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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Baking Brownies—or a near kitchen misadventure.

I blogged a bit about this a few days ago, but in case you missed it, here’s the backstory to this recipe. My neighbor and good friend Mary Dulle posts on the Facebook NYTimes Community Cookbook page, as do I, and the other day she posted that she had made the brownies she remembered from her childhood, and they were dry. She needed help but confessed she had substituted whole wheat flour for white and added flaxseed. No brainer! No wonder they weren’t right. Online I advised her to just go back to the original recipe. Over wine a couple of nights later, she was resistant (putting it mildly) to that idea. Okay, I could go with the flour change but not the flaxseed. I decided there was nothing for it, but I would have to make the original recipe.

My first hurdle was that Central Market online listed pages of chocolate but no semi-sweet chocolate bits. A phone call solved that—the online shopper would be glad to add them. So instead of the Nestle’s, which the recipe called for, I went all gourmet with Ghirardelli bits. They were only available in a 12 oz. package, but I only needed 6 oz. So now I have 6 my pantry drawer (yes, my pantry is in a deep drawer).

Please realize that I don’t bake much in my tiny kitchen. I could bake a pie in my toaster oven--a friend does it all the time—but I was never good at pies. And lots of baking dishes don’t fit in the toaster oven. Limited storage means I only keep dishes and pans that I use regularly. So when it came to brownies, I didn’t have a pan. Jordan was out of town, so I asked Christian for a square, 8-inch pan. I was sure there were several in their kitchen, because I’d left them there, including the one Colin, as a toddler, poked holes in (it would still hold a thick brownie batter).

He dutifully brought one to me, but an instinct I should have listened to told me it was a 9-inch. But I proceeded. Still suspicious, I vowed to take it out of the oven early, but twenty minutes goes by quickly. Long story short, I overbaked the batter and ended up with cake, not brownies. Good flavor but a dry texture. Nice if you wash it down with a bit of wine, but not the brownie I had dreamed of.

When I got the ingredients all mixed, when I realized I don’t keep baking powder either. I called Christian again, sure that he would beg me not to cook because it’s too much work for him. But he sent Jacob out—with baking soda, which I had and did not want. Jacob trudged back, got the powder from his dad, and handed it to me without a word.

So get out your eight-inch pan (and a ruler if you’re not sure). And put away your whole wheat flour and flaxseed! This is the way you remember baking brownies when you were a kid.

Mary’s Brownies

Melt: 6 oz. chocolate bits and 1/3 c. butter. Let cool a bit, so you don’t cook the eggs in the next step.

Beat until pale lemon in color: two eggs and 1/3 c. sugar

Separately mix: 1/2 c. flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1/3 tsp. salt.

Combine chocolate and egg mixtures; slowly stir in flour mix. stir in 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pour into greased 8-inch pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes (or a minute or two less, never longer).

There’s a lesson here of course and one we tend to overlook: the size of the pan does matter. Now all I need is an 8-inch pan—I’ve still got that other 6 oz. of chocolate bits!

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