Brownies and Blondies

Yet another potluck. And at short notice. They are providing the barbecued burgers and chicken. Usually I like to make something interesting and exotic that will wow people with my cooking prowess and shock them when I tell them it is low fat. But there are several factors that interfered with my usual strategy.

  • With short notice, I don’t have time to go to the grocery, whatever I make has to be from ingredients I have in the house – a bad time to discover you’re almost out of brown sugar.
  • It is on a week night, so it has to be something I can make after work.
  • The gathering is way out in the middle of nowhere. So it has to be something sturdy that can withstand bouncing around on the seat of my truck as I get lost navigating dirt roads in the deep woods trying to find this place.

So the decision is: Bittersweet Brownies and Cranberry Pecan Blondies. It was a good decision, too, because I did indeed get lost out in the woods looking for the tiny hidden driveway onto their land, and almost everyone else brought a salad.

Here they are in their glory, ready for transport to the feast:

About these Bittersweet Brownies. The recipe comes from Cooking Light, a magazine you should seriously consider subscribing to. These are some of the best brownies I have ever eaten. The brownies are moist, and if you love chocolate, they are positively orgasmic.

Bittersweet Brownies

Cooking spray
1/4 cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon instant espresso granules or 2 Tablespoons instant coffee granules
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (not your regular chocolate chips, but the really dark kind like Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Combine 1/4 cup water and coffee granules in a medium bowl. Stir in chocolate chips, stirring until they melt. Stir in butter, vanilla, egg, and egg white until they are well combined. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups, level with a knife. Add sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt to the flour and whisk together. Add chocolate-coffee mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until just moist. (This was very stiff to stir, even with a wooden spoon. I ultimately used my hands to make sure all of the dry ingredients were mixed in). Place batter into prepared baking pan, and smooth out so it is mostly even. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you are using it. Cut into servings.

The original recipe said this made 18 brownies, at 5.8 grams of fat/brownie. This made mighty big brownies, especially to take to a potluck. I cut it into 24 brownies, at 3.9 grams of fat/brownie. They were nice sized brownies, and since one of my Principles is that a snack should be 4 grams of fat or less, it brought them into snack range.

Hint: it is difficult to substitute applesauce for butter in cookies. The trick is to have recipes that use less butter.

Hint: For years, I just scooped the flour into a measuring cup and leveled it, the way my mother did. I recently learned it is better to lightly spoon the flour into the cup until it is overflowing and level it off. You don’t compress the flour, so the measure is more accurate, and your baked goodies are lighter in texture. Who knew?

Yet another hint: When making brownies, cookies, and many other baked goods, you need to make sure the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined with the wet ingredients so there aren’t nasty lumps of unmixed flour in your goody, but not to beat them too much or your baked goodies will be tough.

Cranberry Pecan Blondies

This recipe was an improvisation when I discovered that I did not have the ingredients for the oatmeal butterscotch bars I was going to make. They are a bit cakier in texture than brownies.

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup softened butter
1/2 cup egg substitute
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Lightly spoon flour into measuring cups, level with a knife. Add oats, baking powder, and salt to the flour and whisk together. Put sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until they are well blended. Add egg substitute, egg, and vanilla to the sugar mixture and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture and beat until the dry ingredients are just combined. Sir in nuts and fruit. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. This makes 24 bars at 3.8 grams of fat/bar.

Hint: Toasting nuts brings out their flavor, so you can use fewer of them. Toast nuts by putting them in a small frying pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. It takes about 5 minutes. They’re done when you can smell them – be sure not to burn them.

Variations: These would be good with other dried fruit, such as raisins, chopped apricots, or chopped cherries.

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ABOUT KAREN

I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

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