cocoa (I found this has the best flavor, compared with a number of other similarly-priced or cheaper cocoas)
1 cup AP flour (I use White Lily)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts, skins removed as best you can.

Topping

About 1/2 cup nutella.

About three handfuls of chocolate chips and/or bittersweet callets (I have used both Callebaut 60/40 callets, and Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips for this; both work just fine)

1-2 cups chopped toasted hazelnuts, skins removed.

1. Heat oven to 350F.  Grease 13x9x2 baking pan.  For a much easier time of life, line the pan with heavy foil and grease that.  Cutting brownies gets much easier this way.

2. Melt butter.  Stir in sugar and Frangelico/extract.  Add eggs, one at  a time, beating well after each addition.  Add cocoa, beat til blended.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt, beat well.  Stir in nuts.  Pour into prepared pan.

3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan.

4. After removing from oven, use the reverse end of a wooden spoon to poke holes into the brownie at regular intervals.  (depends on how much you like nutella.  I think I ended up making holes about every square inch 🙂  Fill with nutella while brownies are still warm (I used a piping bag and a medium round tip; you could use a sturdy plastic baggie.  Very sturdy, as in freezer-strength; the nutella is stiff enough that it’ll split a standard sandwich bag.)

5. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the brownies, and return to oven for a couple of minutes to soften/melt.  Spread evenly over top of brownies using a spatula or some other tool.  Sprinkle the nuts on top while chocolate is melty.

6. Cool completely in pan.  Cut into bars.

Now, if you use straight-up chips for the top, when it’s completely cooled, what you’ll have is solid chocolate, which can fragment when you cut it.  Best to cut it when it’s only mostly solid; or make some kind of ganache frosting (too much work for me!).  If you don’t care if it’s melty (as in, people will be eating them in 30 seconds flat anyways), just cut  them up while it’s still gooey.  I have found, though, that the brownies are soft enough that they want some time chilling in the fridge (or outdoors) to firm up enough to cut without falling apart.  If you want to individually wrap these suckers for storage in the freezer, or gifts, I’d advise cutting while semi-solid, then chilling until fully solid, then wrapping.

But who are we kidding, like they’ll last that long!   Ha.

I mean, who could resist this:

Pan full o' brownies.

Pan full o’ brownies.