The thing was, I'd always burn the bottoms.
No matter how carefully I'd watch the timer in our lemon-colored kitchen, no matter how determined I was to retrieve them from the oven at exactly the right moment, I'd still burn the brownies every time, or at least eight times out of nine.
And then I'd curse my 14-year-old self. "Idiot! You manage to get good grades and blow-dry your curly-twirly bangs impossibly straight, which is a serious feat both of determination and physics, but you can't bake a pan of brownies without charring the undersides?" I'd blame Betty Crocker, or Duncan Heinz, or our cheap, crapass baking tins, but no matter who I blamed, or how loudly, my brownies still emerged from the oven with a bottom layer of tarry, rock-hard carbon.
So you know what you do. You scrape away the hard part, aka your failure, or you eat the top layer and chuck the bottom, or you just give up, mutter dramatic obscenities, and shove the brownies down the garbage disposal with the eggshells and your dreams, and a wee little part of you dies along the way.
OK, not dies, exactly, but when you're a teenager and your ego's bruised, it's essentially like dying, so the hyperbole really isn't that far off the mark.
And then years pass. Decades. Betty and Duncan give way to actual chocolate, flour, sugar, and eggs, and you invest in baking pans thick enough to insulate your creations, and you learn, finally, to set those pans on the center rack (not the bottom, nimrod). The crowd roars as you pull the pan from the oven and you set it aside for as long as you can possibly stand it, which isn't very long at all. You make your first cut, just the tiniest little square, and as you lift up the specimen, raising it just an inch or two above eye-level, you confirm what you already know in your heart.
Brown on the bottom, not black.
Your bangs have long since grown out. You've accepted that your hair will never be straight. And you finally, finally, know what the hell you're doing in the kitchen.
Recipe for Two Bite Mint Brownies
A few months ago, our friend Lara mailed us a batch of Baked brownies cut in neat, two-bite squares. I liked the way they looked so much, I followed her lead when adapting the recipe to create this minty version. I used one 3-ounce Scharrfen Berger semisweet dark chocolate bar (DISCLOSURE! free sample! transparency! disclosure! it was free! it was a sample!) and two 3.5 ounce bars of Lindt Excellence Intense Mint (I paid for those! they weren't free! NON-disclosure! cash from my pocket!), but you can mix it up however you like, or probably even just use all dark or semisweet chocolate and a quick dash of peppermint extract.
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (unsweetened) cocoa powder
10 ounces chocolate, a combo of mint and semi/bitter/sweet, or dark (see head note), rough chopped
2 sticks butter, rough chopped
1-1/2 cups sugar
5 eggs (I know), at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x13-inch baking pan.
Whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter chunks in a double boiler over very gently bubbling water, stirring with a heatproof spatula until smooth. Turn off the heat and vigorously whisk in the sugar. Remove the bowl or pot from the simmering water and set aside to cool completely.
Whisk three of the eggs into the now-room-temperature chocolate mixture. Then whisk in the last two eggs and the vanilla. Gently fold in the flour mixture, scraping the bottom of the bowl so you're sure to incorporate it all.
Pour into the buttered baking pan and bake in the center of the oven for exactly 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out nearly clean. Cool completely, then cut into 2-bite squares, exactly 1-1/4" x 1-1/4". (A ruler helps.) Immediately freezer half of these, or you will eat them all, and then you will cry. Defrost for a few minutes at room temp.