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Extreme Brownies

Makes 24.

Note: “This is my favorite brownie recipe,” wrote Al Sicherman on April 19, 2007, on the occasion of his retirement. “I make it almost nonstop. I always top the brownies with chocolate ganache (see recipe) — half of it poured on and the other half chilled, whipped and pooted out into rosettes. Between the brownies, which are very chocolaty, and the ganache, this is one intensely chocolate experience.”

• 2/3 c. (10 2/3 tbsp.) butter, plus extra for pan

• 1 c. chopped pecans

• 2 (12-oz.) bags semisweet chocolate chips, divided

• 1 c. minus 2 tbsp. sugar

• 4 eggs

• 2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 c. plus 2 tbsp. flour

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• 1/2 tsp. salt

Al Sicherman’s Extreme Brownies. Star Tribune photo
Al Sicherman’s Extreme Brownies. Star Tribune photo

Star Tribune photo


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9- by 13-inch pan.

Toast the pecans in a heavy frying pan over low-medium heat, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become fragrant and begin to color. Set aside.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and 1 bag (2 cups) of the chocolate chips, stirring constantly.

Pour the chocolate-butter mixture into the large bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in the sugar, then the eggs (2 at a time), and the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and briefly beat into the batter. Stir in the pecans and the remaining bag (2 cups) of chips. Pour batter into pan. Bake about 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center until it comes out clean. Remove from oven and place pan on wire rack to cool. Top with Chocolate Ganache (see recipe).

Chocolate Ganache

Makes enough to glaze and make rosettes for 1 pan of brownies.

Note: “This is wonderful stuff,” wrote Sicherman. “Save the recipe even if you don’t want it for brownies. When warm, it’s a wonderful glaze; chilled and whipped it’s terrific cake frosting — and excellent truffles. If you’re using it for brownies and you don’t have a pastry bag to make rosettes, make only half of this recipe and just pour it over the brownies.”

• 1 1/2 c. heavy cream

• 4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter

• 1 (12-oz.) bag semisweet chocolate chips


Combine the cream and butter in a saucepan over medium heat and bring just to the boil, stirring occasionally to melt the butter.

Pour into the small bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the chocolate chips, stirring until they are largely melted. Beat on low speed until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Pour about half of the ganache over the pan of brownies. Cool completely, then cut and refrigerate.

Chill the rest of the ganache in the mixer bowl with the beaters 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is cool and resembles thick cream.

Whip the chilled ganache until it is as stiff as whipped cream and pipe rosettes onto the chilled brownies. Wow. (You might have some left over; you’ll figure out what to do with it.)

Bostess Bupcakes

Store-bought Hostess Cupcakes.
Store-bought Hostess Cupcakes.

Andrew Scrivani

Makes 20 to 24.

Note: This recipe for a variation on the Hostess Cupcake must be prepared in advance. “I was thinking the other day, while eating a Twinkie, about the recent Hostess advertising campaign that featured the slogan ‘Freshness never tasted so good,’ ” wrote Al Sicherman on Jan. 31, 1982. “Lest I give the wrong impression, I should point out immediately that I like Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and the rest. I eat a lot of them. But, I reflected, I’ve never thought of them as fresh. I’ve thought of them as great-tasting, wonderful junk. If you really wanted a fresh Twinkie, I’ve said to myself almost every time I heard that ‘freshness never tasted so good’ commercial, you’d have to make it yourself. So I decided to try to do just that. You can’t make Twinkies, of course, or Ding Dongs, Ho Hos or Hostess Cupcakes, because those are product names owned by ITT Continental Baking Co., Rye, N.Y. But you could make something rather like them, say Binkies, Bing Bongs, Bo Bos and Bostess Bupcakes.” Find out more of Sicherman’s variations on these favorite snacks in his book “Caramel Knowledge,” which is out of print, but available on

For cupcakes:

• 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate

• 1 c. milk, divided

• 1 c. brown sugar

• 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, divided

• 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, plus extra for cupcake tins

• 1 c. granulated sugar

• 1/4 c. water

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2 c. sifted cake flour

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1/2 tsp. salt

For filling:

• Raspberry jelly, optional

• 2 tsp. powdered sugar

• 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

• 1 1/2 c. heavy cream

For frosting:

• 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate

• 1 tbsp. butter

• 1/4 c. hot water

• 1/8 tsp. salt

• 1 3/4 to 2 c. powdered sugar, divided

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For decorative icing:

• 2 to 3 tsp. milk

• 3/4 c. powdered sugar


To prepare cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Liberally butter 24 cupcake tins.

