Mirthful cackles and the best ever brownies

You know how you need different types of friends? That someone with whom you can share tequila shots with (if the tequila is handy, well enough, if not they will figure out a way in the dead of the night, at 3:30 AM, to get their hands on some. And they will remember the lime). Goes without saying, you need a 3:30 AM friend for reasons more serious than an absence of tequila. Then there is someone who you can giggle hysterically with, regardless of your age and whatever the situation. And someone who you can call after reading a good book because they probably insisted you read it in the first place. Of course, you need someone you can trade recipes with or ring when you have a bit of kitchen disaster on your hands. What about the one person who you can depend on will kick your butt very hard when you screw up? Not to forget, that kid who people thought (when you were growing up) that you were related to – because you always bunked at their place or vice a versa.

Now tell me that this list did not make you smile and think of specific people. Of laughter, giggles, memories, scarred knees, hearts mended over tubs of drink or of ice cream, and dappled sunlight (my husband, SG, insisted that I use dappled sunlight in my next blog post – so there).

I am grateful to the powers that be to be blessed with several friends who answer to the above descriptions. Some whom I know since the diaper days, and some with whom friendships were forged over school desks or college playgrounds. It gets harder as you grow up, but there are people you meet at work or bump into at a party or in my case, neighbors, who can go on to become peeps you treasure for life. But this blog post is not about all those people. It is about one person. That one person who is all of the above and more.

My powers of writing cannot even begin to describe the quality of her cackling laughter. You will recall Anthony Lane on Scarlett Johansson “Then came the laugh: dry and dirty, as if this were a drama class and her task was to play a Martini.” Now take every drink you have in the cabinet/bar and pour it into a big drum, shake in a lot of apples and cayenne pepper and.. let’s just say there isn’t a cocktail in the world that will come close as a description. In a memorable school prank involving blonde wigs and that mad raucous laugh, we were one decibel away from detention. I know for a fact, that a studio insisted on doing a track solely of her cackle.

She now does theater full time, teaches drama to children, and through her comic timing has both the big and the little people in splits. Her latest is her own production company, Habijabi, and their play, ‘Eat!’ (involving an apple core, a banana peel and the rat patrol.) If you are in Mumbai, check her out at NCPA on June 21st. Else contact her for a show at a school in your city.

She called me last week as she was going to be in my town, and politely inquired after any hypothetical leftovers from any baking binge which she could gorge on. I had to bake after that, right? So it was dulce de leche brownies from David L.

Dulce de Leche Brownies with Honey Nut Ice cream
Dulce de Leche Brownies with Honey Nut Ice cream

This was the third time I made dulce de leche. The first time was using a pressure cooker – while the results were fine, I did damage the cooker and the tin had to be cooled down overnight. The second time was in the microwave and yes, despite watching it like a hawk, it boiled over. This time I tried the oven as David suggests and this method is a keeper.

Dulce de Leche
Makes 1 cup
Pour 1 can (400 gm approx., I think mine was a little lesser) into a glass baking dish and cover with foil. Place in a larger tray and pour water (the recipe says hot water, I forgot that bit, but no apparent harm done) around it and bake in a preheated 220 c oven for about an hour. Check occasionally and top the water. Cool and whisk  to smoothness.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
Chop 170 gm chocolate. Melt 115 gm (8 tbsp of butter) in a saucepan and add the chopped chocolate to it. Stir till the chocolate melts. Remove from heat. Whisk in ¼ cup (25 gm) cocoa powder. Add 3 large eggs (I used 4 smalls) one at a time. Gently stir in 1 cup (200 gm) sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 cup (140 gm) AP flour. I also added about a cup (100 gm) of roasted walnuts. The last is optional.

Since I used a large stainless steel bowl with a copper bottom for melting the butter and chocolate, it doubled up as a mixing bowl. That and the kitchen scales, meant very little washing, always a bonus.

Coming back to the brownies, prepare an 8 inch square pan by lining it with foil. Ensure there is enough to come up the sides by which you can lift the brownies out. Grease the foil.

Pour half the batter in and dollop 1/3 of the dulce de leche in. With a fork gently swirl the mix. Follow with the remaining batter and repeat with the dulce de leche and the swirling. Bake for 40 minutes. I think mine were slightly overdone so check at the 35 minute mark. The brownies should feel just firm.

Pictured here are the brownies with store bought honey-nut ice-cream.

Seriously, make the brownies as soon as possible, with or without the dulce de leche. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself gorging on them at the kitchen counter with crumbs raining all over. Listen carefully – you will hear echoes of someone cackling with glee at your obvious enjoyment.

3 thoughts on “Mirthful cackles and the best ever brownies”

  1. What a lovely post. Enjoyed reading it tremendously. Thought of a few lovely women I know and some I knew and wish I still did. Love how you write.
    Have made dulce de leche a bunch of times cos I know a few friends who are fans.. And brownies like these except with walnuts thrown in. The swirls were so pretty.. I bet these taste pretty good too!

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