From Angie’s Kitchen – Brownies

It’s been a while since we visited Angie’s Kitchen, so we thought starting the New Year with another attempt of deciphering Angie’s book of recipes would be fun. If you’ve never seen one of these posts, they are our attempts to interpret a hand written book of recipes that belonged to Ray’s grandmother that bears her maiden name. This would date the book to likely have been written sometime in the 1920’s. It comes complete with terminology that is not always clear by today’s language and is often short on the details. Sort of like the technical challenge on The Great British Baking Show, but our own family version. This round it was my turn to choose, so I thought why not brownies!

This recipe seems relatively straight forward, well, except for the lack of instruction for baking time and the ever nebulous instruction to bake in a slow oven. I also took note of the lack of a leavening agent and the absence of salt, but round 1 of Angie’s kitchen is about following the instructions in the book as written, and doing research afterwards. In other words, we are not allowed to cheat until round 2.

I gathered my ingredients, which in hind sight I should have put a little more thought into, then began to make the recipe. As I began beating the mixture, it dawned on me that the chocolate I had selected was a poor choice. I’d used my Callebaut 54.5%, which is a semisweet chocolate. This recipe includes an entire cup of sugar. I should have used a bittersweet chocolate, but at that point, it was too late to change so I soldiered on. The instructions said to beat well. I felt like I had incorporated the ingredients well, but didn’t really attempt to whip any air into it. Was that a mistake? I’m not entirely sure if that was even possible as the mixture was quite thick. The consistency to me was closer to fudge than what I think of as a brownie batter.

Next, I spread the mixture into the closest thing I had to a 7 inch square pan, which was an 8 inch Pyrex dish. It was evident that this recipe was quite different from those I’ve made in the past, as the amount in the dish was quite a bit smaller than what I would usually make. The other decision I needed to make was temperature. Instinctively, I wanted to set my bake temperature at 350 F, and I did, but the niggling little voice in my head kept whispering “she said slow oven, slow oven…”. Plus I felt the quiet, unspoken judgement from Tom sitting in the next room. From previous experience in the kitchen of Angie, I knew that slow oven tops out at 325F, so I was forced to stop, open the oven door for a minute, then reset the temperature to 325F. A bit neurotic you say? Yeah, well probably.

So, the last decision to be made was timing. I usually bake brownies for about 25 minutes, but these seemed quite thin to me so I kept a close eye on them. After 20 minutes I checked them, and felt they definitely needed more time so I settled for my usual 25 minutes. They looked baked enough and I no longer heard the same level of bubbling that I did at twenty minutes, so out they came.

So, how did they turn out? They had a nice glossy top, which was good. They were lighter in color than my usual brownies, but that is probably reflective of my chocolate choice. And they were thin, which is likely because my pan size was significantly bigger that called for and there was lack of leavening agents. They were quite chewy. So chewy that they stuck to my teeth. They were also quite sweet, almost candy like. Upon tasting them, Tom immediately pronounced what it is that they tasted like – Tootsie Rolls! He really hit the nail on the head with his description.

This was certainly different from what we usually expect from a brownie these days and will prompt me to do a little more research into the history of the brownie before the next round. I would classify this as a mixed result. Not bad, but room for improvement. Now let’s see how Ray fared….

Angie’s Original Recipe

I was happy when Karen chose this recipe. Given the choice for a snack, more often than not I will reach for something salty, but brownies are the exception to that rule – I love them! They remind me of my father’s sister, my Aunt Teresa, who was also my godmother.

She made some of the most delicious brownies on the planet and she kept several batches at the ready in her freezer. Whenever you would go to visit her, if you were a brownie fan she would never let you leave without taking a batch home. She was an excellent cook and baker and she made everything from scratch, so one day I asked her what recipe she used for her brownies. She laughed and gave me the most unexpected reply! She said “Everyone asks me that and they don’t believe me when I tell them this is one thing I don’t make from scratch – they come from a box!” Box or not, I don’t know what she did when she made them, but to this day I have never had brownies quite like hers!

Now to the matter at hand – how did my grandma’s recipe work out for me? Compared to other recipes from Angie’s kitchen, this one was like a walk in the park for me. I guess I was in some sort of zone, because the usual lack of exact directions didn’t slow me down one bit this time.

The slow oven notation was something that I had researched long ago, many years before we started this blog when I first discovered grandma’s recipe book. For some reason, without giving it much thought it immediately popped into my head that a slow oven meant the 300 to 325 degree range.

The lack of leavening agent that gave Karen a moment of pause wasn’t even a thought in my head. I had tried other brownie recipes in the past and recalled that many of them, particularly the ones labeled chewy or fudgy, didn’t use one. I went to work and when everything was mixed together, I looked at the batter and thought that it looked a bit grainy still.

Perhaps I hadn’t mixed it together enough, but I didn’t really question it either because the recipe called for quite a bit of sugar so it didn’t seem that odd to me. My best guess regarding the chocolate was that grandma probably used unsweetened because of all of the sugar in the recipe, but I didn’t have any on hand. Luckily I did have some 72% dark, so I went with that.

I put the mixture into the pan – to my surprise we actually had a 7 inch square pan in the cabinet! I chose to go with the upper end of the slow oven range and set it to 325 degrees, and in doing so I felt no judgement from Lori, silent or otherwise! 😃 My only real debate was how long to bake them. I figured better safe than sorry and checked them after just 15 minutes – they were still way too wet in the middle, so I added 5 more minutes. Closer, but still not close enough, so I added another 5 minutes. At that point, they were very close and I removed them after an additional 2 minutes which brought my total time to 27 minutes.

They looked pretty good when they came out of the oven and they smelled just like a brownie should, but I waited until they cooled to taste them. I am often guilty of cutting brownies too soon because I can’t wait to eat one and that of course makes a bit of a crumbly mess!

After patiently waiting, I found it a bit ironic that cooling this recipe all the way made them a little tough to cut! As Karen mentioned above, they were quite chewy and that quality made for a tougher time when cutting them. They were very sweet, but overall the flavor was spot on and we liked them. Even though I prefer my brownies on the chewy side, these were almost like a brownie taffy. We all agreed that that was something I should try and address in round 2.

One interesting thing we noticed when we ate some the next day was that the excessive chewiness had mellowed a bit and they were much more like the brownies we are used to eating. All things considered, I would say this was a pretty decent recipe and must have been quite a treat back in the 1920’s when my grandma was growing up.

I’m looking forward to making some of the changes I have in mind for round 2 – I’m also looking forward to eating more brownies! Until next time, have a good weekend!

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