I’m not sure how I managed to set the pan of brownies on fire. I didn’t even know they could actually burst into flame. It’s not as if I’ve never before burned any of my culinary creations. In fact, I have served so many charred entrees to gentlemen visitors to my home that it gives a whole new meaning to the term “carbon dating.”
I am still shocked that the brownies caught fire. They burned with a nice, hot flame, which rose a good 10 inches without setting off the smoke alarm. I was able to put the conflagration out by smothering it with an empty dishpan while beating it with a spatula. Then I dropped the burned brownies, which tasted like the Wreck of the Hesperus looked, into the garbage and went out to sit on the porch swing and wait to see if the neighbors had called the fire department. They hadn’t.
Even the most incendiary cook has one specialty, and mine is my famous “Turtle Delight” brownies, so called because of a thick layer of caramel and pecans sandwiched between the layers of brownie.
Naturally, because my son was coming to visit, I planned to prepare a big batch. The trouble is that the delicious caramel can turn to a glasslike substance which sticks to the sides of the pan and the sides of casual passers-by. It also sticks to any dogs, cats or raccoons who happen to be passing through. It often creates a barrier so impenetrable that it could be used as a garden paving stone. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut away the whole outside caramelized frame to get to the nice gooey part in the middle. I reasoned that if I put a layer of baking parchment in the bottom of the pan, it might prevent the caramel from sticking. Incendiary cooks should not indulge in reasoning.
Sure enough, the brownies were perfect and tempting as they came from the oven. I set them on an unused burner to cool. They looked beautiful for the 10 minutes before they burst into flame.
It turns out that caramel ignites easily, and apparently the fact that I inadvertently set it on a burner that was turned on high didn’t help any.
I had to serve my son oatmeal. Not oatmeal cookies. Just oatmeal. He didn’t complain. He’s used to these last minute substitutions. I didn’t tell him why. He didn’t ask.
The worst of it was that the mini-conflagration burned the parchment paper into a thick charred circle of paper and brownie in the bottom of the pan. Nothing removes it and that made it necessary to almost discard the beloved baking dish that has been my mainstay for more than 40 years. It was one of those white dishes with the blue flowers on it; dishes made from the same space-age material as rocket ship nose cones which could go from freezer to oven. You can’t get them any more — the dishes or the nose cones. You can find the dishes “showing some wear” online for about $100 or so. Like me, they’re not getting any younger, or any cheaper.
I confess that I didn’t actually throw the dish away. I put it in the garage next to the garbage can, but not actually in it.
You may have heard that I never throw anything away. That is simply not true. I throw lots of things away. Mostly apple peels. I only keep things that I am absolutely certain to use like old peanut butter jars or empty toilet paper tubes. I have boxes of these obviously essential items. And then, of course, there are the treasures too precious to throw away, like handkerchiefs used for catching happy tears and that kind of thing. The dish might fall into both categories.
With Halloween coming I might wrap up in my black State Fair sweatshirt and sit out in the porch swing to give brownies out to a few special trick or treaters. It’s a good thing I didn’t throw that baking dish away. I’m sure it still has a couple of good batches of brownies left in it. Maybe I could line the bottom with foil this time. I feel some happy tears coming on. Foil doesn’t burn, does it?Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional speaker and writer. If you’d like the brownie recipe, contact her at P.O. Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327, 800-548-9264 or Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com.