Saturday, August 15, 2009

The BEST Fudgy Brownies

I wasn't going to do a cooking post today, but at my scrapping group last night, we got to talking about brownies, and then I couldn't stop thinking about them. So, I decided to post about brownies. I suppose a post can't be all bad if it involves chocolate.

Those of you who cook or bake surely already know this, but if you don't cook or bake much, here is a good reason to start. I've discovered that, because convenience foods and fast food and deli items are so popular these days, and everyone is so busy working and toting their kids around from activity to activity, lots of people don't really cook AT ALL. Therefore, those who do are treated as though they have some special and unique talent. Bring a homemade baked good into work on Monday and you'll see what I mean. "You MADE these?" someone will ask, with an incredulous look on their face, biting into one of my infamous Peanut Butter Brownies. Although I love it, I feel a little guilty accepting the praise. I mean, it's not like I slaved for weeks in a hot kitchen developing the recipe myself. Nope, I find most of my recipes either online or in cookbooks, and I pretty much make recipes as written. Sometimes I'll tweak a recipe to suit my family's tastes, but I don't really have time to reinvent the wheel every time, and if I like the recipe as written, there is no need to fix what isn't broken. So, if you have the "talent" to follow a recipe, you too can receive heaps of praise from family, friends and co-workers.

Now, about brownies. The photo above features my "special" brownie pan which, while it looks kind of crazy, works like a dream. It's called Baker's Edge, and it's available in many places, but I ordered mine from because I got free shipping. If you do a Google search on this pan, or read some of the reviews on Amazon, you'll quickly see that this pan has a sort of cult following. Some people love the chewy "edge" pieces of brownies, and because of its unique configuration, this pan gives you an entire batch of "edge" pieces. While I'm not necessarily an "edge" snob, I can tell you what I DON'T like, and that's soggy brownies from the middle of the pan. With brownies, it always seems like, if the edges are perfect, the middle is underdone, and if the middle is perfectly baked, the edges are hard and overdone. Well, this pan solves all that. Whether you like your brownies super gooey or super chewy, the true beauty of this pan is that every single brownie comes out the same. Moreover, the pan is very heavy and high quality; you really don't even need to grease it although I usually spritz it with a little Pam. As long as you use the plastic spatula that comes with it, the pan won't scratch and the brownies will come out like a dream. I like to take a whole "row" of brownies out at a time and cut them into perfect pieces on a cutting board. Oh, and the pan works great for anything else that you'd normally bake in a 9x13 pan, such as cornbread and other bar cookies. (Speaking of other bar cookies, I promise to post the Peanut Butter Brownie recipe in a not-too-distant future post.)

So now that you know about my pan, I'll share my favorite brownie recipe. I have to be honest, though. I make brownies all the time from a mix. You absolutely cannot go wrong with a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix! But, when I want to make brownies from scratch, the recipe that follows is the one I use. It came from an old Good Housekeeping cookbook, and it's my favorite partly because it produces delicious brownies, but also because of a memory that I associate with it. I first tried this recipe when my now 6'2" son was a newborn, some 15-1/2 years ago. Brandon was my first child, and my mom came to stay with my husband and I for a couple of weeks after he was born, to dote on her new grandchild and also help us get the hang of being new parents. One afternoon, baby Brandon was napping soundly, and I decided that brownies and coffee sure sounded good. One problem, though -- no brownie mix in the house. It was late January, and my mom asked whether I had any baking chocolate left over from Christmas baking. I did. She suggested that we could make brownies using that, so I searched through my favorite cookbook and ended up finding this wonderful recipe. I've made it many times since, but the finished brownies have never tasted quite as good as that first time that I made them with my mom. I hope you enjoy them, too!

The BEST Fudge Brownies

1 c. butter or margarine
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan. In a 3 quart saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and sugar into the chocolate mixture. Allow mixture to cool slightly. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour, vanilla and salt. Add nuts if using, and stir to blend. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake in oven 30-35 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into pieces and serve. Makes about 2 dozen brownies.

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