Mother’s Brown Sugar Brownies

In 1945, I was 13 years old, in the 8th grade at old Highland School in Cincinnati’s East End.

I especially loved my home economics cooking class and our teacher, Mrs. Geoghan.  We spent a lot of time chatting together and she would show me a few vintage (even at that time) cookbooks she had on her desk.  I especially coveted one called All About Home Baking published by General Foods in 1933.  There were a few pages in color that I really enjoyed…

….and loads of black and white how-to photographs along with their great recipes.

I wasn’t in the habit of asking for things, even of my parents, but for some reason felt comfortable in asking Mrs. Geoghan if I could have this book – and she gave it to me!

It was an absolute treasure to me – I read and reread the recipes and gazed at the pictures, imagining myself making all of these wonderful baked goods.

My mother didn’t own a cookbook and normally didn’t keep recipes, but she did write a favorite brownie and frosting recipe on a back page in the book.

These brownies were in her repertoire of brunch-type foods to make in the summertime when my sister and I would sleep until almost noon and come downstairs to a baked treat of some kind.  She didn’t include instructions for the brownies, but I made some recently to see if they were as good as I remembered them.  They are.  I omitted the frosting this time but it’s also delicious and easy to make.

I baked mine the way Mother always made hers – in a 9×13 pan which results in a very thin bar.  We only had butter in the house for Thanksgiving, so I’m sure she used margarine (oleo) for her frosted brownies.

MOTHER’S BROWN SUGAR BROWNIES

  • Servings: 12-16, depending on size
  • Print

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1-½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Grease and flour a 9×13 baking pan

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar, add the egg.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir into the butter mixture just until blended.  Stir in vanilla and nuts.  Spread and pat into a greased and floured 9×13 pan.

Bake @ 350 degrees for approximately 12-15 minutes.  Bars should be slightly soft when removed from oven.  Place on a rack to cool.

Serve plain or with Mother’s Quick Caramel Frosting.  Cut into bars to serve.

MOTHER’S QUICK CARAMEL FROSTING

1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
2 Tblsp. butter
2 Tblsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1-½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Put brown sugar, butter and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cool slightly.  Add vanilla and confectioners’ sugar.  Beat well and spread on brownies. 

This wonderful cookbook often turns up in antique malls and in various versions on a lot of websites such as Amazon and eBay.

My Mother, 1945

Eggs a la Goldenrod

goldplt2In the spring of 1943, I was in the sixth grade when we moved from downtown Cincinnati to the neighborhood known as the East End.  I went to school at old Highland Elementary on the banks of the Ohio River where every spring there was a threat of the river flooding the playground, although it never reached the school in the years I was there.

highlandAs we walked along the hall leading from my sixth-grade classroom, I would try to steal a glimpse of the wonderful home economics room.  It was a huge area with sewing machines lining one wall – one electric machine and the rest foot-treadle operated models.  One section of the room was outfitted with individual cooking stations with small burners, a counter and a supply of cooking equipment.  There were two ranges with ovens for baked treats.  I couldn’t wait to get into the seventh grade and begin my adventures in cooking – I wasn’t that anxious to sew.

In the fall of 1943, the girls of our class trooped into the room, taught by a very nice middle-aged lady.  We had to start out with sewing lessons so that we could make an apron, a potholder and a dishtowel to use when we began to cook.  Finally, sewing classes were completed and we were ready to learn all about cooking.  The cookbook that I remember seeing in the classroom was a 1942 Wartime Edition of the American Woman’s Cook Book, edited by Ruth Berolzheimer.  About 40 years later, I found a copy of the book at an antique market.

victorycbThe book was unusual for that era to have so many color plates.  I especially liked one that was used on the inside covers of the book.

frontisIn those wartime years of extreme patriotism, there was a large picture of General Douglas MacArthur at the beginning of the book….

mcarthur…and on page 371 was the recipe that began my cooking experience – Eggs a la Goldenrod. It was a simple recipe, appropriate to the age group, very bland and not especially tasty.  We went on to make other food items that year and I was so anxious to get into the big girls’ eighth grade class to see what fabulous dishes we would make.

In the fall of 1944, once again we had our sewing classes first and made an apron, a potholder and a dish towel.  Finally, it was time for a roomful of more experienced cooks to begin a new season.  The teacher got out the trusty blue cookbook, turned to page 371, and once again our first experience of the year was Eggs a la Goldenrod. The dish hadn’t improved as far as a bunch of 12/13-year-old girls was concerned, but again we went on to do more ambitious projects – we even baked bread.

In the fall of 1945, I left my neighborhood, got on a streetcar and went to what was then a very large and prestigious high school, Withrow in Hyde Park.

easthi-1923The grounds were beautiful, there was an arching bridge and a clock tower at the entrance, and a large room was devoted completely to sewing with only electric sewing machines – no waiting in line as we had done at Highland.  I wasn’t that ambitious about sewing but did assume that two years of experience would enable us to make an interesting project right off the bat.  We made an apron, a potholder and a dishtowel.

Then, at last came the day we could go into the spacious, modern 1940s era cooking room.  The stations were wonderful and a big change for all of the girls (there were never boys in my home ec classes) was that we all had to wear hairnets while we cooked.  We looked expectantly at our teacher – she didn’t pull out the blue cookbook, but you guessed it, our first dish was Eggs a la Goldenrod.

Fast forward 66 years from 1943 to 2009.  I was leafing through some of my vintage cookbooks and happened to pick up a blue-bound book and almost by magic found myself on page 371.  There it was – Eggs a la Goldenrod.  I couldn’t resist – I had to make it for breakfast for my daughter who had heard the story many times.

EGGS A LA GOLDENROD FOR TWO

  • 1 cup thin white sauce (see recipe below)
  • 2 hard boiled eggs
  • 2 slices of thick, hearty bread (I used homemade)
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Thin White Sauce

  • 1 Tblsp. flour
  • 1 cup milk, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1 Tblsp. butter

In small saucepan, place flour, 1/4 cup cold milk, salt and pepper.  Whisk until smooth.  Heat remaining 3/4 cup milk and add to the milk/flour mixture.  Cook over medium heat, whisking continually until mixture thickens.  Continue cooking and whisking for an additional 2 minutes.   Remove from heat and stir in butter.

Peel eggs and separate yolks from whites.  Chop the whites very fine and add to the white sauce along with the salt and pepper to taste.

slicedbrd2Toast the bread and place one slice on each of two plates.  Pour over the toast the white sauce mixture.  Press the egg yolks through a sieve and sprinkle over the top.  Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings

Unfortunately, the dish doesn’t taste any better now than it did back in 1943.  Even using good home-baked bread rather than the thin white bread I’m sure we used then, it was pretty ordinary.  But now my daughter knows exactly what I mean when I mention Eggs a la Goldenrod.