The Castle Brownie Contest - 2012
In the summer of 2012, we ran a brownie contest. We had several recipes submitted. The following story and recipes ensued.
A knock on the side door to the Castle brought Valerie to the door.
“Oh hi,” Valerie said to Heather. “You know, you’re family. You could just come in.”
“Seems kind of impolite,” Heather said.
Valerie held an arm out to hug her. Heather shifted the plate she was carrying into her other hand and hugged Valerie. They moved into the main Castle living room.
“You’re the second one today with a big plate of something,” Valerie said. “Tanesha just went upstairs. What are you up to?”
“There’s a bake sale after school at the Marlowe School after school today,” Heather said.
“There is?” Valerie asked. “How come I don’t know about it?”
“I think Jake set it up,” Heather shrugged. “I don’t know. Jill called and said to bring some brownies.”
“Did you make these?” Valerie’s eyebrows pinched together with worry.
“Not a chance,” Heather chuckled. “Blane made them when he came home for lunch.”
Valerie’s smile spoke her relief. Heather chuckled.
“They’re talking about putting together a brownie cookbook,” Heather said. “You should submit your recipe.”
“My super secret brownie recipe?” Valerie asked. “Not a chance.”
“Don’t let Jill hear you,” Heather moved into the Castle kitchen. “She’s on the warpath.”
“Why is the school hosting a bake sale?” Valerie followed her.
“Jill has a friend from Pete’s whose son is getting bullied at his elementary school. She thinks he’d do great at the Marlowe School but they can’t afford to go there,” Heather said. “The scholarship fund is tapped out. Jake told Jill if she raised half the money, he’d put in the rest. We’ll hold these bake sales until we get the money.”
“Why don’t I put in the other half?” Valerie asked. “I mean I’d have to ask Mike but we could do that.”
“Jill thinks it’s important to show people that the community can raise the money to help,” Heather said.
“Listen,” Heather said. “I’m just doing my part. Jill called and said bring brownies. Here I am.”
Valerie smiled. Heather grinned and started up to the loft. She was halfway up the stairwell when she turned.
“Aren’t you coming?” Heather asked.
“I don’t… I mean…”
“Who’s going to judge the brownies?” Heather asked. “We’re not going to do it ourselves. We don’t compete with each other.”
“Oh,” Valerie smiled. “Okay, I’ll get Mike. Delphie’s with Katy and Noelle in the back.”
“Good,” Heather said. “Sandy should be…”
Sandy came into the kitchen. She was carrying a plate of brownies.
“What’s going on?” Sandy asked.
“I thought we could have a little friendly competition,” Heather said.
“I won’t compete with my girls,” Sandy said. “Neither will you.”
“How about the winner gets money for the scholarship fund?” Valerie asked.
“See,” Heather said. “We’re raising money for charity.”
“I don’t like it,” Sandy said.
“Like what?” Tanesha asked from the top of the stairs.
“Heather wants us to compete over who has the best brownie,” Sandy said.
“No,” Heather said. “We don’t judge. They can judge and see who wins. The winner makes more money for the fund.”
“And if someone gets their feelings hurt?” Sandy asked.
“Girl,” Tanesha shook her head. “If one of us get’s our feelings hurt over someone’s opinion about our brownies then we’ve got big, big problems.”
Heather nodded. Valerie gave Sandy a cheerful nod. Sandy didn’t look less worried.
“I’ll go get everyone,” Valerie turned and went out the back door.
“Come on, Mommy,” Tanesha said. “We’ll get through it.”
Tanesha stepped aside to let Heather pass into Jill and Jacob’s loft. Sandy gave a worried glance after Valerie and followed.
“Where’s Jill?” Heather asked when she entered the loft.
Tanesha pointed toward Jill’s office door.
“She’s working,” Sandy gave Heather a ‘You know how she is’ look. She went into the kitchen area to set down her brownies. Tanesha turned on the electric kettle and began taking out mugs for tea.
“Working? I thought she was on bed rest,” Heather said.
“She was a little stir crazy, so Jake gave her a few more projects to do,” Sandy whispered. “She’s actually thrilled.”
Heather gave a rueful shake of her head.
