Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sunday Servings: Simple & Quick Brownies

Brownies have a day of perfection. Fresh out of the oven, they are a wonderful treat. But it is not until the next day when they’ve fully cooled and the fudginess has congealed and brought just the right density of chocolatey-goodness to each bite, that brownies achieve maximum perfection. Allow brownies to last past the day of perfection and they slowly begin to stale and crunch. Eat them all up on the first day and you’ve missed out on the full potential of what they could have been.

My "Little Brother" Papis
South Africans don’t know brownies the way Americans know brownies. With a few exceptions I’ve come across, brownies in SA are more cake-like than brownie-like. Just a bit too buoyant and not quite as fudgy as they ought to be. I quickly learned that a plate piled high with American brownies was a fast way to make friends.

I baked them for tea and for birthdays. For Christmas presents and for Easter treats. For staff meetings and for just because.

My “little brother” in Mmametlhake, developed a deep love for them. If it had been a few weeks since the last batch, he would say to me, “My sissy, you must make those de-de-delicious cookies. It’s been too long, and I need to feel them here,” pointing at his belly.

Brownies are one of those foods that taste of home. All those sweet memories of baking in the kitchen with my mother come rushing back with one whiff of chocolately-goodness in the air. I cannot whip up a batch without thinking of my mom’s green-handled spoon coated in cake batter, just waiting to be licked, or the black tin pan with the grid of scratch’s on the bottom from the hundreds, possibly thousands, of brownie slices.

Each time I’ve shared a tray of brownies, I’ve shared a bit of who I am and where I come from, and they’ve opened up a doorway to share other parts of me. To tell stories about my family and my culture. To talk about how those things have shaped me and formed me. To share a bit of the richness of who I am and hopefully leave a behind a bit of the richness in bellies full of chocolately-goodness.

It’s surprising how incredibly easy brownies are to make. And of course you can dress them up and make them a bit more complex, but I like my brownies simple with that taste of home. So on the day before I depart from South Africa, here’s my recipe for easy brownies and a little bit of home-baked comfort.

Simple and Quick Brownies:


  • 2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 cup of butter (low fat or full fat will produce equally good brownies)
  • ½ cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of all-purpose (cake) flour
  • ½ tsp. of baking powder
  • ½ tsp. of salt


  1. Melt butter (do not allow to boil) and mix all ingredients in the order listed above.
  2. Spoon batter into a greased 9" x 13" (32.5cm x 23cm) cake pan . The batter should fill only the bottom 1/3 of the pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven at 350degrees Fahrenheit (175degrees Celsius) for 20 to 30 minutes. Test with a fork to be sure that it has baked all the way through (allow for a little bit of gooeyness on the fork for fudgier brownies and a clean fork for cakier brownies).
  4. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving, or as recommended above, cook the day before in order to serve on perfection day.
Note: On perfection day, you can reheat brownies in the microwave. Just to be sure not to leave them in for longer than 15-20 seconds, or you will dry them out.

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