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An experiment in brownies

November 2, 2009

I’m a weird girl. I don’t normally go for chocolate. Give me the choice between a lifetime of only having Starbursts or chocolate available as my candy go-to, and I’ll take the Starbursts, hands down (mmm, pink Starburst candies rock my world).

With everything in life, there is an exception to the rule. And the exception to my chocolate rule is the brownie. One square or one entire pan, I’m good with either (though I prefer more than one).

I’ve always been a box-brownie girl, despite my love of all things homemade. My daddy always says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and I listen to my daddy. He’s a smart man.

My husband, on the other hand, always says, “Who cares if it’s broken? Break it down and build it back up. I’m sure I can improve it.” I usually sigh at this and indulge his tinkering nature. He’s a busy body, so sometimes tinkering is all that will make him happy. He usually does it out in his garage, though. Plus, he does usually improve things by rebuilding them.

Then Saturday came along, with me all helpless and banished to the couch for rest and recouperation, ordered to keep my germs out of the kitchen, lest I infect the other half of my family. Perfect time for a brownie craving, no? Especially when I have a recipe for homemade brownies I’ve been wanting to test out.

(Confession: The other part of my from-box brownie love is that it’s just so easy. Why make things harder than they need to be if they’re already delicious AND easy?)

My husband, despite all the guilting and teasing and hard-times he gives out when charged with nursing his sick wife, does a fabulous job of taking care of me. He does such a fabulous job that he agreed right away to making these brownies. It probably helps that he loves brownies, too.

The only things I can attest for regarding the cooking process is that the instructions are simple to follow (Rob does NOT do cooking except for all things grilled *insert manly grunt* and chocolate-chip cookies, which he has never forgiven me for screwing up that ONE time SIX YEARS AGO. Lesson learned: Do not mess with that man’s cookies.), and the batter tasted like it was sent directly from heaven.

The finished product, however, is what I can talk about. Meh. I’m disappointed. They are severely lacking the chocolatey goodness I expect from brownies. They’re actually a little bland. They’re so bland that I committed a blasphemous offense and frosted them with a can of chocolate frosting I had lurking in the pantry.

I hate frosted brownies. I’m not a fan of frosting in the first place. My pieces of cake resemble a picked-over carcass with what I lovingly call “cake bones” left behind – the majority of the frosting that couldn’t be scraped off and is still stuck to cake.

These brownies needed a chocolate boost, though, and so I frosted them. I wanted to cry when I mentally determined the frosting improved them.

The recipe was one I tore out from a Penzeys catalog. Don’t know Penzeys? You’re missing out. Thanks to my friend, Kristin, who introduced me to Penzeys, it’s where I now buy all my spices, herbs, vanilla extract, salt, pepper … well, I buy a lot of kitchen essentials there. The quality is insanely higher and the prices are much lower than what you find in the grocery store. Plus, you get free retail-sized samples all the time, either for ordering from home or bringing a coupon into the store. How can you go wrong? If you’re like me and unluckily don’t live near a retail store, order a free catalog. Did I mention the free samples?

Onto the recipe, in case you want to prove me wrong, in which case, you’ll have to defend your awesome brownies to Rob, which will lead to an argument over how you must have done it wrong and added a bit of magic he didn’t know about.

Merry Brownies (from one of last year’s holiday catalogs)
Very easy to make – a wonderful treat which children can easily help prepare and bake. Not to mention these chewy brownies stay moist for day, unlike some brownies which turn hard as a rock after 24 hours.*

1 Cup butter (2 sticks)
12 TB. (3/4 Cup) Cocoa, natural or Dutch process
2 Cups sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2-4 eggs (each added egg makes the brownies richer but also higher in calories/fat)
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1/2 Cup powdered sugar to sift on top of brownies (optional)**

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9″x13″ glass pan. Melt butter in a small pan over low heat, then sift in cocoa and whisk until smooth. Pour into a large mixing bowl, let cool. Add sugar and pure vanilla extract, mix well. Lightly whisk the eggs, then add to batter and stir to blend. Add flour, stir until combined. Brownies should be stirred by hand until just blended. Add nuts if desired. Spoon batter into baking dish.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the middle springs back when lightly pressed and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool and then sift powdered sugar over the top if desired.

Prep time: 10 minutes, baking time: 30-40 minutes, yields: 16-24 squares

*It’s true. Two days later, and they’re still super soft and most definitely not rock hard.

**I stay far away from powdered-sugar topped desserts except for powdered mini doughnuts best enjoyed with apple cider in the fall. Why this hatred for powdered sugar? I always manage to inhale it as I’m eating, ending with a choking, spitting, sputtering mess of crumbs and half-chewed food. Most appetizing and charming.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jess permalink
    November 2, 2009 1:00 pm

    “Who cares if it’s not broken? Break it down and build it back up. I’m sure I can improve it.”

    And this is why he gets along so well with J.

    And now I want brownies. Mmmm. Just not those ones 😛

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