Brownies?

I was visiting with my daughter and several times throughout the day “brownies” were mentioned. The issue with brownies is the dietary restrictions needed to maintain the well-being of all who are present. More power and kudos to all parents, spouses, etc. who research and experiment and provide nutritious and enjoyable foods for family members who cannot “just eat whatever”. So Daughter and I were faced with attempting to find dessert which would be sugar-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free! And I found a brownie recipe in one of the books she got from her local library. I just can’t remember the name or author.

After reading the ingredient list we find that Daughter has all the ingredients, so we proceed. The alternate ingredients are dates for sugar, coconut oil for butter, and coconut flour for all-purpose. We omitted the walnuts. This is made in a blender.

We first processed the dates in the blender, added the eggs, oil, and vanilla, and lastly the dry ingredients. It was a thick batter and took some time to spread in the 9-inch square pan. We baked it and voila, brownies. Well they did not look at all like the picture in the recipe book.

They also did not have the texture of “ordinary” brownies. They were neither chewy nor cake-y. They had a distinct coconut flavor which Son-in-Law liked. The mouthfeel was more of a coconut-textured, nougat-y type such as a Mounds candy bar insides. But it was a little bit of chocolate for the day!

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two pounds in two months!

Part A: dessert

So I made brownies. I am not always making brownies but they are easy to make and almost always good. I like fudgy brownies. I was thinking of making brownies all week but had run out of eggs. And we were not going to shop until the weekend. I waited. Then after buying 5 dozen eggs at the Walmart (the regular eggs were all packaged in Styrofoam which I do not like to buy) I made brownies. I decided to try Alton Brown’s cocoa brownies which claim to be fudgy and “ooiey”. https://altonbrown.com/alton-brown-brownie-recipe/ and/or https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/cocoa-brownies-recipe-2085484

I do not have a kitchen scale. I’m not that precise a baker. So I guess-timated the amounts of ingredients as he gives them in weights. These turned out very gooey. I did use the thermometer because I could not tell if they were actually done. We ate these while warm which meant they could not actually be picked up. They fell apart. Apparently that was not a problem in that we ate most of them! The next day they could be picked up and they were still very fudgy and very rich. Beating the eggs for a few minutes really does make a difference in producing the shiny crust on top. If I make these again I will bake them at 350 degrees F and not the 300 degrees in his directions. Here’s what I did.

  • 4 large eggs.
  • Scant 1 cup granulated sugar.
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar.
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour.
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (melted)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

Beat eggs for 2-3 minutes. Sift dry ingredients in separate bowl. Add the sugar mixture and mix, then the melted butter and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. The pan is 9 inch square, sprayed and lined with parchment so the parchment overhangs two sides by 2 inches. This will be used to lift the brownies from the pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. Mine took 55 minutes and I had to use the thermometer to be sure they were done. Alton Brown says this should register at 195. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes and then lift out. Cut into 9 squares. Actually you could cut into smaller squares as these are very rich. Even letting them cool for that bit of time, lifting them out was difficult because they were so soft.

ooey-gooey brownies

Part B: two months of weight loss

Hah! Brownies are not good for weight loss. Eating Oreo cookies is not good either. And not counting calories appears to be my downfall. For the past two weeks I stopped counting calories. Counting calories makes me accountable for

  1. How many Oreos I eat,
  2. How many glasses of wine I pour myself,
  3. Portion controlling potato chips, crackers and cheese, and other late night-TV watching snacks,
  4. Not having seconds at meals.

So I have actually gained back the 2 pounds lost in January. I have a net loss of HALF a POUND! The good news is that I have lost 2.5 pounds since last summer and at times will weigh at a 5 pound loss since then. The inconsistency is frustrating.

So now I ask myself what to do. I want to bake and I want to enjoy my food. Yes, I should not be eating Oreos or Potato Chips, but I want to make a cake once in a while. I want to make new and interesting vegetable dishes.

Life is too short to not eat dessert!

