One of those days where Wind and Rain blow thoughts of curling up with a good book; where Tea is the comfort drink of choice... with a slice of the brownies I baked yesterday sounding like just the ticket!
When I was a youngster, I was a voracious reader. I read mostly fairy tales at that tender age, and so I already knew a Brownie was a member of the wee folk.
It followed, then, that when I was invited to join the Brownies in my community, I jumped at the chance. Imagine my surprise when we were not taught the old ways of appearing to Humans in the blink of an eye. Instead, we were taught the old ways of baking, sewing, cleaning, good fellowship...
Disappointed, I nonetheless joined into the group, learning how to be a "good" Brownie along with the other young girls. Even as young as I was, I felt embarrassed that I had ever thought otherwise, that my thoughts had leaned to magic and mayhem rather than the goodness I was being taught.
I still have my little golden Brownie Pin. I was so proud each and every time I earned a badge. I remember the leaders made us work very hard for those badges...I did not pass the test for many of them. But perhaps this is because I am not the most handy of persons.
Rather, I earned the reading badge, the art badge, the plant badge, the writing badge. And there was that baking badge...
There were a number of levels to the baking badges, I believe I remember this correctly. After learning how to measure, gather ingredients and tools, two other girls and I tried a simple recipe. We failed miserably.
I do not recall what we made. I only remember laughing almost hysterically when our cake (?) came out of the oven looking like a grey, volcanic mass. (And I will still, to this day, laugh when I am presented with a crisis...firstly there is silence, then laughter, then perspective. Very inappropriate reaction.)
My laughter drew a leader to our group. She commiserated, and told us all her cakes looked like that. I was astounded, and laughed all the harder. It was becoming annoying, I'm sure, but I was beyond help. I drew the other girls with me...and so there was complete mayhem, as other groups came down with the giggles.
Giggling helplessly, I thought to myself that I had at last created mayhem, if not magic.
The leader finally created order and announced there was one piece of baking she could create, and she asked us if we knew what that recipe might be.
No one knew.
It was the brownie...she told us...what else could it be?
She announced that at our next class, we would all make brownies. I was born in Germany; my mother did not make such a thing as a brownie, that I could recall.
Not wanting to be embarrassed yet again over my lack of knowledge of Canadian culture, I did not ask the other girls what this confection might be. And so I waited with great anticipation for the next group meeting.
It turned out that brownies were made with lots and lots of chocolate. There didn't seem to be much flour and our leader used little sugar and only one Egg. And there seemed to be a lot of butter! But we all took a turn at breaking up frozen chocolate Easter Rabbits, Eggs and a frozen chocolate Santa Claus. For a few years, I thought using frozen leftover goodies from Easter and Christmas was the only way to make brownies...
Of course, it isn't the only way...and later on in life, when I lived with many other young people in an old, run down home, I learned to make brownies with chocolate that bore no likeness to Easter Egg chocolate.
I decided, then, that I would become proficient at making brownies and pies. There were no finer confections to offer than those, I thought.
It's taken many years to finally learn how to make the perfect brownie. I have used many recipes, making a few of them my own by remembering how my Brownie leader used mostly chocolate, even if it was Easter Egg chocolate, for her brownies.
I slash the sugar amounts, and use as little flour as possible, and much good, dark chocolate...chocolate which is at least 80 percent cocoa bean...at the very least. I make sure the brownie still clings to the toothpick when I test for its readiness.
And...here is the difficult part...I make sure the brownie sits, covered, for at least a day after baking. To be sure, this step is much easier these days than it was when I was baking for my kids. Leaving it to sit was often just not possible then...
The brownies I bake are rich, dark, gooey and beyond delicious. Many prefer the cake-like brownie...these aren't cake-like in any manner...these are like dense fudge, only not as sweet. Once a diabetic, I still watch my sugar intake, being sugar sensitive.
I have not tried these brownies with a sugar substitute, since any of those make me ill. Even Stevia does not agree with my system. But I have in mind using Honey, the next time I make these.
With Fog roiling in, even with windy conditions, and Rain battering against the Window...I grab my laptop instead of a book this time. And I sit in the big chair, with the two Dogs lying beside me, with my ubiquitous cup of Tea...and a slice of that deep, dark Brownie.
As I sit and drop crumbs all over the lap top from the delectable, delicious, dark brownie in my hand, I muse over the little girl that was me, so many years ago. As very young children, we rarely think about being older...I didn't at any rate.
But here I am. At the sweet age of 59.
And still enjoying Brownies, just as I did so long ago.
8 or 9 ounces good, dark chocolate...I use Lindt.
3/4 cup of butter
1/4 cup of water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a 9x9x2 inch baking pan by greasing lightly.
In a large bowl, microwave chocolate, butter and water, until butter melts, stirring once or twice. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Add sugars to chocolate mixture; beat with an electric mixer until combined. Add eggs and almond extract, beat for two minutes. Add flour, salt, and cinnamon, beat until combined. Spread into prepared pan.
Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The brownie should still be almost liquid in the centre, but it will have formed a crust.
Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut brownies when you can see that the brownie has set and will hold a cut edge, about a half hour.
After this, make sure the Brownie is hidden away for a day or two in the fridge, if you can. It melds together completely after a couple of days, becoming darker and more dense...and even more delicious!
I have also added, at times, walnuts or pecans, just for the crunch!