As much as possible, I try to post only "original" recipes here, those dishes that I have created from scratch or have changed significantly enough to call them my own.
Today, I am bringing you a recipe so simple you can find hundreds of copies in any basic web search. I think I have even seen it on the back of a brownie mix label. Why add just one more blog entry for these simple treats? After all, these chocolate bar cookies...
- are only slightly less unhealthy than brownies made with the original mix directions.
- do include a mix, with all the preservatives, etc., that implies.
On the other hand, this "recipe" may be a way for even the busiest of households to introduce pre-schoolers to prepare a dish entirely on their own, from assembling the ingredients all the way to handing over the filled pan over to whoever will handle the heat of the oven steps. While you are doing this, you can even talk about why we might want to try to substitute healthier ingredients whenever possible in all our cooking and baking.
A simple "recipe" like this is also good to have handy for the time when you have a last minute need for a quick dessert. While I know that most of us live lives where few friends or family just casually "drop in" with little or no advance notice, wouldn't it be nice to know that you could call someone on a whim and ask them over for coffee, tea, etc. and freshly baked brownies?
To be sure, we must admit that brownies, whether made from scratch or from a mix, are inherently not "healthy." They are treats that should be for special occasions, not seen as daily fare. Understanding that we will be consuming mostly "empty calories" with every bite might allow us to accept the presence of additives here that we would forego in any other part of a well-balanced meal. As for flavor, many of today's mixes are at least as good as the majority of from scratch recipes--and the applesauce in this recipe gives added depth and moisture too.
Finally, there is a cost factor to consider. Brownie mixes are often loss leaders at many chains, especially around "baking holidays" like Valentine's Day and Christmas. If you were to do a cost comparison with a favorite brownie recipe, it is very unlikely that you could match the price of the mix. In most cases, substituting applesauce for the oil in the mix instructions will reduce the cost a bit further.
So I now present a "kitchen-tested by 5 year old" recipe for applesauce brownies. Next time you see brownie mix on sale, pick up a box, make sure you have applesauce in the house, and then think of who you could call to share them with you; you'll be glad you did.
1 standard size brownie mix, enough for a 9 X 13 pan
2/3 c unsweetened applesauce (if you don't have unsweetened, the other will do--just be aware your dessert will be REALLY sweet)
1/4 c water
broken or chopped walnuts (optional)
Preparation: Turn the oven to 350 degrees as you begin to make the brownies. These go together so quickly, you don't want to have to wait until the oven is hot to put the pan in. If you are using a glass pan, you may want to heat only to 325.
Whether you use a cooking spray or oil for preparing the pan, be sure the sides as well as the bottom of the pan are well-coated.
1. Pour mix into bowl and then add all the other ingredients, except walnuts.
2. Combine all the ingredients and then beat with a wood spoon or cooking fork about 50 times, or just until the mixture is well blended and there are no lumps of dry mix.
3. Pour the batter into a well-oiled 9 X 13 pan. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over the top and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until just done.
To test, press the center lightly; if it springs back, it is done. You also should watch the edges of the brownies. If they start to pull away from the sides of the pan, they are also getting done. You don't want to overbake brownies.
4. Allow the brownies to cool about 15 to 20 minutes before cutting. Makes 24 to 32, depending on the size you want to cut them into.
Variations and notes:
Why nuts only on top? While you can mix the walnuts into the batter, spreading them on top allows for several things:
- If you have anyone in the household who doesn't like nuts (as is the case with many young children), you can spread nuts over only part of the batter, leaving one end "plain" for non-nut-eaters.
- This will usually reduce the amount of nuts used, a way to economize if cost is a serious consideration.
- While brownies are often served without frosting, placing the nuts on top gives a little bit more "finished" appearance to the un-iced bars.
Chocolate chips and/or mini-marshmallows could also be sprinkled over the top instead of or with the walnuts. If using marshmallows, press them lightly into the batter.
For a less rich bar with even a little more positive nutritive value, stir in a half cup or so of quick (NOT instant) oats with the other ingredients.