Things Not To Do When Baking Brownies:
- Don’t agree to do it in between two hours-long shopping expeditions, on a day when you are still recovering from a back injury–or in any similarly stressful, painful, and/or tired condition. Choosing to do this is likely to lead you into doing other Things Not To Do because you are not thinking clearly.
- Don’t top the brownies with pieces of candy (in our case, peppermints and Tootsie Rolls left over from Halloween). At least, don’t do this if you are making relatively shallow brownies. Maybe it would work if you added the candy later. But don’t set it on top of raw batter 3/4″ deep. The candies will sink to the bottom and melt and stick onto the pan.
- If you are making Honey Bear Brownies (a recipe which I highly recommend when made as written) and discover that you don’t have enough honey, don’t just substitute sorghum syrup and expect that it will work.
- If you failed to follow my advice above and you did make brownies with Tootsie Rolls on them, don’t forget about that when you are looking at the brownies to see if they are done yet. Those puddles of boiling dark-brown liquid are molten Tootsie Rolls, not pockets of brownie batter that’s mysteriously still not solidified.
- Don’t test brownies for done-ness by poking with a chopstick until it comes out clean, as you would a cake. Brownies are supposed to be gooey. The way to tell that brownies are done is that the edges pull away from the pan a bit. Don’t put away the cookbook without reading that fact, clearly stated in the recipe which you have made many times.
- Don’t forget to set the timer. Even when you have decided to turn off the oven and let the brownies sit in there a moment longer, set a timer. Otherwise you may realize 15 minutes have gone by and they are now very dry-looking.
- Don’t leave the suspiciously dry-looking brownies sitting out uncovered for 17 hours. As soon as they have cooled, put the lid on the pan or cover it with foil. Better yet, cut the brownies at this point and store them in another container. That way, if you’ve made brownies you are physically unable to cut, you will find out about it sooner, instead of when you are trying to serve them.
If you have failed to follow all of this good advice–like I did myself–you may find that what you thought was a pan of brownies is actually a 9″x14″ sheet of rock-hard stuff welded to the bottom of the pan. Neither a person with a back injury nor a second-grade child will be able to get a butter knife, bread knife, or steak knife through, around, or under the stuff. You will have to give up, put the lid back on, and proceed as if you had never meant to serve any brownies. (It was fine; we had plenty of food!)
Later, when you get home, place the pan in the oven and turn it to a low heat, 150 or 200 degrees. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Attempt to peel up an edge of the brownie with a butter knife. If it still won’t bend, heat it another 3 minutes and try again. When the brownie is flexible, peel it up from the edges and let it fold over until it breaks. Wrap the broken chunks in waxed paper to prevent them from re-melding with each other. They will not look pretty, and they will be extremely chewy, but they will taste okay, and you will not have wasted all of the ingredients you used.
When you have removed as much brownie as you can, fill the baking pan with water and a squirt of dish detergent. Let soak for several hours. Rinse, using sink sprayer if you have one. Soak again. Sugar is water-soluble, so your main tool here is patience. My pan was easy to wash completely clean 24 hours later.
I have a feeling I may have read the low-heat oven trick somewhere, but what brought it to my mind was the impression that the brownie had turned into a sheet of candy and therefore might be softened by melting the sugar. It worked well–95% of the part that was once brownie batter came out of the pan. It was the peppermints and Tootsie Rolls that stuck so hard. Nothing was actually burned black, just overcooked.
I’m not sure if using sorghum instead of honey was part of the problem. It did appear that the brownies were not baking normally when I checked them the first time–the entire surface was rippling in waves! I never saw that before. Some of the waves were still visible when the brownie solidified. (My shifts from plural to singular here indicate my perception that I set out to bake a pan of brownies that would be easily sliced apart, but I ended up with a single massive brownie that strongly resisted division!) The flavor of the sorghum brownie is somewhat different than the flavor of the usual recipe made with honey; it tastes a lot like Tootsie Roll, actually, and is almost as sticky.
Well, on the bright side, now our family gets to eat quite a bit of chocolatey gooey stuff, and I saved my pan!