Friday, September 30, 2016

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies {Family Size}

Dense, fudge-y brownies with rich chocolate flavor and shiny, crackly tops. This is true brownie perfection.

Land O'Lakes asked me to share my recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Brownie Bites (I'm sharing it tomorrow!) so I figured I should share my brownie recipe first.

My search for perfect homemade brownies started years ago. But I could never find a recipe that topped slightly under-baked brownie-mix brownies. So I kept going back to brownie mixes, made with melted butter, mind you.

Then a brownie recipe in a cookbook caught my attention and I decided once again to give homemade brownies a try. The resulting brownies had enough potential that I was encouraged to keep trying. Roughly two dozen tweaks later, I arrived at true brownie perfection.

At least for me. Everyone has their preferred type of brownie. Some like cake-like brownies with frosting. I die for dense, fudge-y brownies with rich chocolate flavor and shiny, crackly tops. And that's exactly what you'll get with Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies.

This is a family size recipe – as in, it makes a 9 x 13 or 10 x 15 pan. I've wrote before that I see no point whatsoever in making an 8 x 8 or 9 x 9 pan of bars. Even if you're baking for a small household, make the 9 x 13 pan and give the extras away. Nobody ever turns down a gift of homemade brownies. If you absolutely insist on baking less, this recipe can easily be cut in half.

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies are classic, saucepan brownies, but with three types of chocolate (well, two chocolates and lots of cocoa) these brownies are the best I've ever tasted. Don't worry, though, there's no fancy chocolate in these brownies – you probably have all of the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry right now.

The recipe for Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies starts where all good recipes do – with Land O Lakes butter.

Melt the butter in a medium or large saucepan – at least 3-quarts.

Once the butter is melted, add some chocolate chips and whisk it all together until the chocolate chips are melted.

Then add the sugar. From here on out, every ingredient gets whisked in vigorously before the next ingredient is added.

Whisk in the eggs. I add an egg, whisk it in, then add the next egg, and so on.

You'll also whisk in the vanilla, salt, and milk.

Then comes the cocoa powder. I love everything about cocoa powder except the ginormous mess it can make in the kitchen. So I use this little hack to make measuring cocoa less messy. Cut the paper seal in half with a sharp knife, then peel half of it off, leaving the other half in place. I can fit my ¼ cup measuring cup inside the container, so I scoop up the cocoa powder and level it off against the remaining seal. This works WAAAAYYYY better than trying to dump cocoa powder into a measuring cup.

Anyway, whisk in the cocoa powder. I know you're thinking, "This is a lot of cocoa powder..." But, trust me, it's what gives Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies the most intense chocolate flavor ever found in a brownie.

Then whisk in the flour. Because there's not a lot of flour in these brownies, you can easily substitute a gluten-free flour blend to make these brownies gluten free. A good friend of mine has celiac disease, so I make them this way for her.

By this point, your bicep and shoulder will be wondering how much more whisking is necessary. A little bit more. After the flour is completely incorporated, vigorously whisk the batter for 30 seconds more.

Now you can put your whisk away. Grab a sturdy spoontula (or spatula or spoon) and stir in the miniature chocolate chips. You have a choice with the miniature chocolate chips that can take these brownies in two different directions.

The full 2 cups of miniature chocolate chips will make these brownies unbelievably fudge-y. This is how I make them most of the time, because we just carve them up and eat them right out of the pan.

Using 1 cup of miniature chocolate chips will yield brownies that are a little bit chewier, a fair bit easier to remove from the pan, and easier to cut into nice neat squares. I make the brownies this way when I'm planning to gift them or if I'm making them in my handy-dandy brownie pan (the kind that makes 12 individual brownies, so that everyone gets a corner piece).

Both versions taste amazing.

[Pretend this is a picture of me stirring in the pecans.
I forgot to snap one. My brain has been a little overloaded 
with farm happenings and back-to-school. I'll snap 
a pic the next time I make brownies and add it.]

If you like nuts in your brownies, go ahead and add some chopped pecans. Your bicep and shoulder should really dislike you now – this brownie batter is pretty thick when it's finished.

[Pretend this is me spreading the batter in a baking pan.]

Once you've got the chocolate chips and pecans (if using) all mixed in, spread the batter into a baking pan. You can use a 9 x 13 or 10 x 15 baking pan. I usually use a 10 x 15 silicone-coated bar pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

After a half-hour or so in the oven, you'll be able to test your willpower by waiting for the brownies to cool. Or at least waiting for them to cool enough to eat.

Once you taste Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies, I swear you'll never go back to brownie mixes again. These are so worth the little bit of extra effort it takes to make them.

Plus, after you've made them a couple times, you'll have the recipe memorized and be able to make them in your sleep – or at least when you're half-asleep.

Just be sure to have a big glass of milk on hand to wash them down. Or, even better, serve them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownies {Family Size}

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 35 minutes
Makes: 9 x 13 (or 10 x 15) pan of brownies


1 cup Land O Lakes® Butter (2 sticks)
1⅓ cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
1 cup cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 or 2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips (see note below)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray a 9 x 13 (or 10 x 15) baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium or large saucepan (at least 3-quart) over medium heat, melt butter. Add 1⅓ cups chocolate chips to melted butter, whisking until butter and chips are well combined. Remove pan from heat.

