The ‘Brownie Queen’ helps us make crowd-pleasing desserts

Sheila G. Mains is called the “Brownie Queen” for a reason. After she was laid off from her job in 1992, she went back to baking, something she had enjoyed doing with her grandmother. The rest is history.

Sheila’s signature brownies were a hit and her beloved Brownie Brittle™ took the snack world by storm, with more than 35 million bags sold in the past year.

We spoke with Sheila to find how she became a self-made success and a role model to women, bakers and dreamers everywhere.

She also shared with us some of her favorite recipes from her first cookbook, Butter & Chocolate!

Pumpkin Pie with Brownie Brittle Crust

This recent addition to our family’s holiday fare was a H-U-G-E hit! It’s spicy, sweet flavor and rich, creamy texture are what you’d expect from a much more complicated recipe. But it really is a breeze to make. Guess you could say it’s as easy as pie. And who doesn’t appreciate easy around the holidays? Or, pie for that matter!

Yield: 8 – 10 servings
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Brownie Brittle Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups BROWNIE BRITTLETM (one 5-ounce bag = 1 cup crushed) or chocolate wafers crushed in a food processor
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, melted

For the Pumpkin Filling:

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened
  • condensed milk

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. PREPARE THE BROWNIE BRITTLETM CRUST: Mix the crushed BROWNIE BRITTLETM with the melted butter. Press the crumb mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes and set aside to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F.
  3. PREPARE THE PUMPKIN FILLING: Combine the pumpkin, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan. Stir and cook over low heat for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Set aside and allow to cool.
  4. Beat the eggs thoroughly in a bowl and then mix in the sweetened condensed milk. Add the cooled pumpkin and spice mixture to the egg mixture and blend thoroughly.
  5. Pour the pumpkin filling into the crust and bake for 15 minutes.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake an additional 35 minutes or until center appears to be set.
  7. Allow the pie to cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Cherry Brownie Bonbons

Is there a better marriage of flavors than cherry and chocolate? Nope! And this recipe brings these soul mates together in a bitter-and-sweet fusion of semisweet and dark chocolate plus maraschino cherries. Fall in love with dessert all over again.

Yield: 32 bonbons
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Special Equipment: Small scoop

Ingredients:

For the Brownie Batter:

  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet
  • chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon 100% baking cocoa
  • 1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries

For the Dark Chocolate Dip:

  • 2 cups (12 ounces) dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vegetable shortening or coconut oil

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch pan and set aside.
  2. PREPARE THE BROWNIE BATTER: Microwave the chocolate chips and butter in microwave-safe bowl on high for 30 seconds; remove and stir. Return to the microwave if not thoroughly melted, and microwave in 15-second intervals until smooth and creamy.
  3. Use an electric mixer set on the lowest speed or a spatula to mix together eggs, vanilla, and sugar in a separate bowl. Blend egg mixture into the melted chocolate mixture. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa and mix well by hand or using lowest setting on mixer. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until slightly underbaked. Set aside to cool.
  4. Drain the cherries, reserving 2 tablespoons of the liquid. Cut cherries into quarters and set aside.
  5. Remove the cooled brownie from pan and trim away the crisp edges. Put the brownie in a large a mixing bowl (it’s okay if it breaks into pieces) and add 1 tablespoon of cherry juice. Mix thoroughly using an electric mixer until the consistency is pliable enough to form small balls. Mix in remaining tablespoon of cherry juice, if needed.
  6. Fill half of a small scoop with brownie mixture. Place a piece of cherry in the center, and then fill the remainder of the scoop with the brownie mixture. Form into a small ball by hand, and repeat with rest of the brownie mixture and cherries. Freeze the bonbons for 30 minutes.
  7. PREPARE THE CHOCOLATE FOR DIPPING: Melt chocolate chips and 1/4 teaspoon of the shortening as per step 2. Stir in another 1/4 teaspoon of shortening if the chocolate mixture is too thick.
  8. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper. Dip chilled bonbons in the melted chocolate mixture and place them on the prepared baking sheet until chocolate sets. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Cookie Dough Brownie Bites

Here’s a riddle: What do you call a dollop of cookie dough hugged by fudgy brownie batter? Answer: Every mother’s dream dessert. That’s because this single-serving treat fits nicely in a lunchbox and features two kid favorites—chocolate and buttery, brown sugary cookie dough. Since this recipe makes 28 brownie bites, there are plenty to spare. Why not pack two so your child can share?

