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I found this recipe called “Bake-Sale Brownies” in one of my very favorite cookbooks, which is called “The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.” (here’s a link, if you’re interested: http://amzn.to/2CICv7k ). This book has a zillion really reliable and good recipes.
It was given to me by my son and his Sweetie Pie, and I haven’t made one thing from it that failed. I gather they test and test and then test again, so every recipe is pretty much foolproof.
It’s called “Bake-Sale Brownies” because these are sturdy enough to pack in a lunch box or take to a picnic or a bake sale. Well, I figured that fit my criteria for sending these for Christmas gifts to my traitorous kids that inhabit the wrong coast.
The authors specify that you MUST use unsweetened chocolate, but I’m not sure why. I don’t argue with professional bakers.
They also say that, right before baking, you can sprinkle ½ cup toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts. I chose to add peppermint crunchy bits (these live happily near the chocolate chips in the baking aisle).
Before I give you the recipe, I’m going to give you a very cool Tip du Jour.
A couple of years ago, I decided to buy Dutch Processed Cocoa instead of the regular old baking cocoa I’ve always used. Don’t ask me why – it just sounded cool.
I thought the two were interchangeable, but guess what? They aren’t!
You see, in Dutch Processed Cocoa, much of the acidity is removed. When you bake with baking soda, you need an acidic element in order to get the chemical reaction that acts as a leavening agent. Dutch Processed Cocoa is much more alkaline, so you may need to use baking powder, instead of soda, or a combination of baking powder and baking soda.
Regular baking cocoa is naturally acidic. Therefore, it will react with baking soda, which is alkaline.
Click here to read the difference between the two, as well as to understand the how’s and why’s of baking soda and baking powder. It’s a great couple of articles from Sally’sBakingAddiction.com. and she does a much better job of explaining it than I do. If you want to be a good baker, it’s pretty important to understand the science behind your leavening!
This particular recipe doesn’t even use cocoa powder, but even so, think how much smarter you are now, than you were when you started reading this post!
Please note: these haven’t been sent yet, so I am assuming these are mail-able, based on the author’s description of how hardy they are. I am going to wrap them several times in plastic wrap and pad their little box, and send them off on their merry little way, with a little prayer that they make it alright. I mean, I realize how gingerly the postal service handles packages (sure, sure they do), but better safe than sorry. And luckily, my kids aren’t all that picky.
One stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
3 ounces UNSWEETENED CHOCOLATE, chopped (this is about ½ cup)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°. Line the brownie pan with a sling, and then spray with canola spray. I used non-stick foil, as well, because I want to mail this batch in one big piece. If I pre-cut the brownies before sending them, there’s a good chance they’ll dry out.
To make your sling, take two long pieces of foil that will overlap the pan on both ends. Fit it snugly into the pan. Now, take a second long piece of foil and lay it the other way, so you have a cross. Fit that to the pan, and then spray.
Melt the butter and the chocolate in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring often. Before the chocolate is completely liquid, (this was after one minute, stirring well after each 30 seconds with my microwave), stir the chocolate like crazy. Often the remaining lumps will disappear.
You do NOT want to overheat and burn your chocolate. As Mary Berry of the Great British Baking Show says: “remember that chocolate will melt in a child’s pocket.” In other words, it doesn’t take that much heat to melt it, so err on the side of caution. If you need extra time to melt the chocolate, only microwave and stir for 10 seconds at a time.
LET THE MIXTURE COOL SLIGHTLY. If it’s too hot, it will curdle your egg mixture and that will not be good.
My youngest daughter has always liked to bake and she’s pretty darn good at it.
But one time, she made zucchini bread and we gave it to someone. That someone kindly informed us (it really was kind of her; I’m not kidding) that she bit into a chunk of baking soda.
Ugh! Jeez, that will turn you off of zucchini bread for life. Or for my daughter’s baking, at least.
So, now when I’m adding anything that can get lumps (sugar, baking soda, baking powder, powdered ginger), I take a large sieve and place it over my mixing bowl. Then I whisk the mixture through the sieve. You’d be surprised how many lumps end up in the bottom of your sieve when you’re done.
So, put a sieve over your bowl and whisk dry ingredients, to remove lumps.
Whisk the sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl until combined.
Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.
Stir in the flour until no streaks remain.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle with nuts or peppermint chunks or whatever.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached, about 22 to 27 minutes (mine took 30 minutes).
Let cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, before removing the brownies from the pan using the foil sling. Cut into squares, unless you’re shipping them.
Cheers! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!