Brownies are a desert island kind of food for me.
(Also at first I accidentally wrote ‘dessert island’ and then wondered if that really needed correcting because a dessert island sounds far superior to a desert island.)
Returning to my original point though – brownies are both a desert and dessert island kind of food for me. Cookies I would eventually grow tired of; cake always feels like a near-instant regret; pie is basically just fruit and fruit is not dessert. Brownies, though – brownies can always wedge their way into my sugar-dipped (and bitterness-filled) heart. An iced brownie, a crackly brownie, a chewy brownie, a dense brownie – I love them all for the unique gifts they give us (those gifts are just chocolate presented in a form more binge-edible than cake will ever be). Buy me a brownie sundae – a brownie’s highest calling – and I’ll spill my soul to you…or just get kinda drunk with me ever, that works too...
Originally I had thought of being deranged enough to include three (instead of the usual two) recipes for brownies in today’s post. As I’ve said, I love ALL of the brownies and have harboured a number of solid brownie recipes over the years. Smitten Kitchen’s caramel and salt-flecked brownies are earth-moving. Ina Garten’s “Outrageous Brownies” earn their moniker effortlessly. I have recipes for brownie cookies (yes) and brownie puddings (more yesssssss). I have recipes for iced brownies and plain brownies; cakey brownies and fudgy brownies. Y’all get it, I love ‘em.
That being said, it started to seem ridiculous to sift through the hits and pick only one contender, when really everyone should be acknowledged. As a bride would when faced with a similar situation for choosing maid of honour, I went with the confrontation-free choice: I opted for family. My grandmother, a wonderful cook and even better baker, had a recipe for brownies that ranked among one of my childhood favourites, and it likely formed a cornerstone for fueling my love of these chocolaty treats. Her original recipe, entitled “Fudgy Mocha Brownies”, calls for a shortbread base, a slug of coffee liqueur, and a buttercream frosting. As with all food, I couldn’t leave well enough alone – and in my defense, the original called for margarine and that was not happening because butter exists. I wound up tinkering with things once or twice (or four times until no one could stand another mouthful, which was a shame because the fourth time was the clincher). The final product yielded a more biscuit-like base (think Twix bar), double the fudgy coffee liqueur-spiked brownie filling, and a dark chocolate lid. After all that regaling and nepotistic sentiment, you might think that BA’s contender for best brownies didn’t stand a chance, but those bastards were chewy AF, rich without being cloying (I ate five in a row just to check), and the absolute quintessential sundae brownie (or anything brownie – honestly, there would be no wrong time to bust these out EVER). Using really good cocoa powder takes these from being bomb to being the bomb-dot-com and you know they must be spectacular if I felt I had to pull out that hideous saying in order to describe them.
*A brief note: brownies are often mistakenly put into chapters of books alongside cookies, which is perhaps efficient but also offensive and something that inaccurately portrays the true identity of brownies (which is not the same identity that cookies share – no one eats raw brownie batter by the spoonful and brownies are not so precious that they only stay delicious for half a day, like those prissy cookies do). Baking brownies is also one of the few times I’m going to advocate for the use of non-stick spray (unless you don’t need the brownies to be presentable to others in which case, use butter or anything less offensive to everyone involved). Also just buy parchment paper already and keep it around. You will always need it for solid baking and it makes ensures that your pan will not forever be permeated with crusted-on brownie for years to come.