Brownies are a busy baker's best friend. They can be mixed in one bowl, poured into a pan and baked in no time at all. Given both the hours I work and the amount of time I have to bake, brownies are a crucial part of my baking therapy. You can fit them in almost any time.
Unlike many other sweets that require being exact in ingredients, brownies are a little more forgiving about "add in" ingredients. I've been known to add chocolate liqueur in lieu of or in addition to vanilla as well as chocolate extract, Kahlua, etc. You can also dress up a plain brownie with chopped up candy bars, chunks of chocolate, M&Ms, Rolos, Snickers - you name it, it can probably be added. Don't go wild though as the beauty of the brownie is its simplicity and you don't want to lose its richness by adding too much other stuff. I added plain M&Ms to this recipe. Peanut M&Ms would've been too big and the softness of the texture of these brownies would've been overwhelmed by anything bigger than the plain M&Ms.
Most brownie recipes call for nuts to be added to the batter. As previously stated, I am diametrically opposed to nuts in my brownies and other baked goods. If they're layered on top, they might be okay but inside the batter? That's just wrong. Brownies tend to have a higher proportion of chocolate so it's crucial to use good quality chocolate. Your brownies are only as good as the ingredients you put in.
The most common mistake people make with brownies is they bake them too long. They wait until the toothpick comes out "clean". No, no, no. Did I mention "no"? By the time your toothpick comes out clean, your brownie is likely overbaked and possibly dry. Since most brownies have a high proportion of chocolate compared to the rest of the ingredients, it's okay to err on the side of underbaking them. The chocolate will "set" as it cools. Some people like their brownies fudgy, others like them cakey. I belong in the fudgy camp. If I wanted cakey brownies, I'd make a chocolate cake. Some people mistake my brownies for fudge. I'm okay with that. There's a fine line between the two anyway.
Lots of people like the brownie edges and they even make an Edge pan for those who only like the edges http://www.amazon.com/Bakers-Edge-Nonstick-Brownie-Pan/dp/B000MMK448/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1254363324&sr=8-1
That would NOT be for me. I like the middles. They're generally more moist and chocolatey. I give the edges to other people.
I tried a new recipe last night - Bittersweet Brownies from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours. It's a fantastic book and I highly recommend it for even the most novice bakers. So far all the recipes I've tried from it have turned out pretty well. The original recipe called for the brownies to be thin and baked in a 9 x 13 pan. I'm almost as opposed to thin brownies as I am to nuts in brownies. Thin brownies? Are you kidding? Thin should only be applied to my weight loss goals. Thin doesn't belong with brownies. I compensated by baking them in a smaller pan so, while they weren't really thick, at least they weren't thin. Some brownies are so rich that you probably don't want them too thick. In that case, just cut them smaller. But don't make them thin.
I brought these into work today for a few meetings and I passed out the leftovers amongst some of my coworker friends. Ran into one of them, Rick, after I'd passed out the last brownie and I had to confess they were gone. That earned me a searing look and the declaration from Rick of "You're dead to me!" LOL. Guess Rick likes brownies too. Fortunately for him, Albie saved the day and shared one of the ones I had given her. Maybe next time, Rick, I'll bring you your own. Maybe.