The big brown(ie hell) hole

There were days, nay months (dare I even confess to a year) when I was obsessed with finding the perfect muffin recipe. Not any old thing that “works”: I needed to recreate the only muffin that I have respect for, which comes from the unlikeliest of places, which is UCT campus. They make (on good days) an infuriatingly good bran muffin, with just the right sweetness (not very much, and just one or two raisins to bump up the occasional bite), a great crust, and most importantly, an admirable muffin top. AND, they are of a size that is tolerable.

But that’s a long (infuriating) story which I never had any success in, so I’ve ditched the muffin and turned to brownies.


I’ve been on a brownie crusade for a couple of months now – I wish I could say that all of the above were the results of my efforts, but no. These are other people’s – some considered “slebs” – versions of the “perfect” brownie (click on the pics to see who’s who).

My own efforts have been with varied success – the first ones were pronounced very good by my tasters, but I wasn’t convinced of their perfection. Since then its been a number of hits and misses, none of which were convincing enough that I had hit on a recipe I could stop trying to improve.

I soon realised that my main problem is that I – unlike both the sailor and the philosophe, who have spent their fair share of time eating brownies in the US (terroir!) – actually have no benchmarks. I have an idea of what it should be like – fudgy, yes, but preferably chewy, with a top crust – but I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten the thing I’m trying to make.

Anyway, as these obsessions go, I have now spent the larger part of this morning doing yet more research, and I have just had another lightbulb moment. I’ve hardly paid attention to pan SIZES – I did recently go out and buy what I thought was a good brownie tin, but of course that’s just one size, and in most of the recipes I’ve tried, I haven’t really paid attention to the recommended size, which of course is crucial to the results: too big = flat, cakey brownie; too small = too fudgy/gooey etc etc.

I have now measured my tins, I’ve done the calculations, and I am pretty sure I am onto something. What relief! A little intel makes it so much easier to figure out which recipes to discard, and which to pursue.

Only thing is, I am – sadly, pitifully, heartbreakingly! – alone for the next almost THREE weeks, having yesterday sent my philosophe off to the big land of brownies. But then I did promise him a fully stocked kitchen on his return (that means brownies and biscotti), so it’s only right that I should start practicing my now achievable perfection.

In other words, I have to bake brownies NOW, dammit. Otherwise how am I supposed to get any work done?

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