Baking is not for the faint of heart. Other forms of cooking, you can throw a dash here, a dollop there, pour on a sauce, a garnish, lube your guests with a cocktail and Bob’s your uncle, it all works out. Baking on the other hand has the potential to get very out of hand. Too much rise, too much run, and Julia’s your cousin once removed, your oven is on fire. And your fire extinguisher is missing…used in the last cooking mishap…with a faulty electrical circuit in your microwave…two days before hosting Thanksgiving dinner…for ten.
A few years ago, I decided to tackle the art of baking a cake. All from scratch. And then proceeded to make layer cakes and frosting them. Not all the experimentation was pretty but all turned out quite tasty. Happy with cakes, I moved on to breads (including a quite tasty but simple fav of mine, naan. ) Bread, after all, is cake without most of the sweetness which is why things like carrot cake, zucchini bread, and banana bread confuse me. I eat them with relish but prefer to not wonder…bread or cake? You decide.
Alas, in my baking adventures, I avoided an entire substrata of baked goodness: the brownie. Truthfully, I’m not the brownie’s biggest fan. The denseness can lead to dryness on the outside and become so brick-like in structure as to be just as useful as cement shoes for burying folks. Or at least, dropping them into such a state of food coma as to be completely incapable of repelling an attack. So it’s never the first dessert I think of when asked by a great friend to bring something along to a get-together. But when asked for specifically, I can rally.
Enter my good buddy Shortie’s world-renowned Killer Brownies. So vaunted that trips across vast distances have been travelled to consume such a delight as a pan of these brownies. So when asked to bring brownies, I did the thing any normal chef would do…I asked for a great recipe. Because of being sworn to secrecy as to the genetic makeup of said Killer Brownies, I can’t disclose the recipe. However, I didn’t actually follow the recipe. Through a series of unfortunate events, I would up with more substitutions to the original ingredients so decided I probably should disavow making said Killer Brownies and instead offer up a new recipe inspired by Killer Brownies: JK Livin’ Brownies. These brownies are about perseverance, experimentation, patience, and ultimate trust in the process. In other words, jsut going with the flow. And no, they are NOT magic brownies as I was often asked. They are inspired brownies.
I will tell you that the original recipe calls for a certain cake mix, certain caramel candy, a certain pan size, and evaporated milk. Of which I broke all those rules. First, the store didn’t have the cake mix specified. So I grabbed boxes of Devil’s Food cake mix. Hey, what could be closer to Killer than the Fru-ITS of the De-VIL! Then, I realized that I had no 9X9 cake pans, only 8X8. Upon returning home, I realized I only had 1 can of evaporated milk and no regular milk to reduce down. And because of all the other substitutions, decided that the caramel apple dip I already had would be better than spending hours unwrapping caramel candies and melting and stirring, melting and stirring, melting and stirring in the double broiler.
So I proceeded to use the same proportions in the smaller pan, enjoyed easily spreading the already thin caramel sauce over the chocolate chips, then layering to the top the covering of cake dough made with reduced down soy milk that I had. Two batches then slide into the gas oven and proceeded to cook. Within ten minutes, the smoke began to billow out. My brownies were overflowing the confines of their too-small pans and the dough was landing right in the small vent where the gas heat came through. Poof! Fire in the hole!
Dogs safely herded into the garage away from any potential fire alarms, house properly ventilated, and cake pans removed with 3 minutes left to go in the cooking process, I surveyed the damage and deliberated on my options. Yeah, I suppose I could rely on the self-cleaning cycle and burn the dollops of brownie mix to ash at 900 degrees. But since said pre-Thanksgiving microwave disaster, I had not smartly replaced the used Fire extinguisher and didn’t want to risk another, bigger fire as dough exploded. So I took a yoga deep breath, and waited for the oven to cool. Then, screwdriver to screw, I removed the bottom pan in the oven, cleaned out the chocolaty debris, and called the oven safe.
But this being a full ten minutes after removing the brownies, I worried about re-baking. So I stuck a fork in it. Or rather a knife. Which came out surprisingly clean for under-baked brownies filled with caramel. Hmmm. Gooey brownies. Yup, check! I figured friends would be forgiving. So I put the brownie pans in the fridge to solidify and crossed my fingers that everything turned out well.
In the morning, I took the pans out and wondered if the brownies would make the cut. Wow! Did they ever. This was the stuff that food porn is made of. Gooey, chocolaty, with a little powdered sugar for style, these things looked killer indeed. But how would they taste? Survey SAYS….all the brownies were gone by the end of the night. Which just goes to show, you can be forgiven by the culinary gods..if you offer up enough sacrifices.
Blog-mistress friend o mine Wasabi Prime further documented the foodie-tastic evening. Check out her full account of the festivities (as well as the recipe for her Nom-tastic orzo salad) . Thanks again to Jennifer and Kat for hosting the fun!