One down, 54 to go: A Brownie Challenge

I bake habitually. 

Whether it's because I'm bored or stressed or both, I love to bake. I am not, however, incredibly good at baking. To this day I cannot make baking powder biscuits to save my life. They come out as hard little hockey pucks, still delicious but very much Not a risen flaky baking powder biscuit. (It's ok though, I usually give up on biscuits and make poor-man's cinnamon buns instead.)

I remember my very first baking disaster very clearly. I was 13, my parents had just divorced and my mother had moved into this super old condo with yellowed crunchy carpet and white plaster scenes of mountains and boats and other worldly-type-things all over the walls. I had got a book of brownie recipes for the previous Christmas and I wanted to try out a fancy brownie recipe. So, I made a list of the ingredients for Mom to get at the store and waited for her to get back. When she did I collected all the ingredients and got cracking! 

  Biscuit dough! You will obey me!

Biscuit dough! You will obey me!

I knew something had gone horribly wrong very early in my attempt. Usually, thought my child brain, when something goes into the oven to bake it does not look like watered down soup. I read and reread the recipe but I had done everything right, mixed everything properly, I had no idea what had gone wrong. I even, desperately, added flour to the slawsh to see if I could thicken it. 

 

  The Book.

The Book.

Now, keeping in mind that no one else baked in my house, not even my mother, it made total sense that something like this was bound to happen. It was just unfortunate that it had to be on my very first attempt to bake anything fancy. The recipe I was trying to make called for condensed milk. As I learned years later, condensed milk is Not the same as evaporated milk. Also note, one can of evaporated milk is typically much larger than one can of condensed milk. So you can bet on which can of milk my mother brought home for me to use in my fancy brownies. I didn't find out there was a difference between the two till many years later when I worked for a test kitchen, so I didn't blame my mom for not knowing the difference. I was just glad that, years later, I realized I wasn't as inept at baking as I thought I had been at 13. 

This whole adventure down memory lane has a purpose! I swear. You see, I found that brownie book (or rather, I had never lost it, I was just afraid of it), and the plan is to make every single recipe out of it. Starting with one that really has evaporated milk in it. 

Easy Peanut Butter Delights 

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I do have some additional notes for this recipe. For example, when candying the sugar, margarine and milk together, it takes about 1 1/2 minutes of boiling to bring it to a stage where it's sticky enough to keep all the ingredients together. Also, prep the dry ingredients first, before candying the sugar, so that as soon as the candy syrup is done, you can pour it into the peanut butter/oat/marshmallow mix, stir and press the brownie goop into the prepared pan. It happens all fast, so it's good to be ready. 

The result was a little goopy at first, but after I refrigerated them for a day they were good to go. Peanut buttery marshmallow bars. Much more successful than my previous attempt to make something out of this book. Only took me 12 years to regain my courage! ....Hmmmmm.

-Andrea

The Half-Assed Hobbyist