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Chocolate experiments were taking place on Russett Road during the recent snow days.


Neighbor and chocolate lover Andy Mlynek was celebrating a birthday on Thursday. Sally and I decided we would bake a brownie birthday cake for him, but it had to be the most chocolaty one we could find.


Moist, chocolate deliciousness . . . who doesn’t love a brownie? One of the accounts of the brownie’s origin was in Chicago at the Palmer House Hotel. When Chicago hosted the World’s Fair in 1893, Bertha Palmer assigned her chef to create a confection that would be smaller than a piece of cake, would not get her guests’ hands dirty, and could be easily eaten from box lunches. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and so, the brownie was born.


A chocolate brownie is a flat, baked square or bar, sliced from a type of dense, rich chocolate cake. The Palmer House still serves up that original recipe. The brownies feature an apricot glaze and walnuts, and are still being made at the hotel according to the original recipe.


Chocolate brownies should be removed promptly from the oven to retain the best chocolate taste. This is because many of the compounds that give chocolate its flavor are highly volatile and easily lost. The smell of brownies cooking is an indication that flavor and aroma are being released into the air. Because they will continue to cook for a few minutes from residual heat, it is best to remove brownies from the oven as early as possible; generally, when a toothpick test still shows a few moist crumbs.


We started out with a recipe that combined baking chocolate and two cups of brown sugar. This turned out to be a good combination, but was not the right texture. The second try used cocoa, but looked like a chocolate swimming pool, with high sides and low in the middle. The third try was Hershey Chocolate Favorite Brownies. It was good, but I tried out a new soft, silicone pan and the cookies came out as crumbs. I was ready to bag up the crumbs from each try and give them to Andy to eat on ice cream, when my son Bob suggested that we make brownie pudding. Considering that I was almost out of eggs and cocoa, this would be the final try.


We had not heard a final report from Andy, but I did take the three bags of crumbs and pieces to the office for a taste test. Three out of four of the staff liked the first attempt, even though the pieces were hard. They also suggested that we have food articles more often, so there could be more taste tests.


This experiment kept us busy through Friday, so even though it was cold outside, the house smelled great.


Maricia was conducting her own research across the road, unbeknown to me. She still tends to cook like a science teacher. Everything is an experiment. Though she always begins with a recipe, time and ingredients are factors. Her cake was an inside out Bundt cake. Though the recipe called for chocolate chips and nuts, she decided on peanut butter candy, and substituted a few other ingredients. Needless to say, the cake didn’t turn out as Betty Crocker would hope, and, in the end, icing had to be used on the outside just to hold the experiment together.


The good news is that Andy loved both birthday delicacies. The bad news is that Maricia will never be able to recreate the recipe again. For some reason, the thoughts of chocolate do not interest me--at least for the next month. In the end, we will remember the snow week of January 2010 as the Great Chocolate Experience.


This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:


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