“I’ll get her,” Tanesha walked half way across the loft. “Jill!”
“What?” Jill yelled from her office.
“We’re all waiting your highness,” Tanesha laughed.
“Oh shoot.” There was a scuffling and scrambling sound from Jill’s office. Scooter ran out with Jill right behind. “I thought I had more time.”
For someone as round with babies as Jill was at that moment, she moved very quickly across the loft. While Sandy and Heather watched, she grabbed the ingredients for her brownies from the cupboard.
“You haven’t made yours?” Heather asked.
“It only takes a minute,” Jill turned on the oven. “Plus, I thought I had more time. I’ve been working on…”
Jill wiggled her eyebrows and nodded to Tanesha.
“Jer’s making good money on this movie so he wants Jill and Jake to fix the basement and his new studio,” Tanesha said. “Jill snuck in some posh stuff for our master bath and kitchen. It’s going to be nice.”
As if they were at a tennis match, the women’s heads moved back and forth following Jill as she made her brownies.
“Can you change the plan at this point?” Heather asked.
“If it’s not anything structural,” Tanesha said. “That’s all set.”
“It’s just fun finish stuff,” Jill said over the sound of her ancient handheld mixer. “I have the chore of looking through endless catalogs for exactly what’s right. It’s a terrible burden.”
The girlfriends chuckled and Jill smiled.
“Mommy!” Katy yelled and the door to the loft banged open.
“Here,” Jill said.
Katy ran inside. She was about a foot from the kitchen when she caught sight of the brownies. She stopped short.
“Wh… um…” She tried to look casual. “What are you doing?”
“We’re having a brownie contest,” Tanesha picked up Katy and set her on a bar stool.
“We are?” Jill asked.
“I don’t like it but…” Sandy started.
“Where’s the brownie contest?” Charlie asked as he came in the loft. Nash and Noelle followed close behind.
“It’s a friendly competition,” Tanesha said. “The winner gets to donate the money to the scholarship fund.”
“Isn’t it horrible?” Jill said as she put her brownies into a greased pan.
“What?” Sandy asked.
“They’re closing Pete’s Kitchen for ‘remodeling,’” Jill made the air quotes with her gooey hands. “But they laid every one off. Everyone.”
“Even Lorraine?” Tanesha asked. “She’s worked there for more than twenty years.”
“Everyone,” Jill said. “Even me!”
“Wow,” Heather said. “What are they going to do?”
“Look for jobs, that’s what they’re doing,” Jill said. “So if we can raise more money for the scholarship fund by having a little contest, I’m all for it.”
She pulled a brownie laden beater from the mixer and held it out to Katy.
“Katherine Anjelika Roper Marlowe!! What are you doing?” Jill’s voice was hard.
Katy’s mouth was full of brownie. Her big dark eyes looked up at her mother. As if her mind was trying to come up with the right answer, her eyes blinked.
“We haven’t started yet,” Jill shoved her brownies into the warmed oven and went to the refrigerator for milk. Heather set out glasses for Jill to pour into. “Do you see anyone else eating brownie?”
Katy pointed to Charlie, whose cheeks were plump with brownie. When Katy mouth was clear, she took a drink of milk.
“But Mommy,” Katy said. “These brownies are Delphie’s brownies. And the competition is between you and Auntie Sandy and Auntie Heather and Auntie Tanesha. Not Delphie!”
“I made those,” Tanesha said.
“No,” Katy shook her head vehemently. “I eat Delphie’s brownies every single day for… for forever. I’d know them anywhere.”
“I don’t know about that, sugar,” Tanesha gave Katy another brownie. “This recipe came from my Momma.”
“It’s Yvonne’s recipe,” Delphie said as she moved into the kitchen area from the door. “She taught me how to make lots of things.”
Mike and Valerie came into the loft from the stairs. They moved into the kitchen area.
“Because I didn’t have a family or kids, I just cooked whatever I could. Microwave popcorn, mostly,” Delphie said. “Yvonne thought the whole thing was kind of sad so she set about teaching me how to cook and shop. She knew so much about food and growing food that when we moved here I started a garden. She couldn’t help me at that time, of course. I had to learn on my own. But there’s no question, most of my recipes came from Yvonne. That one is no exception.”
