It is roughly 12 degrees outside and there is snow on the ground and ice on the roads. I've spent most of my morning snuggled under a quilt, quietly sipping coffee and thankful to be warm and cozy in my little farmhouse.
It's exactly this type of day...a frozen Saturday in January...that my mind turns to domestic matters: household chores, knitting, coupons, and, of course, cooking. From a very early age, I came to associate cooking with cold weather. My mother (who at one time managed a full-time job, two part-time jobs, and a family) was rarely home with any significant free time, but icy roads and snowy windows in East Tennessee meant we weren't getting out of our back-country house and gravel driveway unless there was a dire emergency. So, left with unexpected free time, she made brownies and hot chocolate much to my delight.
Later, my sister and I continued this tradition - baking homemade brownies every time school was closed due to snow. With the first mention of wintery weather in the forecast, my mother would stock up on supplies: bread, milk, and eggs, of course, but always enough cocoa, flour, sugar, and vanilla to weather the storm.
Just yesterday, as my own daughter was preparing hot chocolate, I phoned my mother and found her, predictably, baking brownies. Although I've spent a great deal of time in the kitchen the past couple of days baking casseroles, cooking beans, and making chili, I had not yet craved a warm pan of brownies...until now.
I think I woke up with the smell of brownies in my nose - I must have been dreaming about them. Brownie desire is a hard thing to shake, so I uncurled myself from the sofa and rummaged through my cupboards searching for the necessary ingredients. Somewhere in the process, I realized that this really isn't about wanting to eat a brownie...this is about honoring a ritual and paying homage to a tradition that has become somewhat sacred...passed from mother to daughter, from one generation to the next. Regardless of the recipe, brownie baking on a cold winter day is an experience - the measuring of the cocoa, the lobbying for who gets to lick the spoon, the smell of warm brownies in the oven...
Since baking brownies should be a shared experience, following is a simple recipe for you to enjoy. As with most of my recipes, this one isn't really that original, but simply an evolution of other recipes I've tried. You will notice there is no mention of butter or eggs, so a couple of adjustments should make this one an nice version for my vegan friends...happy baking!
A Simple Brownie Recipe:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, but remember to dust them with flour so they don't sink!)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease a 8x8 inch baking pan. In a bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients - you might want to sift them together to prevent lumps. Then add the wet ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Stir in the chips and pour into the pan. Bake for about 50 minutes - this works for my oven, but yours might take longer. Cool and cut...then snuggle up and enjoy!!
(In case you were wondering, my kids ate most of the brownies while I was typing up this blog...no final picture, but they sure tasted good!)