A few weeks ago, we traveled to North Carolina to say our goodbyes to Steve’s paternal grandmother, Jane. The whole family gathered for her funeral in the small community of Burnsville, North Carolina, deep in the Appalachian mountains. I always loved visiting that beautiful and strange (for me) place. As someone who grew up surrounded by rice paddies a few miles from the Indian Ocean, the wild hills and mountains of North Carolina feel very foreign. And the people who live tucked away in little hollows and valleys – or perched on top of the mountains – are as unique as the location.
Usually I’ve walked away restored and inspired by the endless natural beauty, but frankly puzzled – in a good way – by the culture. It’s just that I can see enough to recognize the differences.
Jane dearly loved their church, Covy Rock Freewill Baptist Church. She was an outsider herself, having moved there when she and Stuart retired in 1990. But, as Steve’s mom noted the night before Jane’s funeral, Jane successfully adapted to the culture. Until her health began to suffer, she was an integral part of the church’s hostessing crew. She decorated the church at Christmastime, and brought her amazing homemade food to potlucks and suppers. For years, she hosted a post-caroling soup meal at their home, Rocking Horse Farm (pictured below with the flower arrangement for Jane). She’ll be very much missed by Stuart, the rest of the family, and her extended church family.
Jane had this cookbook, The Church Supper Cookbook, in their house, and Steve’s mom offered it to me. Knowing that church ladies are some of the best home cooks on the planet, I took it gladly. (However, I would note that although the title says it’s from churches and families across the country, 99% are from New England. Not that that’s a bad thing at all, just noting what I observed as I read through it.) I believe this is an earlier edition; it looks like editor David Joachim has since released an updated version.
Last week, after we got back from our travels, I had a hankering for brownies, but I really wanted them to be homemade. I mean, if I’m going to spend my calories on a treat, it might as well be a really good one. Plus, we had company coming so brownies seemed to be a good choice. Everyone likes brownies.
This cookbook has two recipes for brownies, and I picked the one that said it was for people who liked their brownies a little less sweet. Even so, I cut down the sugar by an additional quarter cup. I’ve found that a lot of American desserts are just a little too sweet for me. My Mom taught me that you can generally decrease the sugar amount by 25% and the final product won’t suffer. I also added 1/2 cup chocolate chips to boost the chocolate flavor.
Also, I had just watched this Buzzfeed Tasty video about brownies, and I picked up a tip: halfway through the bake, take the brownies out of the oven and give them a good whack against the stove. It somehow settles the batter and improves the texture.
This brownie recipe is a winner! And it was a small thing to do that made me feel like I was continuing Jane’s legacy; making good food for people I love.
Church Social Brownies
- 1/2 cup butter (I used vegetable oil because I was low on butter)
- 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 4 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups sugar (was plenty sweet this way)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips, optional
- Preheat oven to 325 and grease 9×9 pan. Melt together the butter and chocolate. I did this by microwaving for 30 seconds, then beating it until it all melted.
- Beat eggs and add sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat in chocolate mixture, and add flour. Stir in nuts or chocolate chips, if using.
- Pour into prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool before you cut it, if possible. Makes 16 pieces.
These brownies are rich, fudgy, not terribly sweet, and will satisfy any chocolate craving!