I know most people don't have strong sentimental feelings about brownies. I know that for most people they're an easy, fast treat that begins with the contents of a box. And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. But I will say that there is something better than that. And not much harder. And a little cheaper (when you include the ingredients you add to brownie mix and take its size into account). And did I mention better.
And also (and this is the part where I get a little wonky and sentimental and all) so much more meaningful than that. Brownies were the first gift Kip ever gave me. You may have heard that story before. Those brownies were good. Those brownies were better. And I like remembering that. I like remembering that the start of our homemade life together--the life where we raise children and ducks and trees and flowers, the life where we cannot seem to refrain from digging out an additional garden plot each spring, even though we swear we will not every year--began with a plate of brownies better than any brownies I'd had before, brownies that were made by a loving hand.
Oh, but the story doesn't even stop there. Because in addition to their sentimental gooey loviness, these brownies have a practical side as well. Which of course any marriage that is going to last more than 3 months does too. For starters, these brownies contain a mere 6 ingredients (that's only 3 more than the boxed variety in case your math skills just faltered). They're easy to assemble. My sister-in-law once told me that she sometimes just mixes them up in the pan. And they can be messed up in any number of ways and still turn out great. How, pray tell, can they be messed up? Well, let me tell you.
1. They can be undercooked. We've undercooked them on a couple of occasions, let them cool, cut them up, realized they were raw, put them back in the oven, and then taken them out again 20 minutes later. In fact, it just so happens that that was the case with our last batch--the one pictured above. The top comes out a little crispy, but the middle is still all tender goodness (and for those who enjoy a little diversity in their textures, these might even be better). And if you want a brownie that's going to be perfect in ice cream, this is just the mess up for you. The ice cream will soften the crispy edges without it all getting gooberiffic.
2. The flour can be completely forgotten. I did this once and the sugar and butter made a sort of caramel layer on the bottom that I found so completely awesome, I've been meaning to do it again. We ate it with whipped cream. Oh my. For full discolusure, I should say that although Kip ate plenty of the flour-free brownies, he prefers the original.
3. They can be made in a toaster oven. I know this because before I knew Kip, I knew these brownies. What, you say, incredulous at this plot twist/love triangle; how can this be. Yes, it's true. I didn't know I knew these brownies, but I did. When I was on a mission for my church in a far off land, we had some older missionaries--the Bakkers--in our area. Zuster Bakker made these mission-famous brownies. In the toaster oven. Because those mission apartments were sometimes lacking in the oven department (the Dutch don't bake as much as we Americans do). They were a breath of sweet warm American at times like Christmas when we were feeling a little lonesome. Then I got home, met Kip, and forgot about the Bakkers' brownies in my new love affair with Kip's brownies. And then one day, I learned that Kip's family had gotten the recipe for their brownies from a woman at their church--a woman by the name of Bakker. A woman who showed up at our wedding reception knowing both the bride and the groom. Indeed. No wonder my feelings for brownies run deep.
4. These brownies can be made with margarine. I will not say I recommend this, but it can be done (don't try it with cookies; blech.) I must also say that the margarine brownies are not as good. They taste, in fact, a lot more like a boxed brownie--in other words, perfectly edible, tasty even, but not the utter delightbuttery brownies are.
The only thing these brownies don't withstand well is extreme overcooking. No brownie withstands this well. Sure, you can eat them if you burn them. But they're not nearly as good.
In summary: Homemade brownies plus marriage equals good. Try it. (Hi, Bakkers, thanks for the recipe--we're doing fine and we have four kids now; can you believe it. They like your brownies too.)
Makes 9x13 (we won't discuss how many servings that is or isn't or should or shouldn't be)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
( butter: 1.15, cocoa: .60, sugar: .35, eggs: .40, flour: .15)
1 C butter (2 sticks)--we use salted; if you don't, you'll want to add 1/4 tsp salt
1 C cocoa
2 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
Note: Feel free to add in chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or to sub 1/4 mint extract for the vanilla.
Beat or mix butter and sugar (we usually melt or significantly soften the butter). Beat or mix in eggs and vanilla. Add cocoa. Add flour.
Spread into a lightly greased 9x13 inch pan (unless you've just mixed it in the pan, lazy style--in which case I salute you).
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean (be sure you're not sticking it in a chocolate chip).