Who doesn’t like brownies? And I mean the fudgy ones, not the cakey ones. I personally feel that cakey brownies with icing on top are just more difficult to serve cupcakes. I’d actually argue that, next to ice cream, proper fudgy brownies are one of the best possible desserts. The ultimate dessert, of course, being a hot fudge brownie sundae, with whipped cream and a cherry on top. But this post is just about the brownies. Well that and also the importance of following instructions.
When I was a little Viking, I spent a decent amount of time in the kitchen with my dad. He was definitely the better cook out of my parents and usually handled the heavy lifting for big holiday meals like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. I always remember those meals having a lot more flavor than most of the rest of the year. Outside of the holidays, I have many memories of Chef-Boyardee pizza kits, chicken salad, cookies, cakes, and of course brownies. A frequent go-to move was to take a box of brownie mix and doctor it up with other goodies.
And that’s what this post is going to be about. You see, I’m not Ina “I use organic artisanal small batch everything” Garter. And while these days, I do try to source quality fresh ingredients, including growing food in my own garden and cooking things from scratch, I realize that most of us aren’t living in Little House on the Prairie and aren’t a Viking that has the time and ability to cook more or less whatever I want. (Trust me, you wish you could have been quarantined in my house.)
I also have lived in the corporate world of 80+ hour work weeks and simply not having a lot of time or energy to spend on anything much besides sleeping and laundry. Hectic lives aside, I also think that knowing how to doctor up store bought pantry type products can be a good learning process for new cooks. Especially if you’re trying to make something sweet for your sweetie or trying to initiate little Vikings into the kitchen. It’s kind of like those bumpers that they use in bowling alleys for little kid’s birthday parties; You can still get a gutter ball, but you’d have to try pretty hard at it.
Before we get to the actual brownies, I feel as though there’s one final bit of housekeeping to handle. I titled this post “RTFM Brownies.” For the uninitiated or unaware, “RTFM is an initialism and internet slang for the expression "read the f***ing manual" – typically used to reply to a question that has already been answered in the documentation, user guide, owner's manual, man page, online help, internet forum, software documentation or FAQ etc.” Wikipedia
My ultimate point being, cooking is an art and baking is a science. But after you do science the first time, every time after that is just engineering and we can do brownies from scratch later. Until then, get a box of fudge brownie mix (I opted for Duncan Hines, probably because it was on sale that day.) and then follow the instructions on the box with a few twists that we’ll throw in and this should end well for everyone.
Is there a doctor in the house?
1 Snickers bar
2-3 oz pecan pieces
A Snickers bar?! What a stroke of genius I’ve had! Not really, I read the instructions. It would have probably never occurred to me to put a candy bar in brownies. But there you have it
Okay, so it doesn’t explicitly say Snickers. But you know that’s what it is. Also pecans. I love pecans in brownies and cookies. Walnuts are also a reasonable option. One or both of these nuts were usually the only additions in my childhood.
Unless you need to shell your own pecans, the biggest part of preparing the add-in items is chopping up the Snickers bar. First, throw the candy bar in the freezer for 10-15 mins to firm it up. Then throw it in a food processor with the chopping attachment. Give it a few short pulses until you have little bits about the size of a pea. If you don’t have a food processor, you can go the Viking route and chop it into little pieces with your knife.
Time to make the brownie batter! Follow the instructions on the box for quantities of eggs, oil and/or water. If the instructions give you an option for a “fudgier” ratio of ingredients, do that. Only after your dry ingredients and wet ingredients are well combined, but before you put the batter in your pan, mix in the candy bar and about half of the pecans.
Also, grease your baking pan with butter. Yes, even if you have a nonstick pan. Who doesn’t like the texture of brownie edges? Butter helps with that. Then pour the batter into your baking vessel of choice and top with an even coating of the remaining pecans. The temperature and duration of cooking should be given on the box based on the size of your pan. If you don’t know how big your pan is and don’t have a way to measure, give it your best guess. The last time I made these, I opted for 9x13. In retrospect, an 8x8 pan or using two mixes would have resulted in physically thicker brownies. But both of those weren’t an option.
Either way, after the oven is preheated to the prescribed temp, pop the pan in the oven and...
These brownies took about 20 minutes to finish baking and pass the ever reliable toothpick test. Maybe take this time as an opportunity to freak out that one member of your household that always thinks you’re going to immediately drop dead from consuming any batter with raw eggs in it and enjoy that brownie batter goodness right off the spatula. This was obviously always my favorite part of brownies as a little Viking.
Either way you should now have fully baked and delicious brownies! Slice those bad boys up and maybe dust a little powdered sugar over top to make it look like you put more effort into this than you did.