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Microwave . . .

Sweet and Rich, Brownies Fare Well and Cook Evenly With Less Mess

August 07, 1986|DIANA WILLIAMS HANSEN | Hansen is a Louisville-based cooking consultant specializing in microwaving

Somewhere among the "how to use" information from almost all microwave oven manufacturers, there's a brownie recipe. Brownies are universally popular and they microwave well because they are more sturdy than many of the more delicate baked foods.

Brownies are primarily sugar, fat, eggs and chocolate with enough flour to bind this richness together. Contrary to what many people think, rich ingredients do not attract microwave energy as rapidly as watery ones, but they are efficient in converting absorbed energy into heat. By their very nature, sugary rich brownies microwave fairly evenly.

This food is frequently microwaved in a square dish, even though the corner areas are vulnerable to overcooking--as are corner areas on conventionally baked products. But brownies are supposed to be chewy and if not too overcooked, the corner areas are simply a little more chewy than the center areas--a characteristic that some people prefer. If you want, you can cook brownies in a round dish.

Generally, the larger the microwave, the larger variety of baked items it will cook satisfactorily. Depending on your microwave, you may have more luck with brownies in a square pan than in a rectangular one. There's a recipe here for both shapes. The cocoa brownie base for the Cheesecake-Topped Brownies has been one of my favorites for many years, and it microwaves well in either an eight-inch square or 12x8-inch dish.

Chocolate, which is usually melted in a messy double boiler on top of the range, melts beautifully in the microwave. Although you can use any power level, I recommend MEDIUM (50% power) because you can easily control the melting at this speed. Don't cover chocolate as it melts--steam might evaporate underneath the cover and drop onto the chocolate, causing it to tighten into lumps.

Here's a versatile selection of brownies and toppings. Each recipe has more than one layer, for fun and interest. You can generally interchange the toppings, but it's best to try each recipe "as is" first.

TRIPLE-DECKER TOASTED PECAN BROWNIES

4 squares unsweetened chocolate

Butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup broken pecans

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Place 2 squares chocolate in small glass mixing bowl or 1 1/2-quart microwave casserole. Microwave on MEDIUM 2 to 4 minutes until melted. Add 1/3 cup butter and continue microwaving on MEDIUM 30 seconds to 1 minute until melted and mixture can be stirred smooth.

Add granulated sugar, eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla and beat well. Stir in flour and salt just until well blended. Pour batter into greased 8-inch square dish. Microwave on HIGH 4 to 7 minutes, rotating dish every 2 minutes, until cooked and center is firm. Cool.

Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup butter and pecans in 1-quart microwave-safe bowl or casserole. Cover with wax paper. Microwave on HIGH 5 to 7 minutes until butter and pecans are very browned (but not burned). Add powdered sugar, milk and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Carefully spread icing over top of brownies.

To make chocolate glaze, place remaining 2 squares chocolate in 2-cup microwave bowl or casserole. Microwave on MEDIUM 2 to 4 minutes until melted. Add 1 tablespoon butter and stir well. Drizzle over pecan icing. Refrigerate until cool and firm, then cut into squares. Makes about 36 brownies.

CHEESECAKE-TOPPED BROWNIES

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup sour cream

Grated chocolate

Beat 2 eggs, 1 cup sugar, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla at high speed of electric mixer until light. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter into 12x8-inch microwave-safe baking dish and distribute to grease bottom. Add remaining butter to egg mixture and beat well. At low speed, mix in 3/4 cup flour and cocoa.

Pour batter into buttered dish. Microwave on HIGH 6 to 8 minutes, rotating half-turn every 2 minutes if brownies appear to be cooking more on 1 side than another. When done, brownies may still look glossy on top and still be soft but set in center. Place directly on heat-proof counter to cool.

In 1-quart microwave bowl or casserole, place unwrapped cream cheese. Microwave on MEDIUM 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add 1/2 cup sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons flour, lemon juice, remaining egg and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. With electric mixer at high speed, beat until fluffy and well blended. With mixture still in bowl, cover with plastic wrap or casserole lid and microwave on MEDIUM-HIGH 4 to 7 minutes, whisking vigorously every minute to break up soft lumps, until hot and thick enough to mound from spoon. (Mixture will melt to shiny liquid before it thickens.)

Pour custard over brownies. Continue to microwave on MEDIUM 4 to 7 more minutes until all areas are set and firm and top looks dry.

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