Brownies are a lifelong passion. My fondness for these little gems has led me to try every half-decently healthy recipe I could find in magazines, books, online sites and from friends. I even begged recipes from people I disliked.
I became a master at gauging ingredients and the amounts suggested. Then I modified them.
It was a treasure hunt. Part of me wanted to find the perfect one. The other part took pleasure in the search and hoped I never would.
At my house, brownies drew breath in a different way, every time. This was a constant source of laughter for my family.
“Why don’t you follow the recipe?” they asked. Occasionally, they’d say, “They were better, last time.”
“I’m an Aquarian,” I’d reply. “We don’t ‘follow’ anything. We do things our own way.”
Of course, the latter was not entirely true, but my love for brownies did make me a versatile cook. Too crumbly? I served them over ice cream. Not sweet enough? I tossed tiny dark chocolate chips on top and slipped the pan back into the oven until they melted.
Need something for a special outing? I cut chunks from a dark chocolate bar into the batter, added one tablespoon of flavoured instant coffee and iced with buttercream frosting.
The one recipe that’s travelled with me in varying forms, through the last 20 years, was found in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day. The recipe is below.
The alternate ingredients in italics are my own, as are the short instructions. Please see the link at the bottom for the one Moosewood has online. It’s a bit different and they offer suggestions for optional ingredients.
Moosewood Fudge Brownies
1/2 cup butter (or 1/4 c. olive oil & 1/4 c. butter)
3 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate (high-end dark chocolate is worth the money!)
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar (can be reduced to 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unbleached white flour (kamut, spelt or even finely ground nuts can used instead – result will be more crumbly)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Butter an 8 or 9 inch pan.
3. Melt butter and chocolate together.
4. Beat eggs with a fork.
5. Remove pot from heat. Add brown sugar and vanilla. Beat by hand or with a mixer.
6. Add the eggs. Mix well.
7. Add flour and blend until well mixed.
8. Bake 10 – 20 mins. (can also be baked at 400 F for 8 or 9 minutes). The shorter time will give you fudge-like brownies. The longer allotted time will give you cake-like brownies.
*You can add nuts (always roast before you add – walnuts are especially good), chopped dried fruit (cranberries and cherries – the best – look for organic and sulfur-free), tiny chocolate chips or anything else you love into the batter. I’ve used maple syrup as a sweetener. Very good. Add more flour to balance out the dough.
Erma Bombeck’s books kept me laughing throughout my child-rearing years. One specific thing she said stayed with me. She was dying of cancer by then, and she spoke of her life-long, personal censorship on desserts. “Seize the moment.” she wrote. “Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
Her books sat in my bookcase until the children grew up and left home. Then I gave them away. I think it’s time for me to buy a few copies them, laugh a little and nibble on a brownie.