Baked Goods Fail: Midnight Chocolate Brownie Bites

It's always disappointing when a baked goods project doesn't turn out as well as I had hoped. If I can pinpoint a weakness in the recipe, or an avoidable error on my part, at least I can learn something from the experience. But the absolute worst is when I just can't figure out what the heck went wrong. Last week I decided to bake a batch of Midnight Chocolate Brownie Bites, a fudgy orange-flavored brownie that I've made a few times before, always with excellent results. Nothing seemed amiss, until I pulled the pan out of the oven at the end of the baking time. Some sort of liquid was bubbling on the top surface of the brownies, a completely bizarre sight. When the brownies cooled, the top surface was deeply cratered and completely hideous. Tom commented that they looked a little like charcoal.

I played everything back in my head and could not identify anything I had done wrong in making the brownies. I had committed to bringing some baked goods to a work event the next day, so I had no choice but to give the recipe another try. I mixed up another batch of batter, put the pan in the oven, and kept my fingers crossed. This batch came out perfectly, fudgy and rich with orange flavor, and with completely smooth tops.

Tom and I tried the charcoal batch of brownies, and they were not terrible, but the texture was all wrong. They were tough, whereas the second batch was creamy and smooth. The charcoal brownies ended up in the circular file.

I still don't know what the heck went wrong with the first batch of brownies, but inexplicably, it happened again over the weekend when I tried this recipe a third time and ended up with liquid bubbling on the surface and another batch of charcoal. I refuse to abandon this recipe because it's so tasty, but I really hope that I can figure out what is going wrong so that I can end up with more brownies on the serving platter and fewer in the trash can.

Recipe: Midnight Chocolate Brownie Bites from the Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2008.

Previous Post: "A Mysterious Midnight Bite," July 8, 2008.