18 May 2010


Summer Study and Tasty Tuesday

See which book called for Turkey a la Divine at Dearest Dreams!

There are lots of ways to appreciate a book--especially a book as good as Maniac Magee and especially if one is a blogger.

Last Thursday, I wrote about the character of Earl Grayson. Last Saturday, I wrote about the fictional setting of Two Mills, Pennsylvania. Today, I shall prove that I did more than just read and write. I baked, too.

"Two Mills" Browndies

Bottom Layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 chopped walnuts

Middle Layer:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Caramel Icing:
6 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons milk
2-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1) In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanila. Combine flour and salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking pan; set aside.

Yes, this is the blondie layer.

No, we didn't use the nuts.

We used the wrappers of both sticks of butter to grease this tin
(which only approximates the measurements in the recipe)
and it was the best greased tin we've ever had!

Yes, I know our table cloth is ugly. There's no need to rub it in.

It took a long time to spread it as evenly as possible over the pan
because it was so sticky.