Tuesday, August 30, 2011

the brownie rules


I have a few things that I am snobbish about (depending on who you ask), but one of those things is using cake mixes. For some odd reason, it is ingrained into my subconscious that by using a mix- no matter how doctored up- it is "cheating" at cooking. Perhaps this is due to my recent cake decorating fetish...perhaps this reflects on a dark childhood memory...perhaps at birth I was given the curse of unnecessary guilt by the evil fairy...

Whatever the reason, I have to be in a very tight pinch to use a cake mix, and then I make all kinds of lame excuses to whoever is forced to eat the boxed dessert, no matter how beautifully decorated.

Bakers guilt. It's a serious thing that therapists should spend more time curing.

But, for another odd reason, I have no problem using a brownie mix.

In fact, on a calm, almost fallish evening- such as tonight- there is almost nothing better than whipping up a pan of "fake" brownies and indulging in the still warm tasty treat while catching up on some evening TV shows conversation with your spouse.

But in order to use a brownie mix and not feel guilty, there are a couple of rules.

1. The brownies MUST be slightly underdone. There is a magical window of appropriate bake time for brownies. If left in for a second too long...said brownies become too cake-like. and are ruined. ruined. (not being over dramatic. just stating a fact)

When the tester fork goes in the middle of the pan, it must come out slightly sticky, so that as the brownies cool, the middle layer sinks into a dark, wet like, fudgy consistency that soothes away all guilt of using that mix instead of mixing up brownies from scratch. It's hard to feel guilty when your stomach is that happy.

2. The brownies MUST make a 9x13 pan. I love the concept of some of these super duper fancy brownies mixes, but there are few more dramatic let downs than realizing that your pan of brownies is half the size of what you were imagining. The fancier the brownie mix, the smaller the pan you're supposed to bake them in. The doubled chocolate, swirled fudge, complete with nuts and large chunks dipped in more chocolate and fudge crusted in a separate brownie mix entirely??? yeah, you might as well just bake it in a custard cup.

3. The brownies MUST be served warm (preferably over vanilla ice cream) Seriously, it should be a crime to offer a cold brownie. The warm, melty texture of a perfectly baked, fudgey brownie as it settles down under generous scoops of creamy ice cream that melt into the chocolaty goodness in an almost sinful way is enough to make your heart go pitter patter and your eyes light on brownie fire.

Exception: Of course the leftovers may be served cold the next day...settled down in their fudge-like ecstasy with a cup of coffee...

If these rules are followed- happiness is not too far behind.

I do realize that some people might prefer a cakey, fancy, cold brownie- and I'm certainly not one to judge.

but really?

note #1: each brownie session should be followed by an hour of zumba to really shake things up (boy, I do miss zumba class)

note #2: if you're cursing me right now for unintentionally tempting you to break a carefully planned diet with a pan of deliciously gooey brownies...just be thankful that I'm not whining about still being pregnant....trust me. This post is the lesser of the two evils.

note #3: if you do make a pan of deliciously underdone brownies and can get to my house before they've cooled down...I will talk you out of the guilt that you might feel by eating them, socially, with me, of course. (I'll even provide the ice cream)

note #4: I made a pan of brownies tonight. And let them cook slightly too long because of the amount of time it took me to get off the couch once I heard the timer ding. They are too cakey. And disgusting. If that is the kind of brownie you prefer, check out the heaped crumbs on my front step tomorrow morning...first come first serve.

note #5: this is a Chubbs approved post. she loves brownies and will do almost anything for one (except walk...)

What are your brownie rules?


  1. Mine are identical. Made some just last night to the aforementioned rules. I will eat left-overs, however.

  2. LOL...Love your posts Deanna! The only brownies I like are my Moms...Good thing she lives right across the field from me :)

  3. Stacey, just added an exception to the "warm" rule that you reminded me of. Good call.

  4. My brownies absolutely MUST have some sort of nut in them. Somehow chocolate isn't chocolate unless it has the tasty surprise of a crunchy nut hidden within all that fudgey goodness. :)

  5. I love, love, love brownie mix. I think they taste better than most homemade kinds especially the ones with the chocolate chips in them! My rule is to use 2 boxes of mix for a 9x13 pan so they are extra thick and I also make sure they are more fudgey than cake-like and they have to be warm and served with ice cream. It sounds like we are brownie eating soul mates...if I am ever in your area I'll whip up a batch and share them with you as long as you promise to eat only your half :-)

  6. grrr now I must mix up a batch of brownies and unfortunately I am much too far away to share. I can't use a mix as there is none in the house, but thats ok because I finally found the perfect recipe that makes the perfect fudgey brownie every time and is hard to overbake :) As for my brownie rules...I'm a purist brownies with nothing (ok maybe chocolate chips) in them. And the only other rule is that they quickly disappear into my tummy!

  7. they must be cooked by somebody else! i am the girl who made her cookery teacher cry (and i was a good girl doing my best,not messing about and she still cried!)she stood in sobs and told me i was a recurring nightmare!! things are no better now so yes my 1 rule is cooked by somebody else!!

    oh and i didnt even realise it was possible to bake without a packet mixture!!! xxx

  8. agree i prefer them warm, with vanilla ice AND nuts on top yummmy

  9. I'd eat a brownie with you any day...that's exactly how I like them!!! Gooey Goodness!!!

  10. I, too, am a from scratch baker but don't mind brownie mixes - some are so much better than others (you can keep "Betty's").

    You said it all perfectly - except for one thing: I like the edges. I will spread the brownie batter thin so that I can get as much chewy edge as possible. Oh, now I want some!

  11. We're brownie twins...slightly underdone and 9 X 13 all the way! :)

  12. note #2 is killing me. You posted that photo of brownies. I mean BROWNIES. GOOEY YUMMY BROWNIES and now I MUST have a brownie NOW. Right NOW. I would never call a pregnant woman evil, but that picture is just temptation when added with your talk of brownies.

    Alright, I have calmed down :) Love your posts as usual. They are such a joy to read.

  13. I wasn't even THINKING about brownies until I read your post. No oven in my office and now I AM hungry for brownies. Brownies baking would get LOTS of attention o the third floor hall. Even Drs. Knisely and Brown might come out of their offices. Now I want to go home and make them for supper. Yes, chocolate is one of the food groups and brownies are a good way to get this. I talk about chocolcate being the food of the gods in Latin American history since the Aztecs made hot chocolate with cinammon. So you can see I don't need much excuse to have chocolate. I went to your blog to see if Carter had arrived . . . and ended up thinking about brownies!
    How is the Winoski River doing? I'm assumng you're far enough north you didn't flood badly.

  14. like you, our brownies must not be overbaked...

    and ..... when cutting your brownies use a plastic knife (the kind used for picnics/fastfood). it doesn't make sense to me but the brownie does not stick to the plastic knife the way it does to the metal knife and you will have nicely cut brownies.

    ps carter is darling! mama you did great with the delivery. congratulations to all of you!!!!

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