February 26, 2009
Remember that beautiful weather a couple of weeks ago? Oh, it was truly glorious with the promise of spring to come. Well one day during that spell I was sitting on the front porch of my friend and neighbor, Anne, with some others while we rocked and talked and laughed and ate. From her perch on the ridge parallel to Military Road you can see straight to Alabama.
We were eating our favorite gas station sandwiches that Saturday. Even a small slice of one of these is a filling meal, but then I was presented with a slice of Bob Raymond''s brownies for dessert. I couldn''t say no -- he was sitting right there after all. This brownie was so light and moist and delicious, chockablock filled with pecans, that I was delighted I had been forced by etiquette to eat it. And, being that Bob had made it, I knew there had to be a story behind them.
A special bowl
He brought the brownie in a beautiful, shallow handmade pottery bowl. He says he has always made this recipe in this bowl. So, instead of a brownie square, you get a slice of brownie, not exactly like a pie, but similar. The deep green dish has a wide border in a criss-cross pattern, which adds to its uniqueness. Marsha Owen, who attended the W in 1976-1977, and is the daughter of the late Ben and Mary Jane Owen, of Columbus, made it. Bob tells me Mary Jane was a gracious hostess and good cook as well as one of the editors of the Columbus Junior Auxiliary cookbook, "Chew Chew."
Marsha now lives in Raleigh, N.C., with her husband, Rick who designed and made the unique border on Bob''s bowl. As each of her pieces is the only one of its kind, you have to describe to Marsha what you liked about that piece if you want her to reproduce something similar for you. (Her Web site is www.marshaowenpottery.com.)
Marsha is an excellent baker, and Bob says she makes a fabulous chocolate carrot cake and the best whole-wheat pizza ever. She once cooked at The Irregardless Café in Raleigh, an award-winning vegetarian restaurant. He passed on to me her recipe for the café''s lemon tahini dressing which I will share in a later column.
Back to the brownies. The recipe Bob uses is from Anita Murray. The name is "Missy''s Brownies," and you''ll have to ask Bob for that story. I am also including a couple of recipes from my former store, Foodworks, in Athens, Ga. We baked everything from scratch and had a rotation of brownies for sale. The two included were some of the most popular from a group of five or six we used. Although not technically a brownie, I''ve included the blondie recipe because it is just so good. One of our cooks, Dan, hiked the Appalachian Trail alone and his aunt used to send these to him on the trail from Unadilla, Ga.
I am not a baker; I just don''t seem to have the touch. Don''t know why. My mother was good; she had certain set baked items she made, and they were all delicious, but she didn''t just run into the kitchen and whip up a cake or pie for supper (thank goodness).
I was lucky to have two extremely talented bakers working for me at Foodworks. Merv and Hollis had the knack. And, I watched them and watched them. One thing I can remember they were adamant about is not to overmix the batter. They hand-mixed it, stirring it until ready to pour, and not beyond. All I can tell you is that it worked. You do yours any way that works for you. I also know you should never overbake brownies. Use the broom straw method to test and pull them out just as soon as the middle isn''t wet.
Have fun baking. Remember to include the whole family in the kitchen.
1 cup flour
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter plus 2 tablespoons (or more, it only gets better, per Bob)
4 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
- Mix the flour with the nuts to help them float better in the batter.
- Mix together the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt.
- Melt the butter and cocoa over medium heat in a saucepan.
- Slowly pour the butter/cocoa mixture into the mixed sugar and eggs. Then pour that into the flour/nut mixture and mix together. Pour/dump/scrape this into a greased dish or pan of your choice.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on the pan you use.
Jayne''s Southern Chocolate Mint Brownies
Four large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cocoa
1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Mint frosting (recipe below)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons butter
- Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl. Add sugar and mix well. Combine flour and cocoa; gradually stir into egg mixture. Stir in the melted butter and flavorings. Pour into a greased brownie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Cool.
- Spread mint cream frosting over brownie layer and freeze for 15 minutes.
- Melt chocolate and 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. Spread over the frosting with a pastry brush. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares. Store in refrigerator.
Mint Cream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 or 4 drops green food coloring
n Beat butter at medium speed with mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar; beating after each addition. Add milk and beat until the mixture is spreadable. Stir in peppermint extract and food coloring for a light green color.
Dan''s Aunt''s Blondies
1 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
- Beat butter and both sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. Add flour, salt and soda and mix, being careful not to overbeat. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Bake in a greased and floured brownie pan at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.
Anne Freeze, a self-professed foodie, was a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Columbus. She is a volunteer for The Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market in Columbus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.