I know, I know, another brownie recipe – but this is a more a story about friends trading recipes than the usual Friday recipe post…
When I was fresh out of college and living in my first apartment in Chicago, I began my lifelong hobby of collecting recipes. One weekend I visited my college friend, Mary Ann, at her folks’ lovely home outside Benton Harbor, Michigan.
I remember chatting with Mary Ann’s mom about learning to cook and mentioned I was looking for a good recipe for brownies. Mrs. Roe promptly turned to her recipe box and handed me a card with a brownie recipe from her friend Rita. She assured me that this was a terrific recipe, one that she made again and again.
Fast forward twenty years to a Kalamazoo College reunion, where I met up with Mary Ann and several other old friends. I hadn’t seen Mary Ann in almost as many years, and we had a great time catching up on news and reminiscing about college days. I asked M.A. to be sure to thank her mother for the great recipe she had given me, so many years ago, for Rita’s brownies.
Well, you know what’s coming next. When Mary Ann called her mom and conveyed my message, her mother asked, “Who’s Rita?!”
So, for over forty years I’ve been making Rita’s brownies and have become quite attached to the mysterious Rita, most likely long departed from this earth. I still bake from the stained and dog-eared original recipe card that was given to me long ago.
I have made few changes to the recipe, other than to use unsalted butter instead of margarine. And I learned to add some coffee to every batch to intensify the chocolate flavor, long before the days of Ina Garten and her Barefoot Contessa tip. Sometimes I add nuts or a sprinkling of powdered sugar, as Rita suggests. Today, I threw in some orange zest.
Mary Ann and I have been out of touch for several years, so I emailed her yesterday, told her about my blog and my plans for today’s post. She’s eager to see the recipe and I’m hoping she will make a batch of Rita’s brownies for her seven-year-old grandson.
UPDATE: Just heard from Mary Ann, who remembers Rita and her son, when they were both in the 7th grade – nice. A perfect end to Mother’s Day 2013.
TIP: As Rita warns on the flip side of her recipe, “The secret to good brownies is to never overcook,” so watch carefully and adjust the baking time to the quirks of your oven. Mine runs fast and hot, so 22 minutes works for me.
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Use the wrapper from the stick of butter to grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over medium heat, stirring as it melts. Once melted, pull the pot off the heat.
- In a medium-sized bowl, beat the eggs, add the sugar and mix well. Pour into the chocolate mixture. Add the flour, coffee, vanilla, orange zest and salt. Mix well and pour into greased baking pan.
- Bake about 25 minutes, remembering Rita's admonishment.
- Cool, cut and enjoy. Thanks, Rita!