Lest you ever think that everything I create in the kitchen turns out lovely, I’ll share with you something that happened over the weekend when I was making– not something fancy or complicated in any way— brownies.
We had a church potluck on Sunday where we were hosting a large group from outside the church. In addition to a giant crock pot of cheesy potatoes, I decided to make some brownies. Again, we’re talking brownies here. One of the simplest things out there.
The recipe I usually use for brownies makes an 8×8 square pan. I figured that wouldn’t be enough, so I contemplated my options. I could double it and make a 9×13 pan. This probably would’ve been a great choice, but I thought I’d kick it up a notch and make a half-sheet pan of brownies. I’ve doubled the recipe before to make a 9×13 pan, and it doesn’t make exceptionally thick brownies. So I decided to triple the recipe, knowing that there might be a bit extra batter, which I’d just bake in a loaf pan or whatever if necessary.
My first problem was that I didn’t have enough chocolate for a triple recipe. We had a birthday party to go to for Little Man’s friend Olive that day, so on the way home stopped at the store to buy more chocolate. I really should’ve just decided to buy some boxed mixes, but I never buy boxed brownies on principle. I don’t draw that same line when it comes to eating them, however.
I was exhausted when we got home, even though it was only like 6:30 pm. Blame the baby and the fact that I woke up the next morning with a sore throat that still hasn’t gone away. After we put Little Man to bed, I decided to make the brownies quickly so I could relax and go to bed at a reasonable time.
Now, the kind of brownies I like are the super fudgy ones. Which means they have lots of butter & eggs. So after I looked again at the recipe, I realized that a triple recipe of these brownies would use up nearly all my eggs and butter, despite having gone grocery shopping the day before. Part of me questioned at this point whether it was worth using up so many ingredients, but I ignored this little voice and plowed ahead with my plan.
I usually just mix these by hand, but I knew making so much batter would make this difficult, so I used the mixer. When I mixed the (9!) eggs along with the sugar, I should’ve realized we might have a problem. The mixer was already nearly full at this point, before adding any other ingredients. But still, I plowed ahead. As I added the other ingredients, and tried my best to mix it slowly, I ended up splashing at least half the vanilla straight out of the mixing bowl. Then I added the cocoa without sifting it, and had lumps that I couldn’t get out. When it came time to add the flour, I knew there was no way to mix it in the mixer without spilling it everywhere, so I attempted to stir it by hand with a spatula. Well, the bowl was 95% full, and trying to get to the bottom of the bowl would’ve meant submerging the spatula all the way into the bowl. After a long, careful stir with a combination of spatula & mixer, it was finally all incorporated.
I figured I was home-free at this point. Now it was just pouring the batter into the pan and baking it. Remember, we’re only talking about brownies here. Super simple, right? I poured the batter into my half-sheet pan until it was full, and had some left in the bowl. I got out my 8×8 pan and poured the rest in, only to find that it was about twice as thick as a normal pan. What the heck? How could I have that much extra batter? A half-sheet pan is bigger than a 9×13. So logically, it made no sense that I had so much batter. No sense at all. Whatever, I just wanted to be done with these stupid brownies.
I had made some salted caramel sauce earlier that day, and had attempted to halve the recipe, only to add the full amount of cream at the end. Maybe I should’ve realized it wasn’t my day to be in the kitchen. It actually worked fine still, but I ended up with more than I anticipated, so I decided to swirl some of the caramel into the brownies. I dolloped spoonfuls of caramel over the surface of the brownies, then swirled them in with a knife. They looked really pretty! Perfect, now just to bake them.
I remembered from previous baking experiences that my oven is too small to fit two half-sheet pans on the same rack. But is it just because they’re too wide next to each other, or are they also too long for the oven door to close properly? I couldn’t remember. I thought it would be less of a pain if I could fit the two pans on the same rack, because then I wouldn’t have to switch the pans half-way through cooking to keep the lower one from getting too dark on the bottom. Remember, I was ridiculously tired at this point and just wanted to be done with these stupid, stupid brownies. I was thinking it probably wouldn’t work to put them on the same rack, but I figured I’d try it and see. I put the half-sheet pan in the long way, and surprise! it fit! Awesome. So I stuck the square pan next to it, shut the oven door and went to take a shower while they baked.
After a leisurely shower, I came out to the lovely aroma… of burning. Somehow my husband had been oblivious to this smell as he stayed out in the living area. What now? I thought. How is it burning already? Is it the caramel getting too hot somehow? With great trepidation, I opened the oven door.
The sight I beheld was something entirely different than I had been expecting. Brownie batter was flowing like lava from the front of my half-sheet pan and dripping down into an ever-growing pile of burning brownie turds on the bottom of the oven. What. The. Heck. I tipped the front of the pan upward to stop the lava flow, and my husband used nearly half a roll of paper towels to wipe down the oven racks and the bottom of the oven clean. It took me way too long to realize that the problem was that when I went to put the pan in the oven the long way, the reason that it fit was because the back of it popped up against the back of the oven. Sigh.
I rearranged the oven, but at this point the oven had been opened for so long, and the pan of brownies had already set somewhat, so I really had no idea how much longer they needed to bake. The rest of the evening was spent, not relaxing, but getting up every several minutes to check on the progress of the brownies. It was extra difficult to decipher when the large pan was done because one side was significantly thicker than the other. So I did my best to cook it so that the thicker side was cooked through without burning the thin side. Geez Louise, these stupid brownies. Who knew that making a pan of brownies could be this absurdly difficult.
In the end, they tasted good. But one row of brownies on one side was hard as a rock and had no caramel, since it had all slid to the other side.
Here’s a comparison shot of the brownies from one side of the pan compared to the other. Yes, the same pan of brownies. Haha. At least they tasted good. Well, except for the one row, since I didn’t want to risk breaking my teeth on them. Maybe I’ll pulse them up and use them to make a crust for some cheesecake or something.
In case you want to know, this is the recipe I use for brownies. And this is the recipe I used (and botched!) for the caramel sauce. A word to the wise– if you need to make a half-sheet of these brownies, probably stick to a double recipe.
And if you want some other awesome recipes I tried this week, check out these posts by some fellow Minnesotan food bloggers:
This recipe is so stinking easy and really impressive. It’s easy enough that I made it on the busiest night of the week no problem. And it’s impressive enough to serve to your guests and have them rave about it.
Meyer Lemon and Thyme Roasted Chicken by Relishing It
And please don’t compare my photos to Laurie’s– she’s an amazing photographer!
And I didn’t get a picture of these… because I was too busy eating them. Recently in the Fortify Facebook group, someone asked about where to get a stellar butterscotch pudding in the Twin Cities. Loads of people brought up Tilia, where they serve a butterscotch pot de creme developed by Zoe Francois. Zoe is an amazing pastry chef, and also happens to have the recipe for these pots de creme on her blog.
I’m generally not the hugest fan of butterscotch things because I often find them cloyingly sweet, but the process of getting the sugar toasted almost to the point of burning it really brings a depth of flavor that’s just wonderful. Then the unsweetened creme fraiche on the top perfectly rounds out the dessert. And have I mentioned the texture? I’ve never had anything so silky and velvety in my life. So. Freaking. Good.
Butterscotch Pot de Creme at Zoe Bakes.
Note: I halved Zoe’s recipe (correctly, even!) and had great results. I still ended up with 6 servings, though, so my ramekins must be a bit smaller than hers. Darn, extra servings of a delicious dessert!
Anyway, check out these amazing recipes, and consider buying a box of brownies next time you need to bring something to a church potluck. Haha.