Whisk in, one at a time, until completely incorporated, the sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt, milk, cocoa powder, and flour. After flour is mixed in, whisk vigorously for an extra 30 seconds. Then, using a spoon or sturdy spatula, stir in miniature chocolate chips and pecans, if using.

NOTE: For extra fudge-y brownies that you plan to just eat out of the pan, use 2 cups of miniature chocolate chips. For chewier brownies that can be easily removed from pan and cut into neat squares, use 1 cup of miniature chocolate chips.

Spread brownie batter in prepared pan. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until center of pan has risen slightly and top of brownies is shiny and starting to crack.

Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Serve with a big glass of milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative farmer-owner. I DID NOT receive compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own. Land O Lakes and the Indian Maiden brandmark are registered trademarks of Land O’Lakes, Inc.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Sharing dairy at the fair [Dairy Star Column]

It all started with a simple question.

We were standing next to the Butterhead Carving Booth in the Dairy Building at the Minnesota State Fair. Monika was gazing, her nose almost pressed into the glass, as Linda Christensen carved a dairy princess's likeness into a block of butter. She was still beaming from meeting Princess Kay of the Milky Way Haley Hinrichs.

Dan and Daphne were finishing the last spoonfuls of their ice cream treats. Glen and I were visiting with a couple of fellow dairy farmers.

There was another family sitting nearby - a mom and dad and two boys - finishing their malts and sundaes. That's when the other mom caught my attention and asked, "What is this place called?"

She was sharing a post on Instagram about how much they liked their treats and wanted to get the name of the Dairy Goodness Bar right.

I told her the name and suggested that she tag Midwest Dairy and the Minnesota State Fair in the photo. She said she had never tagged anyone in a post, so I showed her how. While I was helping her, the older son figured out that we were dairy farmers. The boy, who is about Dan's age and equally talkative, started peppering us with questions about living on a farm. Before long, Dan and the boy were caught up in conversation like long lost friends.

A couple minutes later, our family and theirs were both ready to move onto our next fair destination. They were going to the midway to find the rides. We were going to the poultry barn to see the chickens and rabbits.

"Can we walk together?" the oldest son asked.

The mom and I looked at each other, shrugged a little, and said, "Why not?"

That's how we found ourselves walking down Judson Avenue, trying to keep two families with two strollers together as we wove our way through the crowd of fairgoers.

As we walked, we talked. Dan and the oldest son volleyed between questions about farm life and questions about Pokémon. The mom and I talked about dairy farming and our families. The family of four was visiting the Minnesota State Fair for only the second time, after living abroad for several years and then moving to the Twin Cities a couple years ago.

I think Glen and the other dad were left wondering how on earth this random, instant connection actually just happened.

The conversations continued into the poultry barn. The other family hadn't planned to visit the barns because of one son's asthma, but they decided a short visit into the barn would probably be all right.

So there we were, standing between the chickens and the rabbits, when the real questions started.

[Read the rest of this column in the Dairy Star.]

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

If you died today [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

At the urging of a good friend, I started listening to podcasts while traveling. If you’re looking for a way to make your next road trip thought-provoking instead of mind numbing, a good podcast will do just that.

One of the last podcast episodes I listened to had me thinking so hard that I missed my exit. And I’m still thinking about it now. Specifically, there was one line in the podcast that hijacked my attention: “I might die today.”

At first blush, the thought is a bit morbid (pun intended). Taken in context, it’s not quite so bad. The podcast creator is talking about how we, as humans, tend to fear death and run from our mortality. He encourages listeners to instead embrace mortality as a reminder to carefully use our finite time on earth.

So I’ve found myself thinking, both casually and intently, about mortality. As a farmer, mortality probably isn’t such a bad thing to ruminate on. Farming is still one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Perhaps considering our mortality might help us remember to be a little more careful around equipment and animals.

And perhaps considering our mortality might motivate us to better plan for the unthinkable. If you died today...

[Read the rest of this post in the Hoard's Dairyman Notebook.]

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Do you pay your kids? [Dairy Star Column]

By the time most of you read this, my kids will be back in school. I always approach the start of the school year with a mixture of dread and relief. Dread because I know I will miss my children. Relief because Dan and Monika are starting to get on each other's nerves and the bickering drives me crazy.

This year, my conflicting thoughts are dwelling on another realization: We're losing our helpers.

This summer, we gave Dan and Monika their first real farm chores. They've been helping with a variety of chores since they could walk, but this summer, we turned responsibility over to them for some of our daily barn chores.

Their jobs were relatively small - scraping the walk, cleaning stalls and putting fresh shavings down - but their help was definitely noticed. And the responsibility did a lot to improve their work ethic.

There were days when it would have been quicker to do the chores ourselves. But, we want our kids to understand the importance of finishing the job and doing it well. We also want our kids to learn how to communicate and work together in a work environment.

I was chatting with a couple of farmers recently about kids and chores when the topic of payment came up.

"So, do you pay your kids?" one of the farmers asked.

[Read the rest of this column in the Dairy Star.]