In 1952, I was working at Procter & Gamble’s corporate offices in downtown Cincinnati. I was a secretary in the Radio/TV Advertising Department and worked for the two department heads plus three young members of the staff. On May 31, 1952, early in the morning of the day I was to be married, a special delivery letter arrived. It contained a cute page made up by my co-worker, Bert Berman, had the signatures of the rest of the men in the department and informed me that I was going to be receiving a SUNBEAM ELECTRIC MIXER.
I was completely surprised since Mr. Smith and Mr. Craig had already sent beautiful sterling silver pieces, but there was nothing I wanted more than an electric mixer. The manual/cookbook that came with the mixer was my baking bible for the next ten years at least. It’s in tatters now with the cover and a couple of pages missing.
I made a lot of good food with that Sunbeam and manual. This is a picture of my older daughter and son, waiting for me to start mixing his first birthday cake in 1957.
One of the family’s favorites was an easy recipe for brownies. I named them my “Best Brownies”, copied from my recipe binder below.
¾ cup sifted flour ½ tsp baking powder ½ tsp salt 1 cup sugar ½ cup shortening or margarine (started using Imperial margarine in 1989) 1 tsp vanilla 2 eggs, unbeaten 4 tablespoons cocoa 2 cups chopped nuts
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Add shortening, vanilla and eggs.
Beat one minute, then add the cocoa and nuts. Beat ½ minute longer.
Pour into greased 8×8 pan. Bake @ 350 for 30-35 minutes. Cut while still warm.
Old 1950s recipe from original Sunbeam mixer cookbook. Have made a thousand times.
Saying that I have baked these brownies 1,000 times over the past 60 plus years isn’t too much of an exaggeration. I made up a batch today just for old time’s sake.
My Sunbeam mixer lasted 30 years until 1982. By that time, I was doing a lot of bread baking and wanted a very strong unit along with dough hooks. I chose a Kitchen Aid mixer which is still working beautifully 33 years later. It has served me well, but has never given me the surprise and thrill of that first old Sunbeam.
Back in 1994, a co-worker of my husband invited us to a big pig roast at his house in Indiana. He had a large backyard with plenty of space for all of his guests to visit and munch on appetizers while waiting for the roast to be ready. Each guest was asked to bring something and I chose these Blonde Toffee Brownies because I knew they would hold up well in the heat.
After enjoying the succulent roast pork and side dishes, we were instructed to go into the kitchen and pick out a dessert. I was not prepared for the array of desserts on that Indiana table. There was every imaginable kind of pie, cake and cookie – and lots of them. I doubt that my brownies were even touched that day, but I’m sure they went home with someone who could enjoy them later in the week since they keep well for several days. These brownies are very sweet and rich – a small serving will suffice.
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.
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.
In honor of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, I made a batch of my favorite brownies from one of my favorite cookbooks, What’s Cooking in Kentucky. I have several good brownie recipes but I seem to go back to this one most often for the ease of preparation and great results.