Friday night was not a great one. It was one of those evening where things just didn’t seem to be going well, where Erin and I were feeling a little bit let down, a bit worn out, and a bit grumpy. When we’re both in that kind of mood, there is nothing that can lift us both out.
Nothing, that is, except homemade brownies.
Making brownies from a mix is just fine by me. The instructions are simple, the ingredients are minimal, and they always turn out great. Some of them come filled with chocolate chunks. They are a cheap, easy way to stave off the blues and are totally legal (barring the addition of certain foreign additives).
But when you are really feeling low, a pan of truly homemade brownies is better than even the best mix. And since I do a fair bit of baking, our house was ready-to-go with everything we needed to make a batch right from scratch, including all the butter, eggs, sugar, and cocoa that you could want.
I was in the midst of baking two loaves of bread to take to my dad’s place, so I set Erin in charge of the brownies. We picked out the best of our many recipes (why we have a book of only brownie recipes, I’ll never know), grabbed a big bowl, and then I left Erin to whip up a pan of better attitude, hopefully to be frosted with some raised spirits.
“Wow, making brownies from scratch is really easy,” Erin yelled to me from the kitchen. “I don’t know why we haven’t done this before.”
Soon the house was smelling of warm chocolate. Erin sent me over to the oven to check on our project.
“How does it look?” she asked me.
I took a sip of my Crystal Light and vodka cooler (we had run out of beer earlier that week and it was the only combination of the remaining alcohol and cold drinks that I could stomach), peeked into the oven, and called back that they looked pretty darn good.
Then I looked again.
“The edges are bubbling,” I said.
“Like they have bubbles in them?”
“No. No, it’s more like they are boiling. I guess they haven’t cooked yet. The middle looks fine.”
Now a normal, sober brain should probably be saying, “Wait a minute, things cook from the outside inward, so if the edges aren’t set yet then the middle probably isn’t done either.” But my brain was not sober, nor has it ever qualified for normal, so I tacked a few more minutes on the oven timer and sat down.
“Do you think they’ll be good?” Erin asked me.
“I think they’ll be great,” I assured her, in deference to the mounting evidence to the contrary.
Ten minutes later I was crouched in front of the oven again.
“How do they look?” Erin asked again.
“Um… They‘re still bubbling.”
“You mean on the edges still?”
“No. No, now it’s kind of bubbling… all over. It sort of looks like the brownies are boiling.”
I waved her over, and we both stared at the pan full of blackish-brown, broiling goo. It looked a bit like a tar pit with chocolate chips.
“That’s weird,” she said.
“Yeah, it sure is.” I pulled out the pan and set it, still boiling, on the counter. Then I looked back at the staging area for the brownie making. “They really should have baked solid after 40 minutes in there. Did you use the ‘best-for-bread’ flour I have out there.”
“No, I don’t think I used any.”
“Because if it was the bread flour, maybe it doesn’t set the way that all purpose does.”
“No, I mean, I don’t think I used any.”
I looked at my now sheepish-looking wife. The Crystal Light and vodka was making it hard to work out what she was saying.
“What, you mean you just used the all-purpose stuff?”
“No, I mean I didn’t use any… flour… at all.”
I looked back at the boiling brownies.
Erin dug her toe into the floor. “I guess I forgot that part of it. Do you think that they’ll still be good?”
Erin and I have been together for more than 10 years. She will be bearing my child within the next 9 weeks. She has stood by me through thick and thin, good and bad, ups and downs that would tear apart a normal relationship. I looked deep into her beautiful blue eyes and said exactly what she needed to hear.
“No, Love. I think they’ll be great.” I looked the gently bubbling brownies again. “Once I put them in the freezer.”