Make Friends With Easy Brownies
Every cook needs a few foolproof recipes (using on-hand ingredients) memorized. One of mine is brownies — so quick, so easy, so good, so inexpensive compared with bakery-made. And, most important, so appreciated.
I remember the time my son and his girlfriend were invited to a potluck barbecue. Of course they hadn’t prepared a contribution. He called and asked if I could have a pan of brownies ready within the hour.
I have no idea where the recipe originated, except it resembles classic “saucepan” brownies popular in the 1950s. Entire magazine articles and cookbooks have been devoted to brownies: mocha brownies, cheesecake brownies, truffle brownies, butterscotch brownies. Most are very rich and more complicated. Mine require a big pot, measuring cup, wooden spoon, spatula and baking pan. Takes about 10 minutes to stir them up, 30 minutes to bake.
They’re wonderful warm, just out of the oven, with a scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream melting over the top. They freeze well and, if you’re desperate, can be eaten without thawing.
I first wrote about these everyday brownies 20 years ago and am still getting requests for the recipe although I can’t figure out why, since memorizing is a snap:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a nonstick 13-by-9 inch pan with baking spray or wipe with oil.
In a large, heavy saucepan, mix 1 ½ cups sugar, 1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) of butter or regular margarine and 4 tablespoons strong coffee (made from instant is fine). Stir with wooden spoon over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is boiling.
Remove from heat; stir in 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips. I like the new dark chocolate variety. When chips have melted completely, stir in four beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Mix 1 ½ cups flour with a few dashes of salt and two pinches baking soda and stir into chocolate until well-combined.
With spatula, scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, not more. Brownies are best when slightly fudgy inside.
You can stir chopped pecans or walnuts into the batter but I prefer to sprinkle them on top. If somebody doesn’t like nuts they are easy to pick off. For Hawaiian brownies, stir ¾ cup flaked coconut into the batter. Sometimes I use sliced almonds and a bit of almond extract along with the vanilla.
Warning: Use only stick margarine, which by law must contain a certain percentage of fat. Light margarine and spreads contain water, which ruins baked goods. I usually use half margarine, half butter, but really can’t tell the difference.
Memorize this — and you’ll never be without a carry-out treat. Friend in the hospital? Nurses love brownies. So do kids and even hard-nosed newspaper reporters and editors, I’ve learned.
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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