Daze of My Life: Toothpicking Through Time
Daze of My Life
Toothpicking Through Time
I have been making Harriet Goldman's brownies for approximately 25 years; other than following her recipe, Ms. Goldman is a woman with whom I have absolutely no in-person or on-phone association. Accepting a recipe card unselfishly given to me by a former insurance client (not Ms. Goldman) with the assurance that she had made these brownies so many times that she no longer needed the recipe, I happily accepted her offer after only moments before having tasted the future object of my chocolate obsession.
While sitting in my clients living room that evening conducting business, I was offered, as so often happens when visiting people in their homes, a little something to eat; specifically Harriet Goldman's brownies. I hesitated at first because, at the time I was trying, for the umpteenth time, to lose some weight and I knew, if I tried these brownies that they would be delicious and I would have to have more than one and then of course, that would be the end of my diet. And that's exactly what happened and what has continued to happen ever since.
I call these brownies, "scratch brownies "(i.e. they are made form scratch). The process is fairly simple; (how else could I follow it?) use certain size pans, various teaspoons of ingredients, cups of sugar and flour, melt some butter, crack a few eggs and of course, include some semi-sweet chocolate morsels, mix it all up and then cook it at so many degrees for a specific amount of time and then, voila, brownies to die for, actually, brownies to live for.
Now before I can even remove the brownie pans from the oven to let them cool, however, I have to determine if they're "done." Perhaps an experienced pastry chef - or someone with half-a-baking-brain - could tell if the brownies were "done" simply by looking at them, but yours truly is hardly in that category. Therefore, sticking holes in the brownies while they are still baking in the oven to determine their "doneness" is my only option, and using toothpicks, so far as I remember being told/advised is the preferred methodology.
As many of you more experienced bakers presumably know if, after removing the toothpick from the brownies, there remains a gooey, cakey residue, the brownies need additional baking time. And to prepare for this and subsequent brownie-baking ventures, I bought something then that I have not bought since nor had ever previously purchased: a box of toothpicks; specifically a box of flat, wooden, toothpicks; 750 count; made in the USA by the Forster Mfg. Co. Inc., in Wilton, Maine, "a tradition of quality since 1887 when Charles Forster began the first wooden toothpick factory in the United States."
And now, finally, the motivation for this self-indulgent saunter down Kenny's memory lane; after 25 years of baking Harriet Goldman's brownies in the exact manner in which I've described, with nary a deviation from any norm, I have come to the bottom of the toothpick box, 750 picked and already chosen. It is a moment over two decades in the making; so many brownies baked, so many brownies eaten, so many toothpicks inserted; it's really quite difficult to imagine and recall quite frankly, how many times I've read Ms. Goldman's name, followed her recipe to the letter and baked her brownies nearly to perfection. It's like coming to the end of a long journey, except for me, it's not ending, it's simply starting all over again.
Since when, you may wonder, would I have ever been so tastefully tempted by something I ate that I would actually ask for the recipe? Never, that's when! Except one time - in my entire life. Thanks Harriet, whoever you are, wherever you bake, you have brought me and countless others Epicurean delights the likes of which we've rarely experienced. My eating future remains bright, thanks to you.
(I guess I have to buy another box of toothpicks.)
Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.