Last weekend I took little Eve to her very first classical Christmas concert with a large city choir in which my mother sings. I was a little apprehensive before we left. Could I really expect a three year old to sit quietly through two hours of Baroque music sung completely in Latin? I should never have doubted her though, as she sat rapt with excitement watching her grandma sing. And she came away with a good dose of "culture" to boot.
The splendour of the music and the joy of the season made us feel like celebrating, and as we drove through the town centre thousands of tiny, sparkling Christmas lights reflected on the fluffy snowflakes which had just begun to float through the icy sky. It was one of those picture perfect, postcard Christmas moments that people write happy songs about, and I wish I could have preserved it forever.
At home that evening I whipped up a celebratory batch of these old fashioned brownies, and put them in to bake as we ate a late dinner. Oh, the smell of chocolate baking on a snowy December evening! Is there anything better?
OK, I'll just come out and say it . . . I don't like ooey-gooey brownies. I may be the only person in the world who doesn't, but it's the truth. These cake-like brownies were my great-grandmother's and they're what we grew up eating as kids. Old fashioned brownies are generally dense, thick, and cakey - not gooy - just the way I like them. They're not overly sweet, just perfect, with a finishing touch of icing "snow" on top (which is how they got their name). Of course, I've modified her recipe and made it more modern (does anyone really cook with oleo anymore?), and added just a touch more chocolate (you can never have too much).
Old Fashioned Brownies
(from the early 1900s)
1 3/4 cups sugar (I use organic beet sugar)
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup coarsely chopped, nut-free chocolate or chocolate chips (like Vermont Nut Free or Enjoy Life)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup whole milk
icing sugar to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. In a large bowl cream the sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Toss the chocolate chunks (or chips) in the flour mixture to coat. (This prevents them from sinking the the bottom of the pan as the brownies cook.) Add the flour mixture alternating with the milk to the butter and eggs. Beat until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25 -28 minutes until set in the middle. Allow to cool completely before sprinkling with icing sugar.
*a note on baking: I live in the mountains at 6000 feet. All of my recipes work well at high altitude. I haven't tested them at lower elevations, but I'd love to know how they turn out. Please contact me if you need help modifying them.