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Monday, July 13, 2009

A Bit About Brownies

Frankly the whole thing started because I needed more stuff to put in the dishwasher for a full load and thought that the various pots, pans and sundries needed for these brownies would do. You see, Saveur magazine still writes me daily, I swear they do, inviting me to tag along for another year. After 15 years of being a faithful subscriber, you'd think their earnestness might abate. Enclosed in a recent missive, they included a FREE Recipe from Saveur: Boston Cooking School Brownies. It so happened I had an afternoon with some time on my hands and as I was feeling a bit peckish for something sweet, had all of the ingredients on hand, needed to fill my dishwasher, and am a New England boy after all, I set out to make the luxurious recipe, "originally published in Fannie Merritt Farmer's The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (Little, Brown, 1911)."

I have to confess, I don't bake much and I don't know if you do--but whoever is responsible when it comes to it, good heavens, doesn't the rapturous mix of sugar, chocolate, eggs, flour or what have you just flood the entire house with flavored memories of childhood, a sense of comfort, a collection of holidays, and sheer, plain delight once everything begins to conspire in the oven?

Before I go into the recipe though, I'd like to talk a bit about butter too. Europeans have it all wrapped up, as far as I'm concerned. If you can cut back here and there on something else, splurge on the best butter you can find. Butter from Europe indeed makes an utterly creamy world of difference.
My comments on the recipe are in italics, below.
Boston Cooking School Brownies

16 tbsp. butter, plus more for greasing This translates to 1 cup of butter, divied up so it will melt better with the chocolate
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate I had semi-sweet, so I used that
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract A really fun thing is to make your own. Get a nip of your favorite vodka and stick a vanilla bean in it. Uluvka or Grey Goose is good to use because of their long-necked bottles. When the vodka has turned a dark brown (after about two weeks of sitting in a cupboard) it's ready
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts The Oxo Mini Chopper is great, and like all of their products, completely ergonomic and comfortable to use
1 cup flour

1. Heat oven to 325°. Grease an 8" x 8" baking pan with butter. Line the pan with parchment paper; grease the paper. Set pan aside.
2. Melt butter and chocolate together in a 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Remove pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla; stir until the batter is smooth. Add walnuts and flour and stir until incorporated. Definitely put all of these ingredients in their own separate vessels beforehand in order to keep the flow going
3. Pour batter into baking pan and spread evenly. Bake for about 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let brownies cool for at least 2 hours. Cut and serve.
Oh and yes, wait, there's a bit more:

If you read Scrambled Eggs here on my blog or if we have ever talked about my childhood, Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies have inevitably come up. My cousin, the Julia Child of my hometown, used to make them. Suffice it to say, she was a tough teacher. Although I have met with some success when making these brownies over the years, in comparison to what I remember her making, I invariably end up with Disappointing Marshmallow Brownies. I humbly suggest the recipe here, that she hand wrote and sent to me 10 years ago, tucked in the pages of her copy of Secrets of Better Cooking from Reader's Digest, published in 1973.

Disappearing Marshmallow Brownies
Yield 24
Preheat 350 degrees
Pan 9" x 13"
Time 20-25 minutes
1 stick of margarine or butter
1 6 oz pkg butterscotch bits
1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2/3rds firmly packed brown sugar (light)
2 t. Baking powder
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs (med. or lg.)
1 1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
1 6 oz. choc. bits
1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1. In a large sauce pan (heavy bottom) over low heat, melt butter and butterscotch bits. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Set aside to cool.
2. On a paper towel, using regular knife blend flour, brown sugar + baking powder. Add butterscotch mix + flour mix. Stir until smooth.
3. Add eggs + vanilla. Stir until smooth. Add the marshmallow, chocolate bits and nuts - stir just to blend all ingredients (Do not heat). Chocolate bits may melt some.
4. Spread in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Let it bake 20 min. Take a table knife + insert in middle. If if is sort of jiggerly take from oven. Becomes firm as it cools. When cutting do not drag knife through it - work knife up + down. Yes, life is like that, isn't it?


  1. You know, I can't seem to make my scratch brownies come out better than boxed brownie mix. Sigh. I'll try the European butter next time and see if that helps. These look lovely, though--perfect crinkly tops! And the marshmallow brownies sound divine--they are on my "Food To Do" list now (yes I actually have a document called that!)

  2. Oh Lawsy - so not the right thing to read before you've had your breakfast. Those sound marvelous! I'm with Jillian - my brownies are better when the base is out of a box of Duncan Hines. I add chocolate chunks and or marshmallows or m&ms or peppermint patties or those wafer thin chocolate mint things that are individually wrapped. Although I only did the last version once, all those wrappers are a complete PITA.

  3. I used a box mix once but Michael didn't like them at all. He is the brownie lover, not me but next time I will try this recipe.