Saturday, February 23, 2008

Great Brownie Recipe, Plain and Birthday-fancy

Dear Reader,
I have missed writing to you! I have so many things I want to share, but the days have been stretching on, post-less for me. (I wrote this before I finished that last post, so it's been a bit.) So, first things first; brownies. I've made a few batches of brownies, from scratch, that have been disappointing. Hard to believe, isn't it? You'd think all brownies would be good! But I've found my perfect recipe. Normally I'm not a stick-to-the-recipe kinda Mama, but with baked goods, improvisation can lead to sadness in my kitchen.
One qualification: this whole post is not very Lenten, but we had a birthday around here, and exceptions must be made!
Here it is, from my new favorite cookbook, Savoring the Seasons, which I discussed a while ago. They are an historic recipe from Mrs. Macine of International Falls, MN. Don't be intimidated by cooking these from scratch if you're not a from-scratcher; these are almost as easy as a box, and only have six ingredients. I do leave out her recommended chocolate chips, as they're so expensive, and these are fudgey goodness itself with out them. I also changed the chocolate; her recipe called for squares baking chocolate, and we buy unsweetened cocoa powder in bulk, so this is my adaptation.
6 full Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick butter, okay to skimp on it; I always do!
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract; we buy good vanilla, and I always use extra! Paul is amazed at the amount of vanilla and flour we run through; winter's the season--we probably won't need a refill all summer long.
1/2 cup flour

Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. I turn off the heat when the butter's about half melted and cover it to finish melting whilst I mix the other ingredients. Waste not want not, you know.
Beat eggs and sugar. Mix in vanilla and flour.
Pour into a greased pan, 9x9 is good. Bake at 375 (F) for 12 to 18 minutes. And here is the key to these goodies: do not overbake them. They are done before they pull away from the sides of the pan.
Now for the fun part: our little one, the older little one, requested a mouse and strawberry party. We had a tiny party, with just a few children (one for each of his years, as he is only three and easily overwhelmed. Also because if it is a small party we can be very fancy and make everything super-special, without Mama and Papa being overwhelmed either!). So, since we were having a mouse party, mouse-sized cakes seemed fitting. I improvised a tiny cake stand by using masking tape to stack teacups and pretty plates together, and whipped out a batch of brownies in mini muffin tin the day before. Each one was about a tablespoon of batter. We always lick all our spoons and bowls!
The day of the party, we whipped a half-pint of cream, stirring in a bit of vanilla once semi-stiff peaks form. I beat some sugar to taste into maybe a quarter cup of cream cheese and whipped cream. I made a simple syrup from a bag of frozen strawberries. Some of this I stirred into some of the whipped-cream-cheese frosting.
The fun part is assembly: I sandwiched the plain frosting between tiny brownies, and topped with swirls of plain frosting, dollops of strawberry frosting, and drizzled strawberry syrup on top. This all isn't as heavy as it sounds because they are small and the frosting is whipped. Delicious? Yes.
Since it was a mouse party, the birthday boy had a special mouse outfit, and all guests wore whiskers and pink noses. There was also one lion, but he was mostly friendly with the mice

We read The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, which I checked out from the library in one of those oversized storytime editions, played hide and seek, sang songs, and nibbled on treats. Happy Birthday, little Mouse!

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