Put 4 ounces chocolate, 1/2 cup milk, brown sugar and 1 egg yolk into a small saucepan over very low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until it has thickened. If it begins to boil, get it off the heat — it has cooked enough. Set mixture aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat 1 stick butter until it has softened. Sift in granulated sugar gradually, continuing to beat, until the butter-sugar mixture is light and creamy.

Separate the 2 whole eggs, putting the whites into a small mixing bowl. Beat the yolks, 1 at a time, into the butter-sugar mixture. In a cup, combine 1/4 cup water, the remaining 1/2 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Resift the sifted cake flour with the baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add to the butter mixture in thirds, alternating with thirds of the milk mixture. Beat the batter after each addition until it is smooth. Stir in the chocolate mixture and mix until well blended.

Clean the beaters thoroughly. In a medium bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg whites until they are stiff but still glossy. Stir a spatulaful of the whites into the chocolate batter to lighten it. Then lightly fold in the remaining whites, incorporating them well but gently.

Fill prepared cupcake tins just a little more than half full. Bake between 12 and 15 minutes, turning the tins once for even baking, and remove them, when a toothpick tests absolutely clean. If in doubt, give them an extra minute. They’ll tear if they’re not fully done. Remove from oven and allow them to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Run a knife around each cupcake, invert the tins and stand cupcakes right-side-up on a wire rack to cool.

When cupcakes are cool, use a sharp knife to slice off a bit of the top — a sliver about the size of a 25-cent piece. (Some cooks would take off the whole top, but this will show later, and is most un-Hostess-like). Save the slivers; we’ll be using them.

Using a teaspoon, carefully scoop out a nice chunk of the inside of each cupcake, but leave plenty of bottom and sides intact — both for strength and because it makes the cupcake taste good. This stuff is good enough, in fact, that you should save the scooped-out parts. (Put some in a bowl with milk or cream sometime. Great.)

Let the scooped-out cupcakes cool completely. If you like, you can depart from the standard Bostess Bupcake by putting a dab of raspberry jelly into each of the Bupcake cavities before you fill them with whipped cream. It’s not authentic, but it’s delicious.

To prepare filling: In a medium bowl, stir 2 teaspoons powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in the heavy cream. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat until mixture is very stiff. With a spoon or spatula, press the cream into the cooled cupcakes and more or less level off the tops.

Reposition a removed sliver of cupcake top back onto each Bupcake. (Without it, the cream would make the frosting hard to spread.)

Put the cupcakes into the refrigerator while you prepare the frosting.

To prepare frosting: In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt 2 ounces chocolate and 1 tablespoon butter together. Add 1/4 cup hot water and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Sift in about half (1 cup) of the powdered sugar, stirring. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and then, while stirring, sift in as much of the rest of the powdered sugar as is needed to make a reasonably thick frosting.

Frost the cupcakes rapidly, before the frosting hardens. Return them to the refrigerator while you make the decorative icing.

To prepare decorative icing: You can, of course, buy the icing for the decoration in little plastic tubes at the grocery store, but it’s not any work to make it yourself. In a medium bowl, stir 2 to 3 teaspoons milk into 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Transfer the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a tiny tip, or cut the corner off a small plastic bag and fill the bag with icing.

You can make the decoration any way you want it, of course, or you could even skip it. The Hostess Cupcake is decorated with a line of loops. Here a wavy line is used, just in case Hostess has a trademark on the line of loops.

They must be kept refrigerated and are best if allowed to warm up for a half an hour or so before serving.