Trifle. We were all wanting trifle. Really, really wanting a trifle. We had been thinking and planning and expecting a trifle.
Expecting trifle for weeks.
But this month has been so busy for all of us that there just wasn't enough time to make a trifle. Not squeezed between everything else.
Something had to give. It was down to the wire, the last moment for a definitive decision. Sorry, trifle, but you... are out.
No one was thrilled. The faces were long and the room sagged. I couldn't take it. So I promised that we would make a trifle sometime, soonish, after the craziness has settled down a bit. Of course, I don't really know when that will be.
Yikes. Maybe for a family birthday? Maybe after the holidays?
In any case, we still needed something home-baked for our neighborhood picnic.
I wouldn't be caught dead bringing something from the store to our neighborhood picnic. I wouldn't be caught dead bringing something glutenated to our neighborhood picnic. No way. Not me.
I am now expected to bring something gluten-free. Or rather, my neighbors look forward to me bringing something gluten-free. That's it. Look forward to it.
As they should. There are more than a handful of gluten-free folks in the neighborhood. I couldn't possibly let them down. To the cupboard, I went.
But then insert life. Life with work and family and activities and responsibilities and stuff. Suddenly, not everything can get done, and mixes are a help.
In my cupboard on this day, I was lucky enough to have choices. Gluten-free cookie mix or gluten-free brownie mix.
No, the choice wasn't automatic. Well, okay, it was with me, but before voicing that choice, I did, in fact, consult my family. Which would they choose?
Well, with the faces still long and the room still sagging, there was no enthusiasm. And no disagreement, either. Not even a hint of rebellion. Brownies, it would be.
Betty Crocker makes it easy and quick, if not from scratch. Just follow those three simple steps and voilà. You have gluten-free picnic fare.
It took me many years of baking brownies, both glutenated and gluten-free, before I learned to line my pan with aluminum foil, enough to come up around all sides, and spray it with oil, completely covering every nook and cranny. This makes getting the whole thing out of the pan as one piece, a piece of cake. Well, a piece of brownie.
I spent far too many years cutting brownies in the pan, and then having to mutilate a corner, trying to pry out a small piece to get the rest of the cut pieces out of the pan. What a nightmare. And messy. And resulted in awful-looking brownies.
No more. Aluminum foil and spray oil are your bestest friends ever.
Then just carefully flip the whole thing down on a sheet of parchment paper (or waxed paper or just a cutting board) and carefully, slowly, patiently, peel back the foil from the bottom of that one, enormous, luscious pan-sized brownie. Then you can flip it all back over and cut.
But wait! There's more!
Betty Crocker taught me something. I never thought I would get this far down the brownie-baking-rabbit-hole without knowing this essential little trick.
Cut the brownies with a plastic knife. With little sawing motions.
Did you catch that? That little tidbit of wisdom came from Betty. And it works. Where have I been all this time, dragging, sawing, hacking at my brownies with my culinary, whiz-bang, stainless steel, brand-name knives?!
A single, little, flimsy, white plastic knife saved the day. Who knew?
Betty. That's who. I predict your brownie-baking days will never be the same. Mine won't.
Brownies? Oh yeah, back to the brownies! So, you want to know how they were?
Well, I have to preface my impression of them with the very real world issue of having someone ring your front door bell two and a half minutes before the oven timer goes off.
Two and a half minutes. Is that enough time to answer the door, find out who it is, find out what they want, satisfy their burning need, and send them away?
Apparently not. It was my next door neighbor looking for some large piece of equipment for the picnic. But I didn't get that immediately. First, I had to explain why I was answering the door while my vehicle was not present, as it usually would be. Because this is vital information on the morning of the picnic.
And after explaining my own presence answering my own front door, there ensued a lengthy, but unenlightening, description of the item desired, after which I clarified my understanding of what was wanted, and then confirmed that we did, in fact, not have one. Because this is, in fact, vital information on the morning of the picnic.
After which there ensued a lengthy description of which neighbors within several houses, in each direction, had already been contacted but which were not available for such vital discussions on the morning of the picnic, due to their various Sunday morning commitments. Which led to a detailed description of what our own parents had committed us to, as children, on Sunday mornings. Because this is absolutely vital information on the morning of the picnic.
After which, said neighbor departed, dejected and empty handed.
I never heard the oven timer go off. But it still showed me that the allotted time had ended. Helpful, that timer is.
Needless to say, those brownies were probably in the oven a bit longer than planned. I quickly rescued them. They were fine, not reduced to charcoal.
These brownies were chocolatey, but slightly dry. I can't fathom why that might be. Okay, okay, time. Too much time, most likely, dried them out a bit more than they would have been had I not learned the Sunday-morning-whereabouts of all my nearest neighbors. Not surprising.
These were not the cake-like kind of brownines. These were not fudge-like kind of brownies. They were firm, but not hard. They were chewy and firm. And they were tasty. Good. Yummy.
But not the best I've ever had. I think I tend to prefer slightly gooier, fudgier brownies.
But they were good and tasty and yummy.
And they went to the picnic, labeled appropriately. They went over rather well, but not so well that I came home with no leftovers. I had the pleasure of taking a few home to enjoy later.
That sounds like a good way to measure the success of picnic fare. Good enough that others want some, but not so good to leave no leftovers! There ought to be enough so that some goes home.
Which there was! But then again, maybe only two and a half minutes would have made them completely disappear at the picnic.
You'll just have to bake some yourself to find out!