Dave Gemmell’s Brownies

by Diane Duane
Dave Gemmell's Brownies

The recipe isn’t his, but I think of him whenever I make it (which is way too often. Not in terms of thinking about David Gemmell, but in terms of eating the brownies…).

This recipe closely parallels one I always used when Dave would come to visit us in the house on the hill that we were then renting (from Harry Harrison) in Avoca, further east in County Wicklow. Along with the memory of the visits (always delightful: long walks, late nights, a lot of laughing) and the brownies (the record for baking them was four times during one visit) comes the memory of how we “lost” Dave in the bathroom for an hour on one visit, because the household’s complete collection of Calvin & Hobbes books was in there and he’d never come across the characters before. Only the cry of “There are brownies, Dave!” was able to cut the session short.

The recipe is easy and quick to make — the phrase “thrown together” would suit it: just mix everything together, pour into pan, bake —  and produces a result very much like the much-loved “brownies from the box” that the Betty Crocker people used to make in the US. (Maybe they still do? But [assuming they do] I haven’t had more modern ones and don’t know what they’re like these days.)

This recipe is similar to one from AllRecipes.com, but mine is heavier on the cocoa (which is as it should be, if you ask me) and a bit lighter on the flour, producing a brownie a bit on the “squidgy” side. (That’s my preference, and Peter’s. Like yours more cake-y? Add another 1/4 cup of flour to start with and see how that behaves.)  Also: I add conversions to metric  measurements-by-weight for those who like more predictably even results

The ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup / 180 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups / 150g sugar
  • 1 tablespoon / 15ml vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups / 120g flour
  • 1/2 cup / 60g cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

First butter a 9-inch square baking pan and preheat the oven to 350F / 175 C.

Sift or stir together well the flour and salt…

Measure out the cocoa and baking powder and stir together.

Then combine them with the flour and salt and stir together until the dry mixture has gone a uniform color.

Put the dry ingredients aside for the moment, and measure out the sugar and oil. Beat well together; then add the vanilla and beat that in.

Sugar, oil, vanilla

Add the eggs and beat them in too.

Then dump the dry ingredients into the egg / oil / sugar / vanilla business (or the other way around, if you prefer; it makes absolutely no difference as far as I can tell, I’ve done it both ways, both on purpose and by accident…) and mix mix mix mix mix…

…until it’s all gone pretty and glossy and shiny. It doesn’t have to be absolutely smooth; don’t beat it so much that the gluten in the flour starts to develop. You don’t want that.

Pour the whole business into the baking pan.

And that’s it! Shove it into the oven for 30 minutes and bake.

At the end of half an hour, test it for doneness if you believe in doing such things. (I’ve never bothered. If the brownies rise, they’re done enough for me.)

…And you can see what they look like in the picture at the top. Peter likes sour cream on them, so that’s what we’ve got a pic of. Me, I just cut them up and stuff them in my face.

So go thou and do likewise: and think of Dave Gemmell, perhaps, if you do so. A lovely, dry, funny, talented man. Lost to us too soon, dammit.

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