A Tale of Two Brownies
A Tale of Two Brownies – both classics – pure & simple. There are generally two overall brownie camps: the unsweetened chocolate camp and the cocoa camp. The cocoa version here uses the non-dairy method (read: canola or safflower oil). The unsweetened chocolate version (first recipe) utilizes a dairy product (read: butter).
Brownies and I have a strong emotional connection. I’ve always had a soft spot for them. But there was a particular period in my life about a decade ago that I simply could not have pushed through with any modicum of sanity without Brownies. Not eating brownies, okay, not just eating them, but making them too. I was dealing with a significant health issue, a kidney transplant (my third attempt, it’s been a very interesting journey) that was simply NOT working out after just a few months. Needless to say, there were a lot of long faces around me.
I had a choice. Do I join all the sad sacks? They’ll move on and I’ll be stuck in some woe-is-me pit. Nope. I refused to go down that road. Instead, I fixated on the cover of my current issue of Cooking Light. A glorious photo of a plate of brownies, which were being featured that month. I plotted. I planned. I obsessed. I was going to get me out of the hospital and MAKE them, by golly. And that’s what I did. As it turned out, that particular cover recipe wasn’t exactly my cup of tea (or square of brownie). But, no matter, I was hooked.
Mind you, before that time, I was a cook, not a baker. I wanted to spend my time in the kitchen making meals, not superfluous things like dessert. That’s what good bakeries were for. And in New York, where I was raised, and in LA, where I settled, there were plenty of those around. Boy, was I wrong. Little did I know, I had a new passion. Not for creating the fancy stuff, like Napoleans and Eclairs. No. That, I left to bakeries (still do, at least for now, ha ha – never say never).
It was the simpler, earthier stuff that was calling. Things like chocolate chip and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, brownies, blondies, butterscotch bars, fruit crisps, cobblers, coffee cakes, quick breads and muffins. You get the picture, homey stuff, comfort stuff, soul-satisfying stuff. There was something about the process of making the brownies – mixing up the batter, baking it, taking in the aroma, cutting them, eating the crumbs (OK, the corners too).
Then sharing them, feeding them to friends, family,neighbors, the postal carrier. Watching them enjoy. Enjoying them myself. All in all, Life-Affirming Stuff.
Desserts were no longer superfluous. There was a whole new depth of satisfaction I hadn’t experienced before. Life is short. Home-made brownies were, and still are, ON the menu.
So express your love through the brownies you bake… for your family, for friends, for LIFE. Go ahead. Give it a try. Worked for me.
The first recipe comes to us via Marion Cunningham ‘s (Combo Book) Good Eating: The Breakfast Book & The Supper Book. One would think I only own one cookbook. I have lots more. I do. Believe me, I do. But Marion has a way that calls me back again and again. I only reduced the sugar a bit and upped the ante on the vanilla.
Ingredients:2 oz. (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) sweet unsalted butter scant c. sugar 1 egg 1/4 t. salt 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 1/2 c. walnuts, chopped 1 1/2 t. vanilla 1/4 t. cinnamon (optional-I added it on a whim)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ square baking pan. Line pan with parchment and tuck into corners. Leave a bit of parchment hanging over edges so you can lift brownies out of pan when ready.
In a saucepan over very low heat, melt chocolate with the butter, stirring to blend. Alternately, in a medium glass bowl, melt chocolate with butter at medium power, stirring every 1/2 minute for a minute to a minute and a half. By stirring vigorously, you continue to melt the solids in the hot mixture. Either way, you can put the brownies together in one bowl/saucepan!
Let cool a minute and stir in sugar, egg, salt, flour, walnuts and vanilla.
Spread in prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, top should be cracked and firm to touch.
Remove from oven and cool about 5 minutes, then transfer brownies on parchment onto a rack. Place brownies onto piece of waxed paper to fit or onto cutting board and cut into squares.
The other recipe comes to us via my mom’s exercise class. One of the men in the class, a retired pediatrician, was celebrating a birthday and his wife was kind enough to send along a platter of her favorite quick and easy brownies, along with copies of the recipe. Guess who landed that recipe? We did!
Ingredients:¾ c. safflower/canola oil 4 eggs 1 ¾ c. sugar ½ c. cocoa ¼ t. baking powder 1 c. flour 2 t. vanilla 1/2 c. pecan or walnut pieces (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9×13 pan.
Beat together oil and eggs in medium bowl (no need for mixer). Add sugar, cocoa, and baking powder and beat thoroughly. Gently mix in flour. Add vanilla.
Spread in pan with spatula. Sprinkle nuts over top, if using.
Bake 25 minutes or until set on top. Cool in pan on rack about an 1 hour before cutting. Makes 28-32 squares (depends on how petite you make them!).
bb NOTE: Do NOT overbake –brownies must still be moist when done.