“So I made Yvonne’s Delphie brownies,” Tanesha smiled. She leaned over Katy and kissed her cheek. “How’s that?”
Her mouth full, Katy made an affirmative noise.
“I don’t care where the recipe came from,” Noelle reached across the bar for a brownie. “I think they are good.”
Tanesha’s brownie - recipe created and submitted by Liz, the Moonlit Chef at Cooking by Moonlight
6 T. butter
1 c. chocolate chips
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 T. vanilla extract
3 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c. all-purpose
1/4 t. salt
Liz from Cooking by Moonlight went through the Denver Cereal to read about Delphie and Katy’s brownie ritual. She decoded this recipe from the story then spent a week making sure it was perfect. You can see why she’s in our finals. We’ll add this recipe to the Denver Cereal so people can try it out at home.
“These look good,” Nash said. His hand inched closer to Heather’s plate. “Can I…?”
“I think so,” Sandy said.
“Let’s all try Heather’s,” Jill reached for one of Heather’s brownies. Eager hands reached out from around the counter to take a brownies.
“They’re not really mine,” Heather said. “Blane made them.”
“You brought them,” Tanesha smiled at Heather. “Bought all the ingredients.”
“He’s a really good cook,” Valerie said.
After taking a bite, Katy shook her head and set her brownie down.
“Mommy can I have…?” Katy pointed back to Tanesha’s brownies.
“You don’t like these?” Jill asked.
“They’re okay but they aren’t like my brownies,” Katy said. “My brownies are super chocolaty.”
“How did Yvonne’s Delphie recipe get to be your brownies?” Jill asked.
“I’m the one who eats them,” Katy gave her a chocolate laced smiled. Jill laughed.
“I think Heather’s brownies are fabulous!” Noelle said. “Absolutely dee-lish!”
“Charlie?” Sandy asked.
“They taste like that chocolate Jeffy used to bring back from New Mexico,” Charlie shrugged.
“I like ‘em,” Nash said. “I like the frosting. It makes them a little yummy gooey.”
There was a round of “mmms” as everyone focused their attention on the brownie they were eating.
“They’re missing something,” Mike said.
“Salt,” Valerie laughed. “Mike salts everything twice before he thinks it’s any good.”
“Now that you mention it,” Mike nodded. “Both of these brownies could use some salt.”
“These brownies are very gourmet with the cinnamon and chocolate,” Valerie said. “I could see them in a swank restaurant in LA or Aspen.”
“Santa Fe,” Tanesha said. “Or Taos. I like them.”
“Right,” Valerie said. “Something very expensive. Don’t you think?”
“They’d be good with a strong cup of coffee,” Tanesha said.
“Yeah,” Valerie said. “They have a little bit of that coffee flavor too.”
“Blane was a Chef in a restaurant just like that,” Heather said.
“It definitely shows,” Tanesha said.
“Delphie?” Sandy asked. “What do you think?”
“I like them,” Delphie said. “I see what you mean, Val, about how complex and gourmet they are. Fancy. It’s something we would order at one of those places we sometimes go to in Hollywood. And you’re right Charlie. The cinnamon and coffee give the brownies that Southwest flavor. If Sam’s mother was alive, I’d make them for her. She loved this exact mix of flavors. I like that they are a little different texture too – softer…”
“But?” Jill asked.
“I’m a simple girl,” Delphie shrugged. “I mean I just admitted to eating mostly microwave popcorn for years at a time.”
“And?” Valerie put her arm around Delphie. “You can tell us.”
“They seem a little complicated to me,” Delphie said. “Lots of flavors all at once.”
“Boy, this is contest is going to be hard,” Heather said.
“Everyone likes something different,” Jill said.
“Well, I like these,” Noelle said. “These are the best thing I’ve ever tasted.”
“Sweet and sophisticated,” Sandy said. “That’s my Noelle.”
“I bet I’d be good friends with Mr. Sam’s mom,” Noelle beamed.
“I bet you would, sweetie,” Delphie said.
“Personally, I think I need to try some more,” Nash cast a ravenous eye to Sandy’s plate.
