Roberta Tarquinio wrote me a few weeks ago, putting in a request for “Butterscotch brownies, moist and dense, with “cracked” tops and no baking powder,” underlined. As you may recall, I asked the question here, and two of you responded.
Ruth Thurston in Machias sent along a favorite, delicious-sounding, recipe that she used to bake goodies for her children’s school lunch boxes. And Donna Gotwals sent one from a favorite cookbook of hers for a butterscotch brownie that can morph into Congo Bars with the addition of nuts and chocolate chips. Both of those called for baking soda but not powder. Then I rooted around a bit in my cookbook collection looking for something that would qualify. Everything I saw called for some sort of rising agent of the baking powder or baking soda sort.
Then I had a sudden recollection about my favorite chocolate brownie recipe. Those brownies, which I shared here with you back along, are moist, dense, and have no baking powder in them. And they have cracked tops. I love those brownies. They are so good, but, baby, they are not cheap to make. Roberta never said anything about cheap, so I set about figuring out how to adapt those chocolate brownies to a butterscotch version.
Most of the butterscotch brownie recipes I had in hand called for higher proportions of flour to the brown sugar and butter combination (which is what makes them butterscotch,( than my chocolate brownie recipe which has a lot of butter, a lot sugar, and hardly any flour). So I surmised that that set of proportions was what caused the crackly tops. Mind you, I am no America’s Test Kitchen food scientist – I’m doing a lot of guesswork here.
I tried it out. I ended up with crackly tops with one qualification. I mixed the batter before the oven got hot enough, so I set the pan down, and waltzed off to empty the washer and hang up the laundry. Then I fiddled around with something else, then thought, “I wonder how those brownies are doing,” and checked the oven which, of course, was empty. Meanwhile, the batter had solidified somewhat.
So I sighed, put the brownies in the oven, and forty-five minutes later, I found that I had a baked pan full, with the brownies on the outside edge showing bubbled tops and the center full of crackled tops. I bet if I had paid attention and put those brownies into the oven right off, I would have had more crackles than bubbles. Like I said, they aren’t cheap, and I am not about to bake a second pan full to see if my theory is correct. In any event, they are moist and dense, and there is no baking powder in sight!
These are awfully good. Too good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
P.S. Correction: Nancy Nielson wrote me to say that I am wrong about buckwheat being a legume. It isn’t. Here is what she said: “As I’m sure you have–or are certain to–hear from your botany geek readers, buckwheat is of the Polygonacea family, along with plants as familiar as rhubarb. Some we eat and some we loathe, since it also includes many of our worst weeds. Although it’s harder and harder to get, I love buckwheat honey. And buckwheat pancakes – nothing is better. Buckwheat was once a common crop, but now it’s most useful for growing as a cover crop and to make bees happy. (I’ve grown it for both reasons.) But sorry, a legume it’s not. Constant weeder, Nancy.”
I’m glad to know, and haven’t the least clue where I ever got that wrong idea about buckwheat.
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
½ cup flour
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour an eight-by-eight inch pan. Melt the butter in a wide saucepan over a low heat, then stir in the brown sugar, mixing until the sugar is mostly melted. Add the eggs and beat well, then add the vanilla. Lastly, add the flour and mix with a few swift strokes. Pour the batter into the baking pan, and bake for forty minutes, check, and bake a little longer if necessary until the top is firm to the touch, and edges are slightly pulled away from the pan.
Makes twelve to sixteen brownies, more if you cut them smaller..