Thursday, January 29, 2009

Brownie Quest: First Tentative Steps

And so the adventure begins!
I made a batch of brownies with a very promising recipe that some ladies were raving about over on a forum I frequent. This version uses pureed black beans instead of flour and Splenda instead of sugar. I was pretty excited over the prospect of a brownie with fiber in it.
I followed the recipe to the letter and ... they turned out awful! So bad, in fact, that we had to throw them out -- but first I let them sit over night, to see if they improved with age. Well, they didn't.
I was disappointed, but not dissuaded from my mission. I'll try again another day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Brownie Quest: The Beginning

What could possibly motivate me to update this blog after more than six months of inactivity? What could shake the snow off of my winter-anesthetized state of lethargic hibernation (how's that for an overladen, redundant metaphor?) and get me to actually write something here?

Only chocolate.

More specifically: brownies.

I am on a quest to discover new horizons in brownies. I have been Googling recipes and reading ideas about different kinds of brownies on forums and blogs as well as in old fashioned print cookbooks, and I am ready to begin.

But before I try some new recipes, allow me to post an old one. This is my starting point, my "standard," so to speak.

I associate cream cheese brownies with the seventies, which is when we started making them in my family, but it's anyone's guess as to where and when they were born. I love them because of the creamy aspect of this recipe, which makes it less stick-to-your-mouth-and-make-you-pucker-from-the-sweetness rich and yet no less delicious.

These have been a huge hit when I've taken them in to work, and plenty of folks have asked me what the "white part" is, which kind of surprises me. Hm. I guess not everyone has had cream cheese brownies before. Who knew? Maybe they just weren't there in the seventies.

By the way, brownies tend to be difficult to cut neatly into bars. I've found the best way to do this is to completely line your baking pan with alumninum foil (leaving an inch or so hanging over the edges), then grease the foil before you pour in the batter. Once your brownies have been baked and cooled, you can just lift the whole thing out of the baking pan, peel away the foil, and cut with a large chef's knife on a cutting board. This sure beats trying to pry baked-on brownie out of the corners of the pan!

Okay, so my "classic" recipe is the following:

** Those Seventies Brownies **

(or simply Cream Cheese Brownies, if you prefer)

You'll need:

one box of your favorite brownie mix, plus the ingredients it calls for (typically, an egg, a little oil, and some water)

1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Prepare brownie mix according to the directions on the box and pour it into a greased baking pan. (See foil tip, above recipe.) Blend the cream cheese, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Pour this mixture over the brownie batter, then drag a spatula or knife through both the chocolate and the white layers of batter until it looks "marbled." Bake it at 350F for anywhere from 40 - 60 minutes. The time will vary according to the size pan you are using, but due to the addition of the white "layer," it will take longer than the times given on the brownie mix package. Be careful not to overbake them, though; the surest way to ruin brownies is by baking them too long. Slightly underbaked is best if you like gooey, rich, fudgy brownie goodness.
Note: Please feel free to leave a comment with your own ideas, recipes, and/or thoughts on brownies.