How a flat, unrisen chocolate cake came to be called a brownie is unknown, writes Sharon Moore in "Brownies," but the term first appeared in print in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog.
"Today," Moore says, "the popularity of the brownie rivals that of chocolate-chip cookies." Her "Brownies" cookbook (Fireside Books, $7.95) can help feed any appetite for brownies with 75 recipes ranging from Chocolate-on-Chocolate Brownies to Triple Chocolate Pate.
Brownies can be cakelike or chewy, it's pretty much a matter of personal taste. "You will have to make up your own mind as to whether you prefer the moist or the chewy variety," Moore says.
If brownies are popular in your house, the baking experts at Duncan Hines offer these tips:
* To prevent overdone edges and an underdone center, wrap strips of aluminum foil completely around the outside of the pan -- but don't cover the bottom. Bake as the recipe directs. The foil slows the movement of the heat to the edges of the brownie, allowing the center to bake properly.
* Add variety by swirling the batter with jam, or mixing in chopped nuts, crushed toffee, granola, crushed cookies, flavored extracts, white chocolate chips or grated orange zest.
* For a quick and easy glaze: during the last 30 seconds of baking, cover the top of the brownies with thin milk chocolate candy bars. About four ounces of candy will cover an eight-inch square pan. The chocolate will soften. Immediately remove the pan from the oven and evenly spread melted chocolate over the brownies. If desired, sprinkle chopped nuts over the glaze.
* Refrigerate brownies briefly after baking. It makes them easier to slice.
* For best flavor and moistness, store brownies in an airtight tin with a piece of apple.
You can stir up a batch of brownies in ten minutes or less, using the following recipe for One-Bowl Brownies. The recipe is provided by Baker's Chocolate.
4 squares unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) margarine
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
Heat chocolate and margarine in large microwave-safe bowl on high (100 percent power) for two minutes or until margarine is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. (Or melt chocolate and margarine in a three-quart saucepan over very low heat on top of the stove; stir constantly until just melted.)
Stir sugar into melted chocolate mixture until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla; stir until completely mixed. Stir in flour until well blended. Stir in nuts. Spread in a greased and floured 13x9-inch metal pan.
Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 or 40 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan; cut into squares. Makes 24 brownies.
Note: For cakelike brownies, stir in one-half cup milk with eggs and vanilla. Increase flour to 1 1/2 cups. For fudgy brownies, use four eggs. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. For extrathick brownies, bake in a nine-inch square metal pan at 325 degrees for 50 minutes.