Monday, April 15, 2013


"We're going to make another classic 'cookie' this week," I told Ruth as he came in. "Brownies!"
He nodded. "A good choice. I thought you were working on a variation with white chocolate?"
"Um, I haven't quite got the recipe right yet. One of my friends thought the last batch was cornbread."
"Needs more chocolate?" Ruth suggested.
"Yes. I'll show you when I get the recipe right," I promised. "I need a better name for them, too."
"So we shall make regular brownies this week."
"Indeed we shall! These are a very popular treat, though I've always thought they're more cake than cookie. They came to widespread popularity in the Roaring 20's, at least according to the book my recipe comes from."
"In our world," Hi-chan pipes up, "they were invented when a chocolate cake fell in but there wasn't time to re-make it."
"Or so the story goes," Ruth remarked. "There isn't enough leavening agent in them for that story to really ring true."
"No one's really sure how they came to be made the first time here either, but they're tasty anyway!"
The recipe we're using is from a Betty Crocker 'Cookie Book' that's part of my Mom's cookbook collection. I think this edition came out in the 1960's. Classic cookies change very little over the years, though, and the recipes are all still good. Let's get started!

Here is everything we need for brownies. The recipe is fairly simple. I've chosen a cocoa-based recipe to save us the hassle of melting chocolate on the stove. Ruth is sitting on the sugar. The copper canister next to him is flour, while the cocoa powder is on his other side. In front of the cocoa, Black is rolling eggs into the baking powder. On the other side, Red pushes the bottle of vanilla into the salt. The silvery brick Hi-chan has brought is shortening.

The tools! Black has decided that the cooking spray makes a good perch from which to see everything. Ruth has brought two mixing bowls, a mixing spoon, and an 8x8inch baking pan (about 20x20cm). This one is glass, but the material isn't important. (We use glass whenever possible because it makes it easier for the twins to see.) Red has the measuring spoons, of course, and Hi-chan has brought the measuring cups.

First we need to grease the pan. Ruth takes care of this while I hold the pan for him.
If you don't have cooking spray, spread a little bit of butter or margarine as evenly as possible over the bottom and sides of your baking pan.

While we're taking care of the pan, Black gets started by preheating the oven. Brownies bake at 350°F (180°C).

With the preliminary prep work out of the way, let's get started mixing up ingredients! Hi-chan helps me dump the shortening in. Our recipe calls for 1/2 cup (95g), but we're using 2/3 cup (125g) because extra shortening makes the brownies more moist and I had 2/3 of a stick left over from another baking project.

Black adds 1 cup (200g) sugar. Hi-chan is hanging out on top of the bowl again.

My turn to add something! Two eggs go in the bowl.

Red is pleased to add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. The vanilla helps bring out the sweetness and chocolate flavor of the brownies.

Ruth stirs it all up. Don't be too worried if there are clumps of shortening, they'll melt in the oven. Do make sure none of the clumps is larger than a pea, though, or you'll have spotty brownies.

Black adds 2/3 cup (96g) flour to the smaller bowl. (We did tear out the bowl before adding anything.)

Hi-chan is having fun helping add 1/2 cup (56g) cocoa powder. "Chocolate that we don't have to melt!" she chirps. "Doesn't taste good by itself, though."
"It's powdered unsweetened chocolate, Hi-chan," I explain. "Of course it doesn't taste good straight out of the box."

Red's turn again. In goes 1/2 teaspoon salt...

... and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.

Ruth stirs the dry ingredients together carefully.
"Why are you going so slow?" Red asks.
"Flour and cocoa powder are both very light and inclined to fly," he explains. "Since I want them to stay in the bowl and not fly around, I have to stir slowly. If I go fast, the mix will go everywhere."

Now it's time to mix it all together. Black has decided that nothing interesting has happened to the bottom of the bowl, so she hopped up on the can of baking powder to see over the rim. I held the bowl of dry ingredients for Ruth while he carefully coaxed the powdery mixture out into the larger bowl with the shortening mixture. Hi-chan opted not to sit on the rim in order to avoid getting a face full of unsweetened powder.

It takes a bit of stirring to get all the dry ingredients worked in. The batter is only slightly more liquid than cookie dough when it's all mixed together. Ruth has just finished stirring.
"Thick stuff," Black remarks. "Looks tasty, though. How do we get it out of the bowl?"
"Carefully and with help," I tell her. "Why don't you go get the pan?"

Hi-chan helped the twins bring the pan over from the other side of the stove, and now they've all found good spots to watch as Ruth coaxes the batter out of the bowl I'm holding for him. It comes out slowly and plops into the pan in a glob.

Once all the batter is in the pan, I hand Ruth a spatula so he can spread it out. Make sure to tuck the batter into the corners of the pan, or it won't get there at all. Brownie batter is very much inclined to stick together.
"Looks yummy," Black comments.
"Wait until it's baked," Ruth tells her. "Then it will be even more yummy."

With the batter all spread out, it's ready to bake. Ruth places the pan carefully into the oven. These should go in about the middle of the oven.

As Ruth closes the oven door, Black sets the timer for half an hour. 30 minutes should be enough time to bake the brownies, but if it isn't put them back in for a couple minutes.

The timer has gone off and the brownies look delicious! Ruth and I pull them out and set them on top of the stove to cool.

Black sets a timer for 10 minutes to give the brownies a chance to cool. This is only an approximation, and cooling times may differ.

"It looks so delicious," Red says. "The timer went off already, can't we have some now?"
"Yes, but you can't eat the whole thing," Ruth insists. "We have to cut them first. Miaka, may I have a knife?"
"Of course! Don't drool on the brownies, ladies." This comment gets me pouty grumbles as I turn away to grab the requested knife.

Everyone is eyeing the brownies hungrily as they wait for Ruth to finish cutting them into 16 squares.

Mm, brownie!

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