It must be Covid-19 that created the demand for chocolate. In the 10+ years I’ve been writing the 600+ entries in this blog, I posted two of the five instances of chocolate in the last month! These brownies have been in my repertoire for decades, and have served me well when cooking for crowds on a limited budget. I cooked my way through graduate school serving them and still make them for large picnics and parties. I have a hard time keeping them around my chocolate-crazed family these days. Our little pig comes out to remind them to share. Fat chance. I started cooking for my family in middle school, handwriting recipes into small spiral notebooks in my loopy script with whatever pen caught my fancy. After receiving a typewriter for a teenage birthday, I starting practicing my typing by transcribing old recipes and recording new ones in a small red three-ring binder. I kept this up through college and graduate school, and added collages of annotated magazine clippings. I still consult that food-stained and tattered record, especially for old-fashioned desserts.
This was my mother’s recipe. I have no idea where it came from and neither does she. I’ve embellished it with vanilla extract and filled in blanks (like how long to bake it!). But it’s same old stalwart, not fancy, frugal in its use of ingredients, simple to make in the top of a double boiler, and ultimately satisfying. Even for the pig.
The Frugal Cook’s Brownies
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1/3 c butter or shortening
1 c sugar
3/4 c sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: 1 tsp vanilla extract
Optiona: 1/2 c chopped nuts
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Generally butter or oil an 8-inch square pan (or line with parchment for easy removal).
Melt the chocolate and butter or shortening over simmering hot water (use a double boiler or a metal bowl over a regular pot). Let cool slightly. Beat in sugar and eggs. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and stir into the chocolate mixture. Add vanilla extract and nuts, if using. Spread into the prepared pan .
Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top has a dull crust and leaves a slight imprint when touched lightly with a finger. Cool slightly before cutting into squares.
Makes 16 two-inch brownies.