Baking for Others: Tins of Treats

Posted by on Sunday Feb 22nd, 2009 | Print

EVENT: Boston Birthday/I Miss My Sister In Maine
TYPE: Sendable!
BAKED GOOD: Brownies with add-ins

I’ve been baking brownies from Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook for as long as I can remember. Back when my metabolism was speedy, I’d bake a pan, then eat it warm, even uncut, from the oven. Now, I stick to picking at the crust as I cut the brownies into morsels to send to friends, in the process expelling them from my apartment immediately.

My main method of expulsion is to gift baked goods to friends—sometimes friends in the neighborhood, but sometimes people who live far off. They’re a nice, easy way of saying “hi,” “happy birthday,” or “eat up, you’re too thin,” without spending much more than the cost of postage.
These brownies are sendable favorites, though I’ve made some changes in ingredients and techniques over the years, and it is this modified recipe I’m posting now. It produces brownies that are thin, almost like fudge, but are sturdy enough to be packaged and sent.
A note about sending sweets in the mail: though brownies and tea cake (more on that soon) both keep very well, still try to send them overnight or at least in first-class mail so they don’t wind up lost. Send them early in the week so you don’t lose a day when the mailmen take a break on Sundays. Find sturdy tins, tupperware, or boxes (my most recent vessel was an empty tea box), and pad them well. I often wrap individual brownies in plastic wrap, but sometimes I just layer them between sheets of foil.
From my kitchen, small but generous, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK

cut and ready for packing!
The Best Brownies
16 normal-sized brownies

Though it sounds peculiar, under-baking and then immediately freezing the pan of brownies creates an incredible texture—sturdy but luscious. Recently, I sent a batch of these up to Boston, for my dear friend Becky’s birthday, which I couldn’t make in person. Those had toffee bits and dark chocolate chips mixed in. A week later, I stirred toasted almonds into a second espresso-scented batch, which I dispatched up to Maine to be enjoyed by my little sister, who needs extra sustenance to get her through the winter and her exhausting crew-team practices.

Ingredients
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup add-ins: chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, heath bar bites, or chopped toasted nuts.

Note: Though I like eating fancy brands of chocolate when someone else is paying, these brownies miraculously use good old Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate squares to great results. If you’re in the mood to splurge, the brownies are obviously also delicious with any of the new and improved unsweetened chocolate bars out there.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan. Clear a space in the freezer for the pan, and line the space with a dish towel.

Melt the chocolate with the butter in a saucepan over low heat (this can also be done in the microwave). Remove from the heat and stir in the sugars. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, and optional espresso, and mix until smooth. Add the flour, salt, and nuts/chips/candy and stir until smooth. Pour into the pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is crackly but the brownies are still quite moist. Cool slightly, then put the whole pan in the freezer until thoroughly cool, or leave overnight.

Cut the brownies into squares and eat, serve, or send.

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  • Kate

    Too bad my sister doesn’t love me! She used to send brownies, but not any longer! Did I do something wrong?? In all cooking seriousness, can I use all white sugar instead?

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    Yes, you can definitely use all white sugar here. There’s something about the brown sugar though that adds to the chocolate-y taste and fudgy texture. Don’t ask me why: I’m not a food scientist, just a humble baker.

  • Mark

    These are the gooiest, best brownies ever. They are like a melding of the best fudge and the best brownie you have ever eaten. My favorite is to use toffee bits (ie Heath) with good chocolate chips for the “add-in.” While I always plug BGSK, these are known as Mark’s famous brownies for anyone who knows me.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      This is hilarious! I suppose they could be known as Mark-slash-BGSK brownies, but that’s kind of a mouthful.

  • Sally

    Your description of these made them sound familiar — and they are. Though your recipe has a couple of variations, I’ve been making these for over 35 years. I know them as Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies. They are delicious — even without the add-ins.