Michelle was unhappy; Steve, somewhat stuffed. Several weekends of new recipes resulting in miserable muffin failures had wasted many cups of our precious frozen blueberries as well as other Gourmandistan goods. The first batch of blueberry muffins was too bland with an unpleasant, gummy texture. The second, tasty but too heavy. (Steve, like some sort of scavenger bird, picked the fruit out of the batter and baked remains before feeding Michelle’s castoffs to the chickens.) A third attempt abandoned blueberries for pears, ginger and walnuts, resulting in a tasty bite that still did not meet the grade for Michelle-level muffins. Michelle was getting a bit tired of unsuccessful baking, and Steve was getting a bit tired of having perfectly good berries snatched away because they arrived in things that were “meh.” The solution? More baking of sweets—but this time, something guaranteed to turn out well.
Michelle has been making these brownies since she was a teen, if not even younger. Combining a “one-pan fudge cake” from Nashville’s Junior League with caramel icing from New Orleans’ Junior League turns out a sweet, fudgy and nuttily satisfying brownie every time. Someday Michelle will find a muffin that meets her standards. Until that day, Steve will have to live with these brownies.
“NASHVILLE’S ONE-PAN FUDGE CAKE”
(adapted from Nashville Seasons)1 stick (8 TB) butter 1 c. sugar 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate pinch salt 3/4 c. flour 1/4 t. baking powder 2 eggs 1 t. vanilla extract 1 c. pecans or walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Melt butter, sugar and chocolate together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the same pan. Add eggs, vanilla and nuts. Blend with a wooden spoon or spatula (working quickly so that eggs incorporate into batter rather than cook) and pour into a well-greased 8″ square baking pan. Bake at 325° for 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
(adapted from The Plantation Cookbook)8 oz. light brown sugar 1/2 c. heavy cream 1/2 stick (4 TB) butter 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Boil sugar, cream and butter to soft-ball stage (238°) in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat until thick and cool enough to spread over brownies.