Yield: 28 pieces
Prep: 20 minutes
Bake: 12 minutes
Special Equipment: Mini muffin pan; small scoop

Signature Brownie recipe for 8 x 8-inch pan

Ingredients:

For the Raw Cookie Dough Filling:

  • 12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) salted
  • butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
  • 11/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 11/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the Semisweet Chocolate Drizzle:

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon vegetable shortening or coconut oil

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Prepare the signature brownie recipe according to directions. Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with the batter. Bake for 12 minutes, until muffins rise in the center, then fall, and edges begin to crisp. Remove the pan from the oven and indent the center of each brownie bite with a small round object, such as a soda bottle top. When the pan is warm to the touch, turn the mini bites gently to make sure they are not sticking to the sides. When cool, remove the mini bites by hand, or turn the pan over to release them.
  3. PREPARE THE RAW COOKIE DOUGH FILLING: Mix the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla, flour, and milk until smooth and creamy. Use a small scoop to measure portions of the cookie dough and place them on the indentation in the center of each cooled brownie bite.
  4. PREPARE THE SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE: Microwave the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl on high for 30 seconds; remove and stir. Return to the microwave if not thoroughly melted, and microwave in 15-second intervals until smooth and creamy. (Do not overheat or the chocolate will scorch.)
  5. Drizzle the chocolate topping over the top of each brownie bite.

Brownie Buckeye Cookies

What’s not to like about buckeyes—those small peanut butter balls surrounded by creamy milk chocolate? I’ll tell you: They’re labor intensive! So, one holiday season, when my to-do list outdistanced my time, I decided to create something quick and easy with the same terrific taste. These cookies take half as long to make as buckeyes, are less messy to eat, and deliver the same peanut buttery chocolate taste we all know and love. That first Christmas, no one even missed the buckeyes, and I had a few precious moments to myself to relax. P.S. I haven’t made traditional buckeyes since.

Yield: 15 cookies
Prep: 25 minutes
Bake: 11 minutes
Special Equipment: Large and small scoops

Ingredients:

For the Brownie Cookies:

  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet
  • chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon 100% baking cocoa

For the Peanut Butter Filling:

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (all-natural recommended)
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the Semisweet Chocolate Topping

  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon vegetable shortening or coconut oil

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a sheet pan and set aside.
  2. PREPARE THE BROWNIE COOKIES: Microwave chocolate chips and butter in microwave-safe bowl on high for 30 seconds; remove and stir. Return to the microwave if not thoroughly melted, and microwave in 15-second intervals until smooth and creamy.
  3. Use an electric mixer set on the lowest speed or spatula to mix together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar in a separate bowl. Blend the egg mixture into the melted chocolate mixture. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa, and mix thoroughly.
  4. Use a large scoop to measure portions of the batter onto the prepared sheet pan. Bake for 11 minutes, or until center is set and edges begin to crisp. Allow to cool completely.
  5. PREPARE THE PEANUT BUTTER FILLING: Mix together the peanut butter and confectioners’ sugar. Mix until blended.
  6. Use a small scoop to measure portions of the peanut butter filling and roll them into small balls by hand. Press a ball of the peanut butter filling into the center of each brownie cookie.
  7. PREPARE THE SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE TOPPING: Microwave the chocolate chips and shortening as per step 2.
  8. Scoop a tablespoon of the melted chocolate topping onto the center of the peanut butter mixture. Let cool for 15 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.

Signature Brownies

This recipe is the one that started my love affair with chocolate in general and brownies in particular. Handed down from my grandmother Rose to my mom, Hilda, and then on to me, it is the best brownie recipe ever. Why? Because it blends two chocolates: semisweet and cocoa powder. Most brownie recipes call for one or the other, rarely both, but the double dose of chocolate delivers a much more interesting flavor profile.

My Signature Brownies are dense, chocolatey, and rich enough to stand on their own. However, if your family simply has to have frosting, whip up your favorite from scratch or try my Cream Cheese Frosting recipe on page 30. Prefer a more cakelike brownie? Simply add an extra egg to the recipe for an 8 x 8-inch pan or two extra eggs to the 9 x 13-inch recipe.

Ingredients for 8×8-inch pan:

  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon 100% baking cocoa

Yield: 9 brownies
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes

Ingredients for 9×13-inch pan:

  • 3 cups (18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) salted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, heaping
  • 1 ½ tablespoons 100% baking cocoa

Yield: 24 brownies
Prep: 10 minutes
Bake: 30 minutes

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 x 8-inch or 9 x 13-inch pan and set aside.
  2. Microwave the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl on high for 30 seconds; remove and stir. Return to the microwave if not completely melted and microwave in 15-second intervals until smooth and creamy. (Do not overheat or the chocolate will scorch.)
  3. Mix together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar in a separate bowl using an electric mixer set on the lowest speed or a spatula. Blend the egg mixture into the melted chocolate mixture until well combined.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa to the chocolate mixture and mix well by hand or using the lowest setting on the mixer.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, until edges are crisp and the center is completely flat with a crackly surface.
  6. Cool completely, and then cut into 9 squares or 24 pieces, depending on the pan size. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.