In a recent blog, The Chocolate Cookie Detective, I told you of my journey to Maida Heatter’s Cookies in search of a long lost recipe. I found that cookie, but along the way in Maida Heatter’s Cookies there was more to consider. Much more. The sign of a really good cookbook is that you keep getting distracted by other recipes as you search for what you “want” at the time. But, but, you say to yourself, this other thing looks pretty good, too.

Or, very good. As big brownie fan — how many cookbooks devoted to just brownies do you have? — I saw a recipe that I had passed over decades ago. But this time was going to be different. You see, I do like my brownies hot out of the oven. Too hot to even frost. So, I’ll take a bite or two, let them cool and frost what is left in the morning. The good news there is that there is usually too much frosting now since some of the brownies are gone so the only responsible, green thing to do is to eat the left over frosting. I want to be environmentally correct.

These Denver brownies are special in that they have two frostings. Two chances to double or triple dip. Maida Heatter describes these brownies as fancy, bite-sized chocolate squares. They are quite fancy: a rich chocolate brownie made with honey is topped with a pure white frosting and then covered in a simple ganache. When cut and viewed from the side, the contrasts in colors are the best in black-and-white that you can imagine.

These cookies need to be refrigerated for the frostings to set correctly. Before you cut or eat them, do let them begin warming to room temperature. They are best when just slightly chilled.

The chocolate frosting calls for a mixture of butter and vegetable shortening. Don’t think you can just do all butter. That vegetable shortening is the secret to an impeccably smooth and shiny topping. Your brownies will resemble those from a world-ranking, TV-show-type, upscale bakery.

If you try these brownies, they are sure to make your “Top 10” list of brownies. You do have one of those, right?

Here’s the URL for the Chocolate Cookie Detective:

And here’s the brownie recipe.

Denver Brownies

Yield: 64 tiny brownies or 16 honest ones

Ingredients for the Brownies:

¾ cup shifted all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons water or black coffee
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces at room temperature
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
6 ounces (generous 1 ½ cups) walnuts or pecans cut into medium-size pieces
2 tablespoons bourbon, brandy or rum

Preparation of the Brownies:

Adjust a rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Prepare a 9-inch square cake pan as follows: turn the pan over and cover it with a 12-inch square of aluminum foil, shiny side down. Fold down the sides and the corner of the foil to shape it, remove the foil, the pan right side up, place the foil in the pan, and carefully press it into place. To butter the foil, put a piece of butter in the pan and place it in the oven to melt. Then brush it over the foil. Set the pan aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Place the honey, water or coffee, butter, and chocolate in a 2- to 3-quart sauce pan over moderate heat. Stir until the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove from the heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla and then the eggs, one at a time. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients and whisk vigorously with a wire whisk until smooth. Stir in the nuts.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Make sure to get the corners fully filled with batter.

Bake for about 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle just barely comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and brush the bourbon, brandy or rum over the hot cake.

Cool to tepid in the pan.

Cover the pan with a rack, turn over the pan and the rack, remove the pan and the foil, cover with another rack, and turn over again, leaving the cake right side up. Let stand to cool completely and then transfer to a small board.

Ingredients for the White Icing:

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Preparation of the White Icing:

In the small bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the vanilla and then gradually add the sugar, beating well until soft and fluffy.

Spread the white icing over the top of the cake. With a long narrow metal spatula, smooth top.


Ingredients for the Chocolate Icing [Ganache]:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preparation for the Chocolate Icing [Ganache]:

Place the chocolate, shortening, and butter in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted. Then uncover and stir until completely melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.

Pour in a thick ribbon all over the white icing, working quickly before the chilled white icing sets the chocolate. With a long narrow metal spatula, smooth the top.


To cut, the chocolate might be so firm that it cracks while you cut it. Either let it stand at room temperature briefly or score the cutting lines gently and carefully with a long serrated knife, and then cut through with a long, thin, knife cutting straight down, not back and forth. First trim the edges slightly, then cut the cake into eight 1-inch strips. With a small, sharp paring knife, cut each strip into 1-inch squares.

Place the brownies inn a single layer in a shallow covered box, or place them on a tray. Be sure the chocolate is firm and cover with plastic wrap.

These cookies are fragile and cannot be shipped or mailed.

Source: Maida Heatter’s Cookies