Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On the Road Again: Rocky Road Brownies

 The reason I started this blog was to share my love of children's literature and my passion for baking in a way that would somehow bring the two together. Well, here I am twenty posts and six months later and I have only written twice about literature. So pardon the interruption (and know that a recipe follows!) and let me tell you about My Name is Mina by David Almond. 

A few weeks ago I ended my Valentine's Day post with a quote from this beautiful book and I've been meaning to say more ever since. My friend Allison wrote a really beautiful post about My Name is Mina. I highly suggest checking it out!  Mina is a prequel (of sorts) to Almond's breathtaking novel Skellig. It's written in the style of a journal and I fell in love with it the moment I heard David Almond read this part aloud:  "Went to the loo.  Listened to the lovely tinkling sound of my pee splashing down into the water.  Thought about water running through me, water and my pee being flushed away into the drains, how it'll end up in rivers and seas and how it'll evaporate into the air and come back down again as rain.  Lovely to think of water that's been my pee coming down as rain!  Maybe that's why people say it's pissing out!" (123).

Mina is amazing. I hope all children are like her. She's bright, insightful and inquisitive. There are so many elements of Almond's other fiction in this story. In one especially haunting scene, Mina goes to the park alone and wanders to an abandoned mine shaft looking for her deceased father. This scene is reminiscent of Almond's equally wonderful novel Kit's Wilderness. Mr. Almond's upbringing in Newcastle clearly influences his stories. Place really matters in his work, though there's a universality to his writing that makes one think the stories could happen anywhere. Regardless, having spent some time in Newcastle (admittedly most of that time was in the Holiday Inn lounge), I gained a lot from walking those same streets and riding the same trains. 
T. K. Maxx in Newcastle
 Mina writes out Extraordinary Activities. I've been doing them on paper in a journal a shop owner told me "suits" me for some time now, but I think I've reached the point where I should share them. I went through the book and numbered the activities and I certianly may have gotten them wrong, but the one I'm sharing today is a sad one, number 8: 

"(Sad Version) Write a page of words for sadness" 
 Pain. Uncle Gene. Uncle Mike. Loss. Emptiness. Ache. Longing. Unrequited. Reject. Neglect. Unloved. Abuse. Hurt. Suffer. Agony. Bleak. Meager. Unwelcome. Shun. Stunt. Postpone. Torture. Break. Attack. Drown. Death. Illness. Fear. Extinct. Devastation. Flood. Famine. Destitute. Desolate. Dissolve. Goodbye. Grieve. Abandon. Disconnect. Pit. Despair. Disgust. Disguise. Betrayal. Cheat. Cheating. Cheater. C. Lies. Lying. Liars. Infidelity. Adultery. Back-stab. Cruel. Cruelty. Disregard. Storm. Argue. Disrespect. Heartbreak. Distance. Separation. Divorce. Inflict. Conflict. Confusion. Selfish. Acquaintance. Lost-love. Bombshell. Shrapnel. Scare. Afraid. Darkness. Jealousy. Lack-luster. Drained. Terrify. Horror. Unknown. Disaster. Wreck. Accident. Crash. Twist. Saw. Misconception. Unwelcome. Misunderstanding. Kill. Abortion. Hunger. Disease. Cancer. War. Disillusionment. Dishonest. Untrue. Unfaithful. Disappear. Deliberate. Dissuade. Lose. Cry. Sob. Gasp. Leave. Fool. Trick. Deny. Ignore. Close. Narrow-minded. Contempt. Superiority. Shut-out. Detest. Desperation. Blow-off. Burn. Loath. Question. Fight. Catastrophe. Terror. Wrench. Stab. Knife. Avoid. Funeral. Gilman's. Mourning. Aching. Void. Eliminate. Lonely. Engulf. Conquered. Betrayed. Condemn. Rape. Regret. Resist. S. P. N. Uncertainty.
The original list, September 28, 2011
I'm pretty certain Mina would love brownies, so here's the recipe for my Rocky Road brownies. I created them based on a recipe I have in a book, but I was on a mission to bake something for my very handsome friend, Kevin Klausman in honor of his move to Austin, TX. Enjoy! 
Brownie dough.  Yum yum.
 The details: This recipe is from Cybele Pascal's The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook. I altered it by adding walnuts and vegan marshmallows.  The marshmallows I ordered are out of this world delicious. I can't recommend them enough!  The alterations I made to the recipe are in italics:

Rocky Road (Trip) Brownies
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dairy-free, soy free shortening, I used soy free earth balance
2 cups granulated vegan cane sugar
8 ounces apple sauce
1 tbs. pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbs Basic Gluten-Free Flour mix (recipe follows!)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbs double-acting baking powder
1/2 cups dairy-free, soy free chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped vegan marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans 

 1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking pan.

2. Combine the unsweetened chocolate and shortening in a microwave safe bowl and melt in the microwave, stopping to check and stir every 30 seconds.  Once melted, stir in the sugar and apple sauce.  Mix well, add the vanilla, and beat until smooth.

3. Whisk together the flour mix, xanthan gum, and baking powder. Add to the chocolate mixture in three batches, stirring well after each addition.  Beat until smooth.  Fold in the Chocolate chips, marshmallows and nuts.

4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing down the top with the back of a rubber spatula or large spoon.  Bake in the center of the oven for 55 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  Bake until the top looks glossy and the brownie is just beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.

5. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares.  Removed from the pan and store in an airtight container.

Best enjoyed with friends
Basic Gluten-Free Flour Mix
4 cups superfine brown rice flour
1 1/3 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
2/3 tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)

1. To measure flour, use a large spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup, then level it off with the back of a knife or straightedge.  Do not use the measuring cup itself to scoop your flour when measuring!  It will compact the flour and you will wind up with too much for the recipe.

2. Combine all ingredients in a gallon-size zipper-top bag.  Shake (carefully!!!) until well blended.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Eerily beautiful Northeastern Connecticut morning
Now that I'm back on track with sharing both literature and food, I'm going to crank up the Tom Petty, grab a few brownies and start reading John Green's The Fault in Our Stars.

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