Well, durn my hide. When I play hooky, I don't mess around, do I. Or, put another way, I mess around entirely too much. Thank you, dear Coffee Mates, for checking up on me. My apologies for taking so long to respond. There has been absolutely nothing wrong around here and I've been having great fun with assorted projects and family stuff. But doing anything on the computer except checking mail and researching aforementioned projects just wasn't happening. I think it's called burn-out. Big time. I thought about posting blog entries, really I did. But then I'd lie down and the thought would go away.
I can make it up to you, though. I have just discovered what has to be the absolutely best brownie recipe I've ever blissed my way through. I thought Katherine Hepburn's brownie recipe was pretty darned good but -- sorry, Kate -- the one that follows is even better. I found it on the ever-helpful Recipezaar site, recipe #32204, titled "Whatever Floats Your Boat" brownies. A few other folks agree with me -- when I checked today, there were 750 reviews, almost all of them positive. Here's a shot of the batch I just baked, basking in the afternoon sun. They're really darker than they look here and, oh! The flavor is even darker and richer and deliciously decadent -- which is what a proper brownie should be.
If there is anything I've learned while researching brownies, it's that there are sharply varying standards about what a brownie should be. This is not scientific but my impression is that most folks prefer moist, fudgy brownies rather than drier, more cake-like concoctions. Interestingly, there seems to be even more disagreement on what constitutes the right level of "sweet" and even the right degree of chocolate intensity.
Two things I've learned: don't overmix the batter and don't overcook. The toothpick test will keep you on the right path. Stick it in the middle and pull it out. If there is still liquidy batter on it, it's not done yet. If it comes out clean, you've overcooked it. Apparently the perfect result is to see a few moist crumbs clinging to the toothpick. Keep in mind that ovens vary. Check for doneness at least 5 minutes before suggested time. This recipe calls for 25 minutes but, in my oven, it was perfect at 20 minutes.
Here's a handy trick for you: fold a strip of cooking foil so it's the same width as your pan (I used an 8" x 8" glass pan) and line the pan so each end of the strip drapes over the edges. Grease the foil and the exposed sides of the pan. You can do another strip and lay it in perpendicular to the first but I don't think it's necessary. The idea is, when you bring the finished brownie out of the oven, you can use the ends of the foil strip as handles to pick it up and set the whole thing on a rack to cool. The brownie will be much easier to cut when the time comes. Oh! A pizza cutter works wonderfully for that, by the way.
It will be worth your while to take the time to skim through the various reviews because you'll get all kinds of ideas for variations, including ways to cut calories. My "boat float" for this batch was a big handful of dried tart cherries. Dried cranberries would have worked as well (which is very well indeed) as would about a cup of frozen raspberries folded in. Sometimes I'm in the mood for chopped pecans. Other times I venture south of the border with touches of cinnamon and chili pepper. Cha, cha, cha!
Go ahead and whup yourselves up a batch. You know you want to. It doesn't take hardly any time at all and you've probably got everything you need because the recipe is so basic and simple. And you'll be in good company. This might be only a devilish rumor but I've heard this is the brownie recipe approved by 9 out of 10 heavenly hosts.