Gourmandistan

Brownies, taking away the taste of failed muffins.

Brownies with Caramel Icing

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.

CARAMEL ICING

(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.

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26 comments

  1. antonia

    First time at your page and automatically became one of my faves!! These brownies caught my attention instantly!!!!
    Congratulations from Chile, South America :)

    • Oh, we get it! Thanks much. Caramel frosting is one of the great Southern traditions. Usually on jam cake. Yuck in my opinion. Much better on brownies (what isn’t?).

  2. Hi, Michelle and Steve – Oh, I can relate to the challenges of baking (and am, too, crying for the lost blueberries). Good for you for trying new things – and for remedying your attempts with a delicious and well-seasoned recipe at the day’s end. I love brownies. They might be my favorite food. Your base recipe is the same as one that I enjoy – which was found in The American Pi cookbook. Now I must check out the Nashville Seasons book. Supposedly the base recipe was Katherine Hepburn’s preferred brownie to serve guests. Your icing looks divine – and no-fail if one has a candy thermometer. I bet Steve went to bed ever MORE stuffed (with scrumptious chocolate). Oh, and the pear and ginger combination of the third muffin sounds great, even if they didn’t work out. Happy Thanksgiving! Best, Shanna

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