Mexican Espresso Brownies
For the Brownies:
1/3 cup cocoa
1 & 1/2 tsp espresso
1/2 cup and 2 Tbsp boiling water
2 oz chopped unsweetened chocolate
4 & 1/2 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 eggs and 2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla 1
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon 3/4 tsp salt
1 & 3/4 cup flour
6 oz chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
For the Espresso Glaze:
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp buttermilk
1/8 cup cocoa
1 & 1/2 tsp espresso powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
8 oz powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
To Make the Brownies:
To Make the Glaze:
“Can I have one?” Nash asked.
Sandy nodded and Nash reached for a brownie. Charlie took the one Nash reached for. Nash moved his hand to the next one but Mike took it from him.
“Hey! Wait a minute!” Nash said. “Everyone stop!”
They turned to look at him. Nash selected a brownie off of Sandy’s plate.
“Thank you,” Nash said.
Laughing, everyone tried a brownie from Sandy’s plate.
“Wow,” Heather said. “These are really different.”
“They’re incredibly light,” Valerie said. “Did you use the same chocolate?”
“Ghirardelli,” Sandy looked at Jill and Tanesha.
“That’s what we use,” Heather said.
“Did you agree before hand?” Delphie asked.
“No,” Jill laughed. “Sandy picked it as the chocolate. We’re too intimidated to use anything else.”
“I like it,” Sandy said.
“Any chocolate is good chocolate,” Katy said.
“The recipe calls for Cadbury’s,” Sandy said. “And that’s really good, but it’s not what people expect when they have a brownie.”
“Not as chocolaty,” Heather said. “More like an amazing dessert.”
“Gourmet,” Jill said.
“Is gourmet good?” Sandy blushed.
“Gourmet is fabulous,” Valerie said. “I love these. They’re so light and have a wonderful texture.”
“Like cake,” Charlie said while he reached for another brownie.
“Mike?” Jill asked.
“They’re okay,” Mike said. “But no…”
“Salt!” Everyone said together.
A little giddy from the chocolate and sugar, they laughed.
“I don’t think this one has enough flavor,” Noelle said. “It’s too soft and…”
“I still like my super chocolaty ones the best,” Katy said.
“How many have you had?” Jill asked.
“Was I ‘sposed to count?” Katy asked. “It’s a brownie contest.”
“Maybe you should take a little break,” Jill said.
Katy scowled at her mother and Jill shook her head.
“I like these,” Delphie said. “They’re not too sweet and not too over the top. I like that they’re a little firmer. I mean, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I’m certainly not saying that any of them are bad.”
“But?” Valerie asked.
“I’d make these,” Delphie said. “Are they hard?”
“Not really,” Sandy said. “I’ll get you the recipe.”
“Nash?” Tanesha asked. “What do you think?”
“Mmmm,” Nash said while he was chewing.
“These are kind of the opposite of Heather’s brownies,” Jill said. “They’re delicate where the other has lots of flavor.”
“They are definitely bookends of the fancy spectrum,” Tanesha said.
“Can someone eat too much chocolate?” Jill asked Tanesha.
She nodded toward Katy.
“No!” Katy said. “That’s just silly.”
“Sure you can eat too much of anything?” Tanesha scowled at Katy.
Jill’s furrowed brow caused everyone to turn and look at Katy. Heather put her hand on Katy’s forehead as if she had a fever.
“How are you feeling, Katy?” Sandy asked.
Katy looked from her mother to Heather and then at Tanesha.
“I’m fine Auntie Sandy,” Katy laughed. “You can’t trick me into thinking I ate too many brownies right before Mommy’s come out of the oven.”
“What?” Jill acted surprised.
“You can’t trick me,” Katy pointed to her mother. “I know what you’re doing.”
“What am I doing?”
“Trying to trick me into not eating your brownies,” Katy said. “I’m not fooled.”
“Well, I’m happy eating Auntie Heather’s brownies,” Noelle said.
“I like these,” Valerie pointed to Sandy’s plate.
“Me too,” Delphie said.
“Charlie?” Sandy asked.
“I was wondering when the other brownies would be done,” Charlie said.
All eyes turned to Jill. She picked up the timer.
