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Trying Out A New Recipe: Claire Saffitz’s Malted “Forever” Brownies

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Welcome to another installment of me trying out recipes I saw on YouTube! Today we have Claire Saffitz’s brownie recipe. Not just any brownies, though. These are malted brownies! I wasn’t sure what that meant at first, but after reading the ingredient list, it turns out it just has some malted milk powder in the batter.

I knew right away that malted milk powder would be a bitch and a half to find in the store, but other than that, the ingredients list is quite standard and easy! I’d say the only thing out of the ordinary is the Dutch-processed cocoa powder, but I wouldn’t say there’s anything too wild on the list.

So, off to the store I went for some malted milk powder. My assumption was correct, I could not find it anywhere. I searched high and low, in the baking aisle, the powdered drink section, even in the chocolate syrup section. I thought I had found it when I stumbled upon chocolate malted milk powder. I thought, surely they would keep the regular kind next to the chocolate kind, but alas there was none to be found.

So I asked someone! They looked it up, and sure enough it was out of stock. I refused to buy the chocolate kind, because that is NOT what the recipe called for. So I texted my dad that I wouldn’t be making any brownies tonight, and he promptly went to the local IGA and sent me this:

To which his response was, “it’s going into chocolate brownies, it’s fine”. SO I ENDED UP USING IT.

Other than that, I got all the ingredients right except I used 1/4 teaspoon of regular salt instead of one teaspoon of kosher salt. Because never once in my entire got dang life have I seen kosher salt at the store. Aaaand I used light brown sugar instead of dark because I forgot to pick up dark at the store.

Anyways, throwing it all together was super easy and I really loved how little dishes this recipe made. It’s very straightforward, you really just melt everything together in one bowl and mix. And baking is really easy too! Nothing like throwing a pan in at 350 for half an hour.

This is how they came out after 25 minutes in a 340 degree oven (mine runs super hot):

After I took them out of the oven, I thought, I don’t need to look at the recipe anymore, they’re finished! So I closed the recipe and considered these a success. However, if I had kept it open, or maybe paid more attention to the video itself, I would’ve noticed it said to cool these for an hour, and then chill them in the fridge after that for an hour. Neither of which I did.

I cut into them not even ten minutes after they came out and they looked like this:

These were literally straight up batter on the inside. Perplexed as to how they could have been underbaked, I just stuck them back in for ten minutes. And then another ten. And then another ten. They still looked like batter, though, but I was tired of baking them, so I took them out and gave up, and let them sit on top of the stove overnight. I did eat one while it was all gooey and underbaked, though, and it was pretty alright.

The next day, when I checked on them, they were super hard, and the bottoms were extremely tough to bite through. I ate another one and didn’t really like it that much. But then again, I’ve never been a fan of brownies. Like ever. I had hope for this recipe because Claire’s description of a perfect brownie matches mine almost exactly.

I’m the kind of person who likes a fudgy brownie, not cakey. If it’s cakey, it’s basically just chocolate cake. I honestly like underbaked, dense, molten, you know what I’m saying. And if you put frosting on your brownies… that really is just cake at that point.

So, I kind of fucked it on this recipe, but maybe I’ll try again in the near future and actually let them chill and not be impatient like always. At least my parents said they were good!

Do you like brownies? How do you like yours? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day!

-AMS

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Big Idea

The Big Idea: Adrian Goldsworthy

The past is another country — especially when you are trying to write a novel in it. Historian Adrian Goldsworthy had the skills and expertise to write about the Roman-era military encampment that is at the heart of his novel The Fort… but how to bring that place and time alive? Goldsworthy talks about it in this Big Idea.

ADRIAN GOLDSWORTHY:

The Big Idea behind The Fort is trying to understand what the world was like at the beginning of the second century. In my day job I write non fiction history books, and have been studying the Roman empire and the Roman army for all my adult life. So writing a novel in that setting gives me a chance to work out what I have learned from all this about life at the time and then push the evidence as far as it will go. There is so much that we do not know about the ancient world, which means that in a novel you have to imagine and invent to make the world of the story complete and convincing.  

