The Sunday Food-Related Post: The Ultimate Brownie
There’s no doubt about it—Steelers @ Patriots is likely to be a tense game. It’s possible (but not particularly likely) the Patriots will blow out the Steelers, putting the outcome in little doubt early in the game. It’s also possible (although even less likely) that the Steelers do the same. So let’s all assume the game is going to be a nail-biter, right down to the wire.
And if you have to endure a nail-biter, there’s nothing more comforting than a brownie, still faintly warm from the oven. And because this is such a special game, I’m going to reveal for the first time ever my mother’s amazing brownie recipe.
My mother, an organ major in college, began teaching piano students when I was four and a half years old. My father declared that she wasn’t going to teach other people’s kids and not her own, so I duly began piano lessons shortly thereafter. My mother retired from teaching piano in April of 2016. That is 58 years of piano teaching. You do the math.
My mother had a large and thriving studio. At one point she was teaching about 60 students a week. (Most of the lessons were 30 minutes long.) She had several secrets for attracting many and diverse students, young and old(er.)
The first was, she was a terrific teacher. She was patient with even the least talented and/or most obdurate student (although she did once send her own grandson home because he refused to do anything at all except sit on the bench. He announced to his mother that “Grandma fired me.”) She knew how to draw whatever abilities her students had out of them, often surprising them as much as her.
The second was, she remembered what it was like to have a passel of kids (okay, three) all taking music lessons at once, and was quite merciful in her rates. (This did not necessarily endear her to some of the other teachers in town who wanted to charge higher ones.)
And the third reason was the quadri-annual (if such a word exists) recitals she held in our living room for the students and their parents. (That’s four times a year, not every four years.) You might not think playing for their parents was a big draw for the kids, and it wasn’t. The attraction was the cookies and punch (all homemade) she served afterwards. Lemon bars, Linzer cookies, apricot bars, and her famous recital punch were all popular favorites. But for many of the kids (and probably most of their parents) none of these delights held a candle to her famous brownies. Just the right amount of tender gooeyness, topped with delicious buttercream frosting, they were to die for.
Mom’s impressive array of cookie sheets are all put away now. As she frequently says, her “brain isn’t what it used to be” and the joy of cooking has fled (although the Joy of Cooking still resides in the cupboard above the stove.) So in honor of the Steelers’ long-awaited return to the AFC Championship Game, here is the closely-guarded recipe:
- 1 c. butter
- 4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
- 4 large eggs
- 2 c. sugar
- 1 1/4 c. flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 c. chopped nuts (preferably pecans)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/3 c. butter
- 2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. cocoa powder
- 1/4 c. milk
- 3 c. confectioners sugar (or more)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- pinch of salt
For the brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate over very low heat. Cool. (Very important.) Beat eggs, gradually adding sugar. Add the chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla. Beat in the flour, salt, and nuts. Turn into a 10×15 jelly roll pan which has been greased and floured. Bake for 25 minutes, until just set. Pour on the frosting while brownies are still warm.
For the frosting: Combine butter, cocoa and milk in a small saucepan and bring to a boil Beat in powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. It will be a bit runny, but if it is super runny add more powdered sugar. You want it to pour onto the brownies but not run off the sides…
You can cut the recipe in half and bake in a 9×9 pan, but you will be sorry you did.
A couple of notes from me: the “cool the chocolate” bit is so important because the only leavening in the brownie portion of the recipe is the eggs, and you don’t want to pre-cook them by adding the butter and chocolate while they are still hot. And for that matter, mom lives at about 7000 feet altitude, and it is possible you might wish to add a bit of baking powder if you don’t also live at high altitude. You might also need a bit more flour if you do. But don’t get carried away. These aren’t supposed to rise that much, as you can tell by the fact she made them in a jelly roll pan. You just don’t want them totally flat—although honestly through the years an occasional batch would come out a bit thinner and denser than usual, and nobody cared. And finally, the icing, as noted above, is a bit runny—otherwise you couldn’t pour it on the brownies. It does set up as they cool. If you can wait that long. If not, just lick it off your fingers as you go.
And speaking of going, Let’s Go Steelers! It might be a nice touch to decorate your very dark brown brownies with some bits of gold leaf. Don’t hold back, people. It’s win or go home…