“Four more minutes,” Jill said.
“Great,” Nash said. “Let’s eat more brownies!”
Sandy’s brownie – recipe created and submitted by Jo Rose
This recipe is nut free (but some chocolate buttons may contain nuts); Makes 24 pieces (or however many you want to cut)
Canola oil spray
125g (9 T) unsalted butter
200g milk or dark chocolate buttons (Cadbury is the best)
2 x-large eggs (70 grams each) slightly beaten (needs to be mixed with vanilla essence when “slightly beaten”)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup castor sugar (superfine sugar)
1 cup plain flour (sift together with baking powder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
“Four more minutes for Jill’s brownies?” Charlie groaned. “How can I possibly wait so…”
He stuffed one of Tanesha’s chocolaty brownies into his mouth and everyone laughed.
“What are you doing?” Nash asked Noelle.
“Well, I…” Noelle had made a sculpture out of the remains of her brownies. “Just because these aren’t my favorite brownies doesn’t mean they aren’t loved. So I…”
“Very sweet,” Sandy leaned over to kiss her cheek.
“Right,” Noelle said. “They are very sweet, but not my favorite.”
Jill’s timer rang and she took her brownies out of the oven. Mike came around the bar with a spoon.
“We have to wait…” Jill started.
Before she could finish her sentence, he dipped into her pan and was blowing on the hot mixture.
“It’s really good…” His mouth was so full of hot brownie he couldn’t finish his sentence. He swallowed and croaked, “Milk.”
Valerie gave him a glass of milk. He drank it down and moved back to the brownie pan. Jill fended him off with a spatula. Laughing, they did a little spoon-spatula fencing before he yelled, “Hey!”
Charlie was dipping into the brownie pan with his own spoon. Mike lunged for the boy but Charlie scooted away with his hot brownie laden spoon. Mike crossed his arms. With the spoon as his weapon, Mike stood ready to defend the pan from invaders.
“Uh Mike?” Valerie asked.
“Yes my beloved,” Mike said.
“You should watch your flank,” Valerie said.
Mike turned quickly to his left where Nash had snuck up to the brownie tray. He and Nash began a battle of the spoons leaving the brownie pan open for Charlie to grab the entire pan. Over Mike’s protests, Charlie carried the warm brownies back to the others.
“These are definitely salty,” Valerie said.
“I like the crunchy top and softer middle,” Delphie said.
“I like that they’re easy to make, fast, and have simple ingredients,” Jill said.
“It’s Mom’s recipe,” Mike said.
“Right,” Heather said. “They‘re like what someone’s mom would make.”
“Megan used to make them for us,” Jill said.
“Oh I remember those,” Tanesha said. “We’d have finals or something. It’d be dumping snow out and we’d be studying like crazy.”
“She’d make these hot amazing brownies,” Sandy said. “It chased the cold and worry away.”
“Remember when Candy took over the baking?” Jill said.
“I can still taste her brownies.”
“Me too,” Heather said.
“I’ve only ever loved one brownie,” Knight Mike knelt before the emptying brownie pan. “She is thee.”
“What are you doing?” Jacob asked from the door of the loft.
Mike jerked around to look at him. Not sure what would happen, everyone became very still and silent.
“Are you praying to the brownie pan?” Aden asked.
“Son,” Sam said. “Are you feeling all right?”
“I…” Mike hopped to his feet.
Everyone laughed. Valerie kissed him.
“No really,” Jake said. “What are you guys doing?”
“We’re having a brownie contest,” Jill said. “But I’m afraid we haven’t been able to decide.”
“I like these the best,” Katy pointed to Tanesha’s brownies.
“We’ll have to try them,” Jacob passed the plate to Aden and Sam.
“Oh great, we’ll have an odd number,” Jill said.
“I love these,” Noelle pointed to the brownies Heather brought.
“And the rest of you?” Sam asked.
“We like different ones,” Delphie said. “I like Sandy’s brownies.”
“Me too,” Valerie said.
“I love Jill’s,” Mike said.
“What about you?” Aden ruffled Nash’s hair.
“I’m with Mike,” Nash said. “I like the crunchy crust.”
