Vanilla Brownies

You know how everyone has a favorite brownie recipe? the go-to brownie recipe? the make-them-all-the-time brownie recipe? Well, this is "that" brownie recipe for me. When I first started making these vanilla-scented brownies, they evoked memories of drinking vanilla cokes at the soda fountain in my hometown's drugstore. Here's the story – and my recipe for Vanilla Brownies too.

Vanilla Brownies


REVIEWS
"These smelled so good baking ..." ~ kaoriz


Growing up, my small town of 1700 people had a K-12 school, a movie theater, a hospital, a newspaper, a bank, a dairy, five dress shops, five car dealerships, four hardware stores and three grocery stores, two cafés and two drugstores with soda fountains.

Both fountains served ‘pop’ and ‘coke’ but it was Curtis Drug where I was allowed to perch my preteen self on a stool after school, perhaps because my mom some times played bridge with Mrs. Curtis.

Above the fountain was a scruffy stuffed albino deer bagged by Mr. Curtis, gruesome by city standards but no surprise, then or now, in the northwoods towns of Minnesota.

A coke was a dime, fifteen cents with a syrup. This was the real Real Coke, sweetened with cane sugar. I was partial to cherry syrup until discovering vanilla. The glasses were small by today’s megamall measure. Ice came crushed or cubed; both dripped condensation onto the metal-edged counter.

Feeling oh-so-sophisticated, I’d sip the icy sweetness through a straw, lifting up to grin at a school friend on the next stool as we wordlessly absorbed the big-kid talk from high schoolers a few stools away.

Today, that same small town has 1100 people. The theater, the hospital, the newspaper, three banks and even one drugstore remain, even if the dairy, the dress shops, the car dealerships, two hardware stores, two groceries, the cafés and most sadly, the soda fountains, do not.

ALANNA's TIPS Vanilla isn't inexpensive on a good day and is downright pricey at the grocery store on a bad day. I tend to use Mexican vanilla, which is a little less expensive. But I also order vanilla beans from Vanilla-Saffron which is especially good for large quantities of vanilla beans for making your own vanilla or your own vanilla sugar.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

VANILLA BROWNIES

Darkly chocolate, richly vanilla
saucepan brownies;
moist and fudgy in the center,
chewy on the edges
Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Oven time: 30 – 40 minutes
Make 16 bars or 25 smaller bars
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 inch length of vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3-1/2 - 4 ounces bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, in pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt (for salted butter) or 3/4 teaspoon table salt (for unsalted butter)
  • 1 cup flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring or 125 grams by weight
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, preferably toasted, or black walnuts (optional)
  • Powdered sugar to finish, optional

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a food processor, whiz the sugar and vanilla bean for several minutes until the vanilla is in tiny flecks.

Meanwhile, melt the butter over low heat in a large saucepan. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir a bit to cool – we don't want to cook the eggs!

Whisk in the vanilla and eggs, then the sugar mixture, salt, flour and nuts.

Transfer the batter to a well-greased 8x8 cake pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into 16 or 25 squares, that's 4x4 for large bars of 5x5 for small brownie squares.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per Brownie, if 25 squares, without/with walnuts: 110/140 Calories; 6/9g Tot Fat; 4g Sat Fat; 26mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium; 13/14g Carb; 1g Fiber; 8g Sugar; 2g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 3 & Points Plus 4.>br/> Per Brownie, if 16 squares, without/with walnuts: 170/220 Calories; 9/14g Tot Fat; 6g Sat Fat; 41mg Cholesterol; 123mg Sodium; 20/21g Carb; 1/2g Fiber; 13g Sugar; 3/4g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 4 & Points Plus 5.
LOOKING FOR a lower-calorie and lower-point brownie? Try my Two-Bite Brownies!

PERSONAL NOTE This column was written during the winter of 2006. During a visit home that summer, much to my surprise, the albino deer from Curtis Drug showed up on a float in the 4th of July parade! And so now I have a photo as well as a mind memory. If only, if only, the drugstore still had the soda fountain!

Albino Deer from Curtis Drug, Baudette, Minnesota 4th of July Float, Baudette, Minnesota Clown Dancing

Need a Chocolate Fix?

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
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I enjoyed the memory jog about the small town drug store. When we lived in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, there was this wonderful old time drug store with a soda fountain that I adored. I loved the people, the service and of course the soda fountain. It also was within walking distance of our home! Often after a walking shopping trip, we would stop for a treat on the way home.

During the time we lived there, the store's original owners retired and the new owners decided to close the soda fountain. My son still says I made him overdose on "chocolate sodas" because I took him in every day during the last week they were in business, and kept saying, "I want you to remember this, this is a piece of history." He was 7 or 8 years old then. My favorites beside the cherry cokes, were lime cokes!
 
Up here in West Bend (Iowa) we still have the drug store soda fountain. Come on up for a visit and I'll buy you a vanilla coke!
 
Alanna,
Great post! Memoir-esque articles are tremendously difficult to get right. They tend to be boring and self-centered -- "grilled cheese" posts. But when they're pulled off, as you did here, they're fascinating and broadly appealing.

I know this because I keep trying and fail more often than I succeed.{wry grin}
 
First time around on your blog and loved your new Kitchen Parade. The two column idea definitely is pleasing to the eye and makes for easy reading.
 
I'm moving in two days, but I think this might be one of the first things I make once we're settled. Looks great and I really enjoyed the story, too. :)
 
I see a vanilla bean purchase in my future.
 
Just so you know, you can still buy real Coke made with cane sugar in many grocery stores and in Mexican grocery stores. It is in glass bottles in the Mexican department. Very worth the extra money!
 
Went out and got a vanilla bean just for this recipe. These smelled so good baking; we couldn't wait for them to cool off! Definitely a recipe to keep on hand.
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna