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Shirley Fan’s Box Office Brownies and Happy Hours

After kindly answering our questions on Friday, Shirley Fan shared two delightfully mail-able recipes from “The Flying Brownie” (Goodreads | Amazon) with us. BRB, cooking down an India Pale Ale and eating “1/4 cup candy-coated peanut butter candy pieces” right out of the bag to eliminate the middle-man.


Inspired by bar snacks and drinks, these sweet and salty bites are the perfect treat to send to anyone who likes to kick back with a cold one after work. Try a variety of beers to see which ones you like best, since they can impart varying levels of bitterness or richness to the caramel. These caramels keep for 1 month.

Makes 64 caramels


2 cups mini pretzels (about 40 pretzels)
3/4 cup Beer Nuts or lightly salted peanuts
1 (12-ounce) bottle brown ale, India pale ale, or stout
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


1. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving extra for overhang. Scatter the pretzels and nuts over the bottom of the pan; set aside.

2. Pour the beer into a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan and let it sit until flat, about 30 minutes.

3. Bring the beer to a boil over medium-high heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 20 to 25 minutes.

4. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the beer reduction, cream, sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 245°F, 10 to 12 minutes. Quickly pour the caramel into the prepared pan and allow the mixture to cool completely, about 2 hours.


While these brownies don’t include buttered popcorn, movie buffs and candy lovers will appreciate this treat that’s made with the boxed candy found at movie theater concessions. Pack them up in a food-safe tin and send them with a pair of movie passes or some DVDs of past Oscar winners. They will keep for 5 days.

Makes 16 brownies


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup chocolate-covered raisins
1/4 cup chocolate-covered peanuts
1/4 cup nonpareil-coated chocolates
1/4 cup candy-coated peanut butter candy pieces


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan or line with parchment paper; set aside.

2. Put the butter and chocolate in a medium-size heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and melt the ingredients together, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the heat. Add the sugar and salt and mix to combine; set aside to begin cooling. While the mixture is still slightly warm, add the eggs, one at a time, stirring after each one to incorporate fully, and then add the vanilla. Fold in the flour and cocoa, and mix until there are no streaks.

3. Fold half of the candy into the brownie batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and then scatter the remaining candy on top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out mostly clean (some crumbs are okay), about 30 minutes.

4. Let the brownies cool in the pan before slicing into 16 squares. Wrap the bars individually with waxed or parchment paper or plastic wrap, seal with tape, and pack in a zipper-top plastic bag or other container. Alternatively, layer unwrapped bars in an airtight container, separating the layers with waxed or parchment paper.

Recipes © 2013 by Shirley Fan and used by permission of The Harvard Common Press


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