When I was growing up, my mom and my grandmother made the best sweets -- Mississippi mud pie, homemade fudge, pecan pie with homemade crust, chocolate chip cookies.
The secret to the pie crust and the cookies was Crisco shortening. Yikes! I couldn't bring myself to bake with that heart attack-inducing stuff now, but I have to say, I've never had as good a chocolate chip cookie without it. (I like mine crunchy, with a tall glass of cold milk.)
I stay away from making pie crusts altogether, as I explained here.
I have started making a dessert that doesn't quite make up for the Crisco, but knowing that it's a little better for me puts it in a class all its own. I use a recipe for brownie pie, which I got from a former editor of mine. It was her husband's grandmother's recipe. I use almond extract instead of the traditional vanilla extract, and that makes this treat taste like you've gone to a lot of trouble for it. (It looks a little flat in the photo, but trust me, that's only because it's so rich and fudge-like.)
The recipe is really easy, too. You just literally throw all the ingredients together, mix them well, and pour into a pie crust (not a deep-dish one). I leave out the crust, opting instead to oil or butter a small pyrex dish, and pour the batter right in. It takes just about as long to bake, maybe 5 minutes less.
I serve the almond brownies warm with vanilla Rice Dream "ice cream," a vegan version of vanilla ice cream that is made with brown rice and -- really, I would not lie to you about this -- is super tasty. The thing about using such substitutions is not believing that it's really going to taste like ice cream. It's a frozen treat of sorts, but c'mon, let's face it, it will never be Breyers. I also love Stonyfield Farms frozen vanilla yogurt, which has even fewer calories than the Rice Dream. Both aren't cheap, though, unfortunately.
So here's the recipe for the brownie pie without the pie part. The reason I call it "better" is that I use the best ingredients for this -- organic cocoa powder, sucanat, etc.
A better brownie (makes about 9 brownies)
1/4 cup organic cocoa powder (I like Equal Exchange)
1 stick of organic melted butter (unsalted)
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sucanat, which is non-refined cane sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners is my brand)
1/4 cup flour
2 local, organic eggs
1.) Toss all ingredients into a mixing bowl, and whisk well.
2.) Pour into a greased glass dish.
3.) Bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees, or until a toothpick or knife inserted into it comes out clean.
4.) Cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack, then serve with Rice Dream "ice cream" or your favorite frozen yogurt.
Today's question: Do you try to upgrade any of your favorite desserts?