Betty Crocker Brownies

I wanted to bake brownies. I did not need to make brownies. I do not need to eat brownies. But I wanted to make brownies. I knew that the Betty Crocker’s Cookbook uses chocolate squares instead of cocoa, so I thought maybe these won’t turn out good (or should this be well?)and I wouldn’t feel compelled to eat them. Well…it is the rare brownie that cannot be eaten. And these are very edible!

Just uploading the photo made me go get a couple to nibble on.

So Hubby asked if I would put Walnuts in the brownies. Sure. While getting the ingredients together I found a bag of green and red M&Ms that I did not use for Christmas baking. I asked Hubby if he minded those in his brownies as well. So these brownies are loaded. I used the Fudgy Brownie variation, also on Page 271.

  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour; you know, to be healthy.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms

Melt chocolate and butter together. Mix in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk this for a time, preferable 3 minutes, but I didn’t do that long. Supposedly that will help get the meringue crackly top surface. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread into prepared pan and bake.

Preheat the oven to 350 F prior to mixing the batter. This variation called for a 9×9 inch pan or 12×7.5 inch pan. Neither of which I have. My brain had a glitch and I used a 13×9 pan. I’m not sure why I thought that was a good idea but by the time I had sprayed it and lined in with foil and sprayed the foil again, it was too late to turn back. I have 8×8 and a 10×6 but my brain was not working on this one. I figured they would be very thin (there is no rising agent in fudgy brownies) and I would bake them for the least time. I baked them for about 19 minutes.

They did turn out thin. They did turn out fudgy. They did not have that shiny crackly top. Remember to remove them from the foil while still warm; I have brownie chunks along with my nicely squared brownies.

The Great Brownie Chase…

Back in 1999 I tried a bunch of brownie recipes on my teenagers and their friends. Over 6 months the winning brownie came out of a box. And it did not matter much which brand.

Well, I want to change that outcome so I am trying out brownie recipes on my coworkers. The biggest drawback is that brownies generally get rave reviews just for showing up and just for being chocolate.

For a two week trial so far, here is what I have done. I chose a Quick & Easy Fudge Brownies recipe from the back of a King Arthur flour bag. I clipped this and stuck it on my kitchen counter. I am not sure if I made this one before or a different KAF recipe. I have written about brownies twice before, here and here. But my endeavor here is to find a go-to recipe that gets high ratings from a variety of people. And because I am a social scientist I have a three point Likert scale for tasters to rate each brownie.

I virtually made the same recipe for both weeks. There are technical differences but I think this makes a big difference. Here is the basic recipe:

  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/ teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

KAF’s instructions are to put the ingredients in a large bowl in the order listed and beat until the mixture is smooth. Bake in a 913-inch pan for 25-30 minutes at 375 F.

Being the baker that I am I did not exactly follow the above, but almost. I accidentally used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa in the first batch. Also in the first batch, I used 4 egg whites (because I had these in need of use) and one whole egg. I used Whole Wheat Pastry Flour both weeks. The second week I used regular cocoa powder and three whole eggs. I melted the butter in the bowl, sifted the dry ingredients together, then added all the ingredients and mixed until smooth.

I had my coworkers rate these on three aspects: appearance, texture, and taste. I am sure there is some skewing of the results based on the time between samples. But, too bad!

The first was the Special Dark cocoa brownies. The sample size was n=12. The second week sample size was n=8. And the winner is…

I think these results show that Special Dark Cocoa should not be used in brownies. It is most likely best suited for dark and rich chocolate cakes. The medical student at work with a discerning palette picked up on the difference in moistness between the two which is the result of the egg whites vs. whole eggs. There was another coworker who verbally gave me her results so the second week is really a sample of 9. Three people who compared the two weeks all said the second week was better.

So don’t mess with the cocoa or the eggs! Whole wheat pastry flour works just as well as the all-purpose flour called for in the recipe. So we could say this is a healthy brownie, LOL! This is a simple enough recipe and makes a 9 x 13 pan so it could easily be a go-to recipe. Maybe I’ll try out recipes using baking chocolate next.