Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Allure of Miniature

I have a theory that almost everything is better / cuter in miniature version.  I think this is why we love babies and puppies.  And why I’m intrigued by the Mini Cooper and Smart Cars.  But in the area of food, I think this is noted best.  I definitely prefer baby carrots over the original size.  I love me some cheesecake bites, mini quiche, brownie bites, little smokies, baklava cups, etc.  I could go on & on.  I’m not sure what the allure is, other than the fact that you can make all these things in a smaller size and thus, sample more things.  I’m a big fan of my Pampered Chef mini muffin pan with which I make many mini treats like bite-size lemon tartlets.  And the mini tart shaper that I use for making those plus mini ham puffs and brownie bites.  And the small cookie scoop that is the perfect size for measuring out the right amount of dough for brownie bites or filling for the mini ham puffs.  (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Pampered Chef has these three items linked – if you click on one, it will lead you to another, which leads you to another.)  These aren’t essentials for the average cook.  But if you’re excited about making things in miniature like me, you might want to invest in such things.

 Tuxedo Brownie Cups 

1 pkg (19-21 oz) fudge brownie mix (plus ingredients to make cake-like brownies)
2 squares (1 oz each) white chocolate for baking (opt)
2 T milk (opt)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
¼ C powdered sugar
1 C Cool Whip
Sliced fresh strawberries, nuts, chocolate chips or other berries for topping

Spray mini-muffin pan with cooking spray or use mini muffin paper/foil liners.  Prepare brownie mix according to package directions for cake-like brownies.  Using small cookie scoop, place 1 level scoop of batter in each cup, filling cups 2/3 full.  Bake 14 min at 325 degrees or until edges are set.  Do not overbake.  Remove pan to cooling rack.  Immediately press tops of brownies with mini tart shaper to make indentations.  Cool in pan 15 min.  Loosen edges and gently remove brownies from pan.  Cool completely.  Wash pan & repeat with remaining batter.  (Optional: microwave white chocolate & milk (uncovered) on high for 1 minute; stir until smooth.)  In a large mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese and powdered sugar; mix well.  (Optional: Stir white chocolate mix into cream cheese mix until smooth.  You can leave this out if you aren’t a big white chocolate flavor fan & it will still be delicious.)  Fold in Cool Whip.  Pipe cream cheese mixture into cooled brownie cups.  (I use Pampered Chef’s Easy Accent Decorator, but any cake decorating products will work.)  Arrange desired toppings on top of brownie cups.  Place in airtight container & refrigerate 1-3 hours before serving.  Makes 4 dozen.

Tips: You can make the brownie cups ahead of time, up to a day prior.  But the cream cheese filling becomes too firm when refrigerated & can’t be piped with a decorator if you make it ahead. 

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