Narrowing the focus a little, the idea behind the story and the setting is the fort of the title, and just what might happen when a Roman army base came under attack from a formidable enemy like the Dacians, who possess some knowledge of siege engines and equipment. Historians and archaeologists have studied Roman army bases for a long, long time. By convention we call them forts if they were built to house 500-1000 men and fortresses if they were bigger. These were no castles but places where the army lived, more akin to garrison towns than strongholds, so although they had fortifications and these are studied, these are not what stands out when you look at the plan of one of these places. 

Instead most of the space was occupied by barracks and stables, granaries, a big house for the senior officer, a grand headquarters, a hospital, workshops, stores and other buildings. There was a wall, strengthened with towers, a ditch or ditches beyond that and perhaps sharpened stakes, some in concealed pits. Against that, the perimeter was long – inevitable given that the whole point of the place was to house people and animals – and there were four gateways.

The Roman army’s doctrine in this era was to dominate the enemy and fight in the open, where their superior organisation, command and control, tactics and equipment gave them an advantage. The Fort is a story about what might happen when they were too heavily outnumbered to march out and instead stay behind the walls of a base not primarily designed for defence.

The main event of the story is the siege that results. Sieges were not quick as a rule, and a story like this will only work if readers care about the characters and understand why everyone is there in the first place. That means setting everything up, which takes time. Some of the characters, such as Ferox the centurion who ends up in charge, and his wife Claudia Enica, the queen of the Brigantes, appeared in my earlier Vindolanda trilogy. However, I wanted The Fort to stand alone, so that someone could read and enjoy it without having read the other books. That meant a careful balancing act introducing everyone without slowing the pace of the story down with too much backstory. The first half of the book sets up what follows, letting us get to know the characters, and all the intrigues behind the big and small events.

Pace is very important and took a lot of work, slowly tightening the tension. There is action early on, but it is smaller scale. Sieges were a game of cat and mouse between the attackers and defenders, each trying to gain an advantage, each trying to outthink and counter the enemy before it was too late. Early on, I decided that we would see the story from both sides, so while most of our characters are Romans, their story is interspersed with chapters written from the viewpoint of Brasus, a young and thoughtful Dacian nobleman. He needed to come across as different, which is a challenge because we know very little about Dacian society.

It took a while to get right, but I think it works and he comes across as a character in his own right, and rather likeable.  He also needed to do more than simply provide explanations for what is about to happen to our Roman characters. While the focus is on the Romans, sensing the enemy closing in around them and then wondering how to fend off the attack, then the next attack and the next, we see the attackers, not as strong as they would like, not always as well led as they would like, and knowing that the fort is holding them up from achieving the real objective of the campaign.  

If the first half of the story is a gradual build-up, the second half needed to be heavy on the action, without becoming repetitive. Each successive assault – and each Roman counter measure – had to be distinct and interesting, and all the while the strength of the defenders drips away. It’s an odd thought, but creating this tension may have been helped because I started writing just as the first covid lockdown came into force here in the UK. On the other hand, writers – who spend so much time isolated with their ideas, characters and situations – were some of the folk whose daily lives changed least of all in these strange times.

Something else that is important to me in this story, and the Vindolanda trilogy, was that this was not a simple tale of goodies and baddies, nor is the Roman empire portrayed as unambiguously either good or evil. Our main characters need to be likeable enough for us to want them to win. Ferox is from one of the British tribes, educated in the empire and made a citizen and an officer, but remains a man of more than one culture. The same is true of most of the other ‘Romans’. With Brasus we have a chance to sense what it might have been like to have the Romans as neighbours and enemies. He is a decent man trying to do the right thing, but – just like with the Romans – some of the people on his side are very different. 

This brings us back to the start.  If the world of the story is to seem real and fit with the evidence, then it needs to be complicated.


The Fort: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Powell’s

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