Sunday, April 11, 2010
What Is & What Should Never Be: Brownies
(You got me - the title of this post is totally a play on one of my all-time favorite songs, from pretty much my all-time favorite band, Led Zeppelin.)
(sorry for the iPhone-quality photo)
Brownies. I love them. Seriously...there are so many brownie recipes that are
There are also some super-easy tricks for baking brownies, that can make a delicious difference, even to a standard box of Duncan Hines.
However, there are some brownie recipes out there, even from my most faithful&trusted recipe resources, that really baffle my culinary mind.
(& God knows, I'll try just about anything sweet!)
In fact...my own dear Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year mama...is repeatedly committing what I consider a brownie-baking sin.
(More on that later.)
It is my opinion that Duncan Hines chocolate lover's double fudge brownie mix...
...is the best brownie mix you can buy at the grocery store.
When baking with this mix, using the recipe for the fudgy brownie option...
...is a better choice than using the recipe for the cake-like brownie option.
(& this option uses less eggs & more water, so that's just gotta be better for you, right? ;))
The "secret" to making brownies from a boxed mix taste better-than-average delicious...
...is to substitute whole milk for water.
(So much for better for you, I know. But they're brownies...gotta do 'em right!)
Finally, from-scratch brownies are usually superior to the boxes. So here...
...is a list I've compiled of brownie recipes I am hoping to bake sometime!
(source: the Kitchn)
(source: Bake at 350)
(source: Picky Palate)
(source: Southern Plate)
(source: A Year of Slow Cooking)
(source: Martha Stewart)
What should never be:
(source: the Kitchn)
Call me crazy, but I believe that brownies (desserts in general, really)...
...should never be the place where you experiment with random ingredients&spices.
If you follow that link, you will find a recent post from one of my all-time favorite foodie blogs, the Kitchn. Obviously, I love them. One of my "to-bake" brownie recipes above is also from their site.
But, OMG, some of these suggestions...for brownies?!?!?!
Brownies, for me, are a sweet tooth indulgence. They are a comfort food. While it's fun to try different brownie recipes, I think the standard for a fabulous brownie should remain fairly consistent. If I've gone to the effort to bake homemade brownies, & am consuming the amount of calories that brownies contain; they'd darned well better taste like the
goodness they are supposed to be. Without strange "hints" of culinary experimentation.
(Ginger is for gingerbread - not brownies. I am assuming it would be as bad in brownies as it was in a cookie recipe I tried once. Ew. Chili powder is a perfectly interesting thing to play with...for a little truffle maybe. In a batch of brownies? No way. I love cinnamon...in drinks, on toast, etc. Not with chocolate...)
Really, this is the foundation for the remainder of my brownie rant...
...should never be a platform for boozing or that kind of baking.
Seriously. This is my issue with my mama right now. The last two times she has brought brownies to our house, she has informed us (after I've started salivating over the thought of delicious brownies for dessert) that she has substituted Kahlua liqueur for water. Not milk - Kahlua! It is so gross! Even My Prince finds them unsavory.
(& he'll eat pretty much anything...)
Now don't get me wrong. I am not a tee-totaler. I love a good
dirty gin martini...
...or glass of red wine...
...but I don't want my booze in (or with!) my brownies! That's gross!
My mama claims she does it for the coffee flavor, but we know good&well that woman loves her Kahlua, & welcomes any excuse to open a bottle. She's also been known to break it out as an ice cream topping. =)
(& anyway...I don't get the coffee as dessert thing. I drink black coffee. I like coffee with dessert sometimes. But coffee ice cream? Eh. Coffee brownies or cookies? Meh. Chocolate-covered espresso beans, though, that's a different story...;))
I know that the chocolate&coffee thing is popular. But it's just not my thing!
There are appropriate places for chocolate&fruit to be paired, & brownies...
...should never be one of them.
I think there is a reason that you don't see five or six different chocolate fruit candy bars at every checkout.
Coconut is good with chocolate.
There are some fruits that are good chocolate-covered.
Some fruit flavors even serve as good centers for chocolate truffle shells.
But these are small, delicate bites of a good thing.
A batch of brownies is a big, heavy thing, to have to endure an odd combination of cocoa & insert random fruit here.
& if you're putting fruit (or beet frosting...really...) into it to try to make the brownies healthier - well, that brings me to my final point.
Chocoholics Motto Gift Tags from Bunco Betty's
There are a great many ways that you can eat healthier, or try to lose weight. But comforting, homemade desserts...
...should never be tampered with in the interest of becoming "guilt-free."
You shouldn't have guilt for having a brownie! A whole pan, yes, maybe a little guilt for a little while. But you'll be a lot less likely to want to eat the whole pan, if you get that
experience you're supposed to get from that one brownie.
(& to be perfectly honest, sometimes having a second one is worth the extra time on the treadmill the next day!)
I know you're all probably tired of hearing me go
about moderation instead of deprivation, & how I refuse to give up my sweet tooth to stay skinny.
(I'm tired of myself.)
So I won't keep harping on it. But let it be known that I will continue to encourage you to bake (& occasionally cook) with real, whole ingredients.
Dessert is meant to be dessert.
Not a salad.
Not a good source of fruits or grains or vegetables.
Not a daily staple.