Simple Pleasures: Brownies

Though I live in Germany, I am undeniably an American.  And even if I try to hide that and blend in, T-Rex makes it pretty much impossible to do so.  “LOOK, Mama, what is THAT?!  What’s SHE doing?!”  I like the idea of introducing our boys to other cultures, but I still think it’s important to keep the positive elements of their own.  Like brownies.  Brownies are 100% American.

I’ve decided to post now and again about simple pleasures: things that are totally scrumptious that can be made easily from scratch.  In the US, I would stock up on brownie mix whenever it went on sale with coupons and could be had for pennies.  Box mixes do exist here (though mostly for cakes), but they are expensive and no European brand is going to rock it like Betty Crocker.

But, did you know that brownies can be easily made without a mix?  I was first introduced to from-scratch brownies while living in Russia.  I have always used the classic Hershey’s recipe (though I never use Hershey’s cocoa powder – shhhhh!).  I am no chef and certainly no Joy the Baker.  She has a fancy schmancy camera lens to take gorgeous photos and the ultimate luxury of baking in the morning with no little ones begging (in English at the top of their lungs), “Can I HAVE some of that?” I bake at night while visions of sugar plums dance in their little heads.

Cooks and wannabes alike, grab your cacao and get to baking a batch of these babies.

Gather your ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, sugar, eggs, baking powder, butter, and salt.

Boil water in a hot pot, pour in a cereal bowl, and place under mixing bowl containing cold butter. Voila! Melted butter without a microwave or extra pot to clean.

Boil more water and make tea to sip while waiting for butter to melt.

Mix dry ingredients. This cocoa powder is seriously dark and absolutely scrumptious.

Butter and flour your baking dish the old-fashioned way (PAM does not exist).

Pour sugar into melted butter. Try not to eat it all – you need it for the brownies, remember?

Add eggs and dry ingredients. Resist the urge to eat the batter. If you can’t, look for a youtube video of someone with salmonella poisoning.

Smooth batter in the pan, and sip your tea while your house fills with visions of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Don’t touch – perfectly cut brownies are done with a plastic knife after cooling completely. Or just grab a spoon and dig in.

Long for some smaller plates so your brownie doesn’t look so lonely. Smear nutella on it because you’re too lazy to make frosting.

Put the lonely brownie out of its misery. And have another one. And another. Until you run out of nutella or brownies, whichever comes first.

If you are lazy like me and don’t want to look up the Hershey’s recipe, I put my laziness aside for a minute and posted it here for you with my notes.


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract  (make your own!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa  (sorry Hershey’s, Aldi only carries their own brand)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts(optional)  (no nuts – we like our brownies smooth and smarmy)
  • CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING (recipe follows)  (just keep some nutella in the house)


1. Heat oven to 350°F (that’s 180-ish for you Celsius brownie eaters). Grease 9-inch square baking pan (or an oval if you don’t have a square).

2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Prepare CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. About 16 brownies.  (16 Brownies?  I think it’s more like 12 or 9 or less if you have Doc Sci cut them for you)


3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons HERSHEY’S Cocoa
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar and milk; beat to spreading consistency. About 1 cup frosting.


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