Friday, August 17, 2007

Steamed Brownies

I was desperate. But for once it wasn’t just because I needed chocolate. It’s because Kathy needed it too, or at least that’s what I told myself.

Her fifteenth birthday was in a few days and while she was out of the house for the day I wanted to make her ‘birthday cake’. Without exception all the cakes I have eaten here which are bought for all special occasions (baby showers, father’s day, mother’s day, birthdays, baptisms) have been of the Safeway variety - dry and spongy covered with chemically tasting sugar frosting.

Kathy was in luck, however, because I had in my possession a box mix of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix. Box mixes are not my favorite, there is a step back in the intimacy of making, sharing and eating something with someone you care about when shortcuts, especially ones laden with preservatives are taken. But given the local shortage of chocolate and so many other necessary ingredients, I was perfectly willing to overlook it for the sake of actually eating something that tasted like chocolate.

So I mixed up the batter with the powder and chocolate chips in the box, eggs from Casa Asis chickens, oil from the 5 gallon bucket and purified water (when you can’t drink from the faucet I don’t like cooking with it) and took it over to the house of the national director since they have the oven.

But the oven wouldn’t work! I don’t know if it is the near constant blackouts we have, the high humidity or operator error (although I got it to work before!), but nothing I did could get the oven to heat up.

Knowing I had to do something, I decided to take a chance, a BIG chance. I once traveled to South Africa and helped build a house for a family in the township of Khyalitsha. They also only had a stovetop for cooking but would make the most incredibly soft bread to have with a sweet chai like tea mid-morning by steaming it.

So I stole the concept. Eggs (the only ingredient I was worried about safety wise) are cooked at 160° Fahrenheit; water boils at 212°, so it should work, right? Fortunately we have some really big pots, so I put one on the stove, placed the tortilla pan in the bottom so that the heat transfer wouldn’t be direct from the fire, placed the brownie pan on that (with a lid to keep out condensing moisture), filled it with as much water as possible, put a lid over everything and lit the fire.

Then I waited for three hours (and kept adding water).

When all was said and done, I was happy and Kathy was happy. There was definitely more moisture in those brownies than a standard version (even though I had removed all lids for the final 20 minutes of steaming). But we were happy in a fudgy, flourless cake, decadent brownie, haven’t eaten anything this good in months sort of way.

By the way, Eva, our incredible cook has never uttered a word of English to me. But the other day we were chatting and out came her first… brownies.

One last acknowledgement is Myriam at Once Upon a Tart who regularly provides inspiration for all things brownie!


kneek said...

What creativity and resourcefulness! You never cease to amaze me!

Nic said...

What I won't do for chocolate! Seriously!