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  • Writer's pictureAndy Ross

These Brownies Will Not Defeat Me

Sometimes a good excuse for making brownies is if the best-by date on the box is fast approaching and you don’t want to waste a box of brownie mix. Last week I was cleaning out the pantry. I knew it was time to give it a going over when I had to forcefully place a box of Frosted Flakes and the action of my trying to shove it into place caused a small avalanche.

As I began to explore the deep, dusty, long-forgotten back pocket of my pantry I was downright shocked by some of the things I had found. There were half-ate bags of chips that had long gone stale, boxes of cereal with just the crumbs left inside, and most shockingly a bottle of unopened Worcestershire sauce that had expired in 2013. How? I don’t know, I can only assume it was bought during a Christmas season Chex mix-making fugue.

Amid all this searching I came across, at last, a few things that were just on the verge of going bad. It wasn’t too bad, they had just a month to go. However, knowing me and my tendencies, I decided I should use one of the things immediately before it soon became the new “Worcestershire sauce of 2013.” It was the weekend and a most welcomed hint of Fall was in the air. This soon-to-expire brownie mix felt like a good way to celebrate the coming of better weather.

I took the box of mix to my kitchen and prepared it as it said on the back of the box. After mixing it up and making sure I had stirred it at least 50 times, I grabbed a 9x9 pan and sprayed it with some non-stick cooking spray from a cabinet where I keep such things. I poured the batter in, placed it in the preheated oven, set a timer on my phone, and walked away. This was a rather hum-drum part of the process. I’ve made brownies countless times before and there was nothing spectacular or unusual about this.

The timer on my phone went off after a while and I went to check on the brownies. They weren’t quite done in the middle so I gave them another 10 minutes. After the additional cooking time, they were done and I set the pan on a rack to cool on my counter. After a good 15 minutes, I took a knife and ran it through the brownies to cut them into squares. I got a spatula and carefully slid it along the side of the pan to lift a serving out.

Excitedly, I pulled up on the brownie square and soon found that it sort of tore apart as I was trying to get it out, leaving a large amount of brownie stuck to the bottom of the pan. I was a little confused by this since I had sprayed it all, quite well I thought, with non-stick spray. I looked at the can of non-stick spray only to see on the bottom of it it had expired three months ago.

Knowing that trying to get the remaining brownies out was going to be a chore, I decided to give it all a go right then and there. Now that I had one square removed it should give me a better shot at easier access to the others. I got another spatula, a knife, and flat head screwdriver to help—I keep one in my kitchen for cheeses. I began to slowly scrape away and try to extract perfect brownie squares that were perfectly stuck.

I felt like a culinary archaeologist, chipping away at various bits of immovable mass to get to the prize within. The more delicate I was, the more it seemed to be making a mess. I got some edible squares out of the pan, but there was a lot stuck to the bottom too. It wasn’t as bad as the first slice, but I do have to admit I feel a bit silly I spent 20 minutes getting brownies out of a pan.

With as much as possible removed from the pan, I took it and placed it in the sink to soak. I may have let it do that for almost an entire day before I tried to clean the pan up. Still a bit confused as to what failed in the non-stick spraying process? Did the fat go bad? Or maybe the propellant inside the can just wasn’t strong enough anymore to do a good job. Either way, I need to get better about not letting things linger in my pantry to just die several years later. See you next week.


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