Nana Jean was a wily soul. When cornered by an acquaintance imploring her for a recipe she would deflect, muttering ‘oh I have it written down somewhere’, only to conveniently forget its whereabouts. By my father’s accounts, Nana was proficient at culinary misdirection.
Seemingly, Jean’s covert cooking operations extended to her cookbook. Unfortunately for me, there are dozens of recipes without specified oven temperatures and no mention of what dish in which to cook the cake or pudding. And this brings me to these brownies.
When you think of brownies, what comes to mind? Nuts and fruit? Slice-shaped baked cake-like wedges? Chocolate?
Yes, well, there was no mention of chocolate in this recipe.
No melted chocolate. No cocoa. Nothing.
And no nuts.
I did some cursory review of brownie recipes online. I headed to Epicurious, which espoused the virtues of cocoa as opposed to melted chocolate (it’s an interesting concept – read about it here). I had in my possession a packet of cacao, and so tried to substitute this for cocoa. I also guessed the quantity of chocolate powder, hoping (or perhaps even naively believing) that I had inherited some kind of sixth-sense for baking. I haven’t.
And so we come to the title of this article. These brownies truly resemble brownies. They are gorgeously studded with sultanas and walnuts – they haven’t sunk to the bottom of the dish; by some kind of culinary magic they are perfectly suspended through the slice. They smell amazing when pulled from the oven. They are very convincing imitations of brownies. But they taste truly awful. The cake is bitter and as for the texture… well it’s a bit stodgy. Sort of claggy. Perfect for those on a diet – you’ll get all of that giddy excitement of indulging in something as truly sinful, truly comforting as a brownie, and once you’ve taken a bite you have absolutely no desire for more. Your craving has evaporated. And your enemies, if they have the displeasure of tasting these brownies, will be suitably revolted.
However, I am not going to grace you with my recipe. Just in case some unwitting soul skips right to the recipe and wastes a great deal of time, hope and promises on delivering a plate heavy with brownies. You’re welcome.
And as a postscript, it was suggested to me by a friend that Jean may have simply written down the parts of the recipe she thought she may forget. That in all her cookery experience she had no need of cocoa quantities, no need to state the obvious with the nuts, no need to discuss oven temperatures and baking dishes. I like this interpretation. It’s nicer than thinking of Jean purposefully omitting things from her cookbook during her youth, to the chagrin of her grandchildren some 80 years down the track.
Yes, so, I am currently on the search of the perfect brownie recipe. I sorely need to redeem myself in the eyes of my disappointed younger brothers. Do you have a tried and tested go-to never-fail smiles-all-round brownie recipe? All tips, directions or commiserations will be gratefully received!