“Charlie?” Aden asked.
“I’m going to have to go with these,” Charlie pointed to Tanesha’s brownies. “They’re very chocolaty and I really like chocolate.”
“Oh wow,” Aden said after taking a bite of Heather’s brownies. “These are… intense, Southwest.”
“They’re very you,” Sandy said.
“Very me,” Aden said. “Yes, this is my vote.”
“Jake?” Valerie asked.
“I think I’m rooting for the home team,” Jacob said. “Plus, these remind me of Jill. She makes them sometimes when I come in late from Hockey.”
“Sam?” Delphie asked.
“Can I vote for all of them?” Sam asked. “They’re really good.”
“Where is everyone?” Sissy yelled from the kitchen.
“Up here!” Sandy yelled down the stairwell.
Sissy ran up the stairs.
“Honey’s in the kitchen, can you…?” Sissy asked.
Mike and Jacob went down to get Honey. When they returned, Sissy was agreeing with Noelle. She liked Heather’s brownie best.
“Honey will be our tie breaker!” Jill said.
“Oh boy,” Honey said. “I don’t think I can pick. They’re so different. What did everyone pick?”
“We have three for Heather’s brownie – Noelle, Aden, and Sissy. We also have three for Jill’s brownie – Mike, Nash, and Jacob.”
“But two for the others?” Honey asked.
“We were hoping you’d be the tie breaker,” Jill said.
“Oh, okay, well…” Honey looked at Heather and then Jill’s brownies.
“You should tell us the truth,” Sam said. “Don’t lie.”
“Uh… Okay. Well, I actually like Tanesha’s brownie,” Honey said. “It’s really chocolaty and yummy.”
“I guess that didn’t help,” Honey said. “Sorry.”
“We need one more person,” Valerie said.
“Hello?” Jeraine said from the kitchen.
“Does he count?” Tanesha raised an eyebrow. They laughed.
“Yes, I count,” Jeraine laughed. “What are we counting?”
“Which brownie you like,” Tanesha said.
“I’m not a huge fan of brownies, so…”
“You cannot chicken out,” Mike said.
“Yes, man up and pick a brownie,” Jacob laughed.
Shaking his head at Mike and Jacob, Jeraine took a tiny piece of every brownie.
“My manly opinion is this one,” Jeraine pointed to Sandy’s brownie. “It’s a little lighter.”
“What did I say?” Jeraine asked.
“We’re hopelessly tied,” Jill said.
“I kind of like that,” Sandy smiled. “We each make great brownies; they’re just different from each other.”
The women smiled at each other.
“I’ll put the money into the scholarship fund,” Valerie said.
“Great!” Jill said. “That’s great. You guys ready to go?”
“Go?” Jacob asked. “Go where.”
“We’re going to have a bake sale at the Marlowe school,” Jill said.
“Didn’t we just eat the bake sale?” Charlie asked.
“Not a chance,” Tanesha said. “My girl told me to bring two plates. I have another plate of brownies in the car.”
“Me too,” Heather said.
“I have ours downstairs,” Sandy said.
“I have some cupcakes downstairs,” Delphie said.
“I made a pie for dinner,” Valerie said. “But I can bring it.”
“Do you mind?” Jill asked Mike.
Jill took another pan of brownies from the oven and plated the rest.
“Let’s go,” Jill said. The men followed the woman out of the loft.
Jill’s brownie – recipe created and submitted by Tinkerbell
1/2 c. oil
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Add to above:
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Stir until blended. Add 1/2 cup nuts if desired. Pour in 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350 F. For 20 to 23 minutes.
We were hopelessly tied. These finalist recipes were so very different from each other that we were simply unable to come up with a clear winner. The more people we asked, the more tied we became. This year, we’ll have four winners:
Liz, the Moonlit Chef, of Cooking by Moonlight, won the Katy’s Super Chocolaty Brownie award.
Jo Rose won the Light as a Feather Brownie award.
Barbara Keibel of Creative Culinary won the Dreamin’ brownie award because we tasted Southwestern dreams in her brownies.
Tinkerbell won the Mom’s Best Brownie award for her easy to make, simple ingredient brownie.
What can we say? They are all winners.