I have been really out of whack lately. I blame it partially on starting a new part-time job at the beginning of the month which entailed a two-week training period where I had to be there every night during the week. That schedule managed to disrupt the productive routine that I had gotten myself into during the first part of the summer. And when things get derailed, I am not particularly good at getting them back on track. Plus, its been hot and humid which has not only made baking seem seriously unappealing, but more generally inspires a sense of laziness and grumpiness in me. I think I’m getting back into the swing of things now, which is good because I have a ton of work to do. But things didn’t get back to normal before I had to deal with this baking fail.
One of my most used cookbooks is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 75th Anniversary Ed. that someone (maybe my step-mom) bought for me when I moved out on my own. It is filled with a lot of really good recipes that have served me since I was 19 and has lots of tips that have helped me become a better cook and a better baker. But one of my favorite things about this cookbook is that it flags certain recipes as “Best Loved,” which have always proved to be seriously good things that I end up making again and again and again. To me, the “Best Loved” symbol says: this recipe cannot fail you–its a surefire win. Not so this week when I finally tried a recipe for Brownie Pudding that I’ve had my eye on for quite awhile now.
This recipe that apparently first came out in the January 1944 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine and became one of those instant family favorites. (I’ve been reading a lot of craft blogs lately where people have been making vintage-inspired clothes that look really good on them but that I could never imagine wearing. This is where I embrace vintage–desserts.) The basic idea behind brownie pudding is that you first mix up a basic brownie batter and spread it in the pan, and then you pour what it more or less hot cocoa (boiling water, sugar, and cocoa powder) on top of the batter. When it bakes, the brownie batter rises to the top and the hot cocoa business turns into a rich chocolate sauce at the bottom of the pan. You serve it warm and it is essentially a more humble version of a chocolate lava cake. Sounds good, right? And it only took about 15 minutes to throw together one evening while I was bored and Aidan was napping.
Despite being easy to throw together, great in concept, and flagged with the “Best Loved” label, this just wasn’t that good. Aidan and I ate it warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream on top and both agreed that the brownie part wasn’t chocolate-y enough and there wasn’t enough of the hot fudge stuff at the bottom. This isn’t really on my list of complaints, but it also seems worth mentioning that the brownie in this is definitely a cake-y brownie and not fudgy brownie. The real moment I knew this recipe was a fail was when, the day after Aidan and I first sampled it, I scooped out a small piece of this as a snack, took two bites, and then went back to the kitchen to make some toast instead. It’s unheard of. Never before in my life have I chosen toast over chocolate. To be fair, it was rosemary garlic bread–its not like I was just reaching for your run of the mill sandwich bread. Still it’s a testament to how lackluster this dessert was. The real sadness is that as I was reaching for the flour while making this, I saw the brownie recipe on the back of the bag and briefly thought about making regular brownies instead. But I didn’t. I’m still kicking myself.
Nonetheless, I’m including the recipe here just in case any one sees fit to try to improve it because I’m still convinced that brownie pudding is a great concept. As is, this recipe just doesn’t deliver. Maybe I’ll return to this and try to make some changes when the sting of my disappointment has gone away.
Brownie Pudding (From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)
- 1 c all purpose flour
- 3/4 c granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 c milk
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 c chopped walnuts (I didn’t have any, so I left them out)
- 3/4 c packed brown sugar
- 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 c boiling water
- Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, 2 tbsp of cocoa powder, the baking powder, and the salt. Stir in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Stir in walnut if using.
- Pour batter into greased 8×8 baking dish. In another bowl, stir together the brown sugar and the 1/4 c cocoa powder, then stir in the boiling water. Slowly pour the water mixture over the top of the batter.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.