Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cooking for Blondes

I found myself with some free time early this evening, along with an incredible sweet tooth. Brownies sounded good, and as much as I love having a stack of recipes that have turned out great in the past, cooking just isn't as much fun unless I'm trying something new. The anticipation, the uncertainty and the challenge are where I derive my joy in the process. And, of course, as long as there is uncharted territory on my cookbook shelf, it feels like cheating if I stick too much with previously run recipes.

Today, after pondering endlessly on which cookbook to pull down, I settled for The Good Housekeeping All-American Cookbook, another yard sale find, copyright 1987 (which was the year I started high school). This was the first recipe I've tried in this book, but I am well familiar with the reputation Good Housekeeping holds for solid, proven, easy recipes. Though there were plenty of choices in the brownies section, and though I desperately wanted to try the Butterscotch Brownies but, alas, did not have the ingredients, I settled for Blondies. This is my slightly altered version.

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6-oz package of semi-sweet chocolate pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  1. Melt butter in microwave.
  2. Stir sugar and eggs into butter, and beat until blended.
  3. Stir in flour, salt, baking powder and vanilla.
  4. Fold in chocolate pieces.
  5. Spread into greased 9x13 baking pan, and sprinkle with pecans.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

The trouble with this recipe started and ended with the pan size. I always go into a tailspin over the size of pans called for in recipes, and in this case I got nervous when I saw that the batter barely covered the bottom of a 9x13 pan. I don't like dry, thin brownies, and thus decided I would have to use a smaller pan (never minding that Good Housekeeping should be trusted here).

And this is where my blondeness came through. Instead of using the next size dish down, the 8.5x10, I thought the next size down was 8x8. There is a BIG difference in these sizes. I spread the batter into the 8x8 pan and put it into the oven without a second glance. Odd Toddler saw that I was using my pink and black rubber spatula (known around here as the sweet-treat spatula) to spread the batter and he came running. He and The Carnivore were utterly delighted to not only have a mixing bowl and a spatula to lick, but also an extra, discarded pan from my pan size debacle. They sat together and made "mmmmmmm" noises while they cleaned up the batter remnants for me.

When I checked the oven 30 minutes later, I had what appeared to be a perfectly risen cake. Not brownies, but a cake.

I baked it for another 10 minutes, tested it (still too liquid-y), covered it with foil so that the top wouldn't brown too much, and went for another 10 minutes. By the time I was willing to admit the brownies were done, and then waited for them to cool, I found myself with a brownie crater. The outer 1-inch border was nice and tall, like a cake. The inner, um, section was a good inch shorter, but with a perfect crusty layer on top. When we cut them, instead of finding nicely interspersed chocolate chips, I found a beautifully melted bottom layer of chocolate, with blonde brownie on top.

They may not look right, but MAN are they tasty.

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