Baked Sunday Mornings: Brooksters

I first became aware of the Brookster on my second pilgrimage to BAKED in Brooklyn, during June 2011. This is my all-time favorite bakery, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit for the past three summers. Every year there are new delights to behold; that summer, the glorious, yet unpretentious, Brooksters were piled proudly on a cake stand. A chocolate chip cookie filling nestled in a brownie shell– so simple, but absolutely genius. I’m fairly certain that a tiny rainbow sparkled over them.

As I have on each visit, I ordered several treats– most to box up neatly for the journey home to California, and a couple to enjoy at the bakery. I happily sat down with my goodies and savored each bite; I could hardly contain my giddy excitement for the Sweet & Salty Cupcake before me (which was utterly divine, by the way). When I was done, I surveyed the contents of my box of treasures and was alarmed to realize that my precious Brookster was missing! I thought back carefully… Among the list of items I had rattled off to the young man taking my order, I am quite sure that I said ‘Brookster’. I glanced at the cake stand, which was now… EMPTY. Tragically, between the time I had placed my order and the moment I noticed the conspicuous absence of that sugary jewel, they had sold out. My heart, it was sad. *cue violin music*

Then came the Williams-Sonoma Brooksters boxed mix. There they were, staring at me from that gorgeous, glossy box every time I cruised the baking section. I was often tempted to buy it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it… I understand that some people use boxed mixes, and I don’t begrudge anyone their Duncan Hines; but for me, it just wasn’t a good life choice.

Fast-forward one summer. This past June, I was lucky enough to visit again, and this time I was bound and determined to come home with a Brookster in tow. I am pleased to say that my mission was successful! Unfortunately it was a couple of days old by the time I was able to eat it, and although still delicious, it was a little dry. *sigh*

And so, with the recent publishing of BAKED’s third cookbook, BAKED Elements, I am thrilled to have the recipe for Brooksters in my hot little hands. I am also really excited to join Baked Sunday Mornings, a group of bloggers who are baking their way through all three of the cookbooks. The Brooksters recipe is the first to be tackled from the new book this weekend– rejoice!

In addition to the Brooksters mix, Williams-Sonoma also sells a Brooksters pan, so you can make six little “pies” in the perfect Brookster shape and size. Now, my collection of cake pans is already fairly absurd by normal people’s standards… but I won’t lie, I’m always happy to have a reason for a new type of pan. 😉 I was hesitant to try it, because the pan is made of a somewhat dark metal; the recipe includes instructions for baking in a cupcake pan if you want to make smaller ones, and it specifically says not to use a dark metal pan because it would overbake the edges. I wasn’t sure if this would apply to the regular-sized Brooksters pan, but I hoped that if they made the pan that color, it would bake them fine. I just love the pie shape of the originals, so I decided to take the chance. Besides, I can make all sorts of baby pies in that pan! (Good justification for a new pan, no?)

The recipe is pretty straight forward and not terribly difficult; however, it takes some planning ahead because there are several steps and a few hours of chilling time. I first made the chocolate chip cookie dough, followed by the brownie batter, both of which need to go in the fridge for three hours to thicken and firm up before baking. You then form the cookie dough into disks and press one into the middle of each portion of brownie batter. Everything seemed fine up until this point…

The prescribed baking time is 20-25 minutes at 375°F. My little guys were already quite browned after 15 minutes, so I took them out. They smelled amazing— impatient hands were rather anxious to crack one open! However… my Brookster hopes were dashed once again. They were RAW inside. I mean, oozing, dripping, downright raw. I suspect that the dark pan was, in fact, the culprit. I probably should have reduced the oven temperature to account for the dark pan, which tends to cook the outsides too quickly. Although my first attempt was disappointing, don’t think for a minute that I didn’t sample one! Despite the raw centers, I must say that it was freaking DELICIOUS. I fully intend to try again tomorrow, with an adjustment to the heat… To be continued.

One thing I want to mention about the brownie batter: BAKED makes the very best brownies I’ve ever had in my life, the recipe for which is in their first book, and will probably end up on this blog at some point. They are perfectly dark, fudgy, and dense, and they give me goosebumps whenever I think about them. In that recipe, there is a specific note about the temperature of the eggs– they MUST be at room temperature. On occasion I have forgotten to warm up the eggs and accidentally put them in cold… big mistake. They will not be properly incorporated into the batter, and you will end up with a) greasy, gloppy batter consistency, b) crumbly/cakey texture in the finished brownies, and worst of all c) weird white blobs or streaks in the brownies. The first time it happened, I had no idea what these white things were, and it finally dawned on me that they were bits of unmixed egg whites. Why is this relevant to Brooksters, you ask? The recipe for the brownie shells is very similar to the original brownie recipe, and it calls for the eggs to be at room temperature. Though there is not a specific note about it in the Brooksters recipe, I suspect that it is very important to the success of these brownies too.

So my woeful Brookster saga continues, but I shall not give up, oh no! I am determined to produce perfect Brooksters– it will happen. 🙂 These are so fun and unique, and I’m looking forward to trying some variations on the traditional chocolate chip cookie/brownie combination once I get the basic one down. By the way, you will have a ton of leftover cookie dough, which you can bake up when you’re done– bonus!

You can find the recipe for Brooksters at Baked Sunday Mornings, and check out the blogs from other bakers who participated this week. I look forward to more “challenges” in the near future!

UPDATE: Well, the second batch of Brooksters is done, and the results are mixed. I had high hopes that reducing the baking temperature would solve the raw-center problem (possibly caused by the dark pan), but it only helped marginally. Whereas yesterday’s batch was literally oozing out in the middle, this time they were gooey/doughy, but did not actually ooze; this was an almost acceptable Brookster interior. I baked them at 340°F for 24 minutes, and they looked very promising initially. They started to brown quickly after about 20 minutes, so I decided to pull them out a few minutes later to avoid burning around the edges, despite the centers appearing somewhat raw. They looked very similar in color to the first batch. However, where there was a slight improvement on the inside, there was a small setback on the outside. These ones were much more puffy on top during baking and when cooled; the brownie shells on the first batch were flatter, as they should be. The second batch had an almost domed top at first and then sank more in the middle than the first ones. Overall, I would say the second batch was more pleasing to eat, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. I would like to achieve the look of Batch #1 and improve the interior of Batch #2 just slightly. I’m fairly certain that the dark pan played a significant role here, so I hope to find light-colored mini pie pans eventually and try again. For now, they are definitely good enough to eat and enjoy!

UPDATE #2: Third time’s the charm! I still had plenty of cookie dough left over after the second attempt, and I was able to find light-colored mini pie pans, so I decided to give the Brooksters another go. My initial suspicion was correct: the dark-colored Brooksters pan caused them to bake too quickly on the exterior, while the middles were raw. Since the new pie dishes were individual pans, I was able to experiment with oven temperature and baking time. I baked half of them at 375°F and half at 350°F, and took them out at various times between 20-28 minutes, covering one with foil. The best one overall was baked for 25 minutes at 375°F (which is what the recipe says), though the top was a little darker than I would like. The interior was rather lovely– underbaked just a smidge. The one baked for 25 minutes at 350°F was a pleasant dark golden brown, but the interior was a little too gooey. I may still tweak it slightly next time, but I’m pretty pleased at this point. They were all still a little domed on top like the last batch, but I’m going to let that go. Conclusion: Dark pan = BAD. Brooksters = YUM!!

© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.

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20 Responses

  1. I loved your blog! And even more so, because you and I have a very similar design.. I think Stellina Sweets and Neufangled Desserts are sister and brother blogs! Haha! Nice writing style, photos, and overall thought flow. Welcome to Baked Sunday Mornings! I just joined last week and so far, am really enjoying it. I’m jealous that you have actually been to Baked. I have yet to make the ‘pilgrimage’.

    I had the same issue, too, with under-baked, gooey centers. I don’t think it’s the pan – I think it’s chilling the doughs. It’s an essential point, but it also means that the dough takes much longer to warm up, and the outside part of the dough is the first to warm and bake. Therefore – browned edges and unbaked centers. It’s a tricky recipe. I tried it two times. If you get good results, you’ll have to share your secrets, Good luck, and welcome!

    1. I saw your blog too and noticed the similarities. Great minds?! Thank you for your kind words! I really enjoyed your writing as well, and I had similar experiences (will comment directly on your blog page). Yes, I highly recommend visiting the bakery if you find yourself in the New York vicinity– it’s pretty amazing!

      It looks a lot of people had the raw-center issue– glad it wasn’t just me! I think it does have to do with the pan because dark pans absorb a lot of heat (thereby cooking the exteriors too quickly), rather than reflect it. (Major fail on Williams-Sonoma’s part for making a dark pan…) Mine were only in the oven for 15 minutes. I’m making them again, and I’m going to reduce the oven temperature to 350F, possibly even 325F, so they can stay in the oven longer– I think that will make a big difference. I think you make an excellent point about the chilling time too. I’m considering taking them out of the fridge a little early… We shall see what happens! Like you said, good thing there was so much extra cookie dough!

  2. You’re lucky to have been to Baked! We’re going to NYC next month & I’m hoping to visit them.

    I think your Brooksters look just right. We’re excited to have you join us!

  3. Super jealous that you have visited Baked, not once, but three times! I wanted to visit when I was in NYC last summer but didn’t make it. It’s a definite on the to do list for the next trip.

    I found these browned too quickly as well.

    1. I just HAD to go… and then I HAD to keep coming back for more. 🙂 Also a must on your next trip: Momofuku Milk Bar. They are seriously mind-blowing. My second batch is in the oven now… Keeping my fingers crossed!!

  4. What a bummer, your Brooksters do look perfect! At least I’m feeling better about not spending the money on the Williams-Sonoma Brookster pan (I had also briefly thought about justifying a purchase because the pan could be used for mini-pies!). 🙂

    1. Yeah, I’m wondering if it was a bad investment. I went to get the pan the other day and decided against it, but I really love the shape and size of the pies (so many possibilities!), so I went back to WS yesterday and bought one. I’m hoping the reduction in temperature will make a big difference…

  5. Oh man, I visit Baked when I’m on the East coast too! It’s really worth the trip to Red Hook.

    I haven’t tried the boxed Brooksters mix – I have the same reservations about using a box mix (especially one that costs $16). But I tried the brownie and the blondie ones – and let me tell you, they’re fantastic. No weird ingredients, and they don’t taste anything like grocery store boxed mixes. I now keep a box in the pantry for baking emergencies. 🙂

    1. Yes, it really is– the place is amazing!! It’s nice to be able to see what the treats are “supposed” to look like in real life. It’s good to know that the BAKED mixes are so good. Perhaps I’ll keep it in mind, but like you said, $16 is mighty pricey…

      Have you been to Momofuku Milk Bar in NYC? That’s my other favorite book to bake from. VERY different from BAKED, and also fantastic. 🙂

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