represent the alter ego of bittermelons. Instead of embracing the bitter,
brownies challenge us to endure the abundance of sweetness. Brownies with a hint of roasted bitterness
and bittermelon bhaji with a hint of roasted sweetness operate like a dynamic
gastronomic yin-yang. Most taste and encounters with others happen within this
range. Sweetness and bitterness, ease and effort, are encounters that asks us
to notice our repulsion and attraction to things. Life happens between tastes
of bittermelons and brownies, between bitter medicine and sweet poison.
I have yet to
meet a person who hates brownies. Unlike bittermelon, brownies are not an
acquired taste. The sweet, moist and dense brownie conquers and overcomes
bitterness unlike bittermelon bhaji that celebrates it. The beloved brownie does
not have the unpleasant bitterness of a thing that cleanses the human liver or
the risk of a thing that boils over and requires unpleasant cleanup, like
dal. There are ways to make an
experience of brownies, unpleasant. Just imagine biting into a brownie and
hearing an unwelcomed crunch, maybe of an errant eggshell shard.
Broken off into
small bites with hot coffee or cold milk, or spooned from a bowl, warm and
draped in melting vanilla ice cream, casual or elegant, there is no wrong way
to eat a brownie. A miracle food in my house, brownies are one of the few foods
celebrated by all members of my chopped and blended family. In the past, in addition to special occasion
dessert, a squat tower of brownies served as the platform for birthday candles,
as well as traveled, boxed, to school as birthday treats instead of cupcakes.
represent a magical definition-defying confection between cake and candy. A
small square aims to deliver big taste for the elegant and casual American
diner. Dense and moist enough to be picked up and bit into without an
uncivilized shower of cake crumbles, brownies exist for a society on the go and
perfectly represents a designed American cultural experience. In fact, the brownie was invented as a
portable dessert for the ladies meeting at Chicago’s Palmer house to discuss
the Chicago World’s Fair. Today a “to-go” version of this
confection at the Palmer House comes boxed and wrapped with a ribbon. The
packaging also includes a brief history and the original recipe. The taste can
be described as dense yet delicate, with a texture between fudge and cake that
melts in your mouth. The walnuts that give the confection texture compose the
top layer and are coated with a light glaze. The recipe says it’s an apricot
glaze but a fruity taste is hardly noticeable.
I chose Michael
Ruhlman’s, Make Ahead Brownies recipe as a guide for Atiya’s 15th birthday
brownie for two reasons: he claims the
recipe is as “easy to make as pancakes” and his recipe yields a big half sheet
pan. I quickly learned that the abundant size came with other considerations.
For example, an equally big bowl and muscles are needed for mixing. I tried
mixing the batter in the stand mixer while pouring the melted butter. I ended
up with a melted butter shower all over the countertops and floors. It was a
messy unpleasant clean up.
The next time I
baked these brownies, I learned my lesson and stirred the batter in my largest
bowl with my very own elbow grease. This was one of the few cooking instances
where technology did not enhance the experience. Beware of technological
are wonderful: intensely chocolaty, fudgy, dense and delicious at any
I love the
simplicity of the measurements that can be easily halved by the math-challenged
like me. Look to Ruhlman’s recipe for details and his introductory narrative.
(the amounts are NOT gentle suggests)
have Pillsbury brand flour, last year 2016 Gold Brand flour was recalled due to
e.coli. How does e.coli get into flour? We take the neutrality of flour as a
given. Consider the dangers of anything processed.
was sad but not surprised to learn of chocolate’s high carbon footprint. I used
Hershey cocoa power and have no idea about the environmental and social impact
of their chocolate sourcing or production.
power of salt, like water, can easily be overlooked. It makes me think of the
fairytale about a king who asked his three princesses, “How do you love me?” To
his satisfaction the first answered, “Like honey, father,” and the second
answered, “like sugar, father.” To his great disappointment the youngest
princess answered, “like salt, father.” Years later when she served him a meal
without any salt, the king understood the value of salt.
are so many fun books dedicated to eggs now. This recipe comes for Michael
Ruhlman’s Egg: A Culinary Exploration of
the World’s most Versatile Ingredient.
addition to the notorious history of sugar production tied to slave labor, the
detrimental role of sugar for human health, makes it a treat with a high cost.
teaspoons vanilla extract
a magical ingredient! Every time I open a jar, I have to take a whiff of the
pound (4 sticks) of butter
many cups of milk does it take to make a stick of butter? This is definitely a
luxurious recipe. One I probably would not make in Dhaka, unless there was a
super special occasion like a birthday.
cups of chocolate chips
chips have an odd birth after the 1938 invention of the chocolate chip cookie
at the Toll House Inn by Ruth Wakefield. Legend has it that WWII soldiers from
Massachusetts shared their care package cookies with their fellow soldiers and
the cookie became popular on warfront and then the home front.
ingredients. I like to add two teaspoons of espresso powder.
Mix eggs, sugar
and vanilla. Add the melted butter in a small steady stream while whisking or
the eggs will get scrambled. You may have to take breaks. I did.
Add dry to wet.
Mix gently scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl.
Pour batter on
a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
The sheet of
brownie emerges from the oven, unconvincingly done, gooey and soft. The surface
will still look wet and slightly cracked. The best thing to do is let it cool.
If you cut into it, the chocolate will ooze. This is the HARDEST part about
this recipe: waiting. After what seems like an eternity your cooled and better
yet, chilled brownie will be easier to cut into squares. Eat, share and freeze
sweet has a complex and even bitter history that reaches back to the chocolate
of the Aztecs and forward to a group of women discussing the Chicago World’s
Fair to introduce America’s productive power to the world. The story of the
brownie is deeper than its shallow flat form. The brownie eaten at birthdays,
received in care packages, shared with friends, eaten alone in consolation
becomes a part of your story. The decadent and luxurious confection between
cake and candy comes at a high cost to the environment and to your health.
Brownies only make sense when shared with others as a treat, in small bites of
unhealthiness to celebrate the dark sweetness of living.
How to eat brownies? Make a lot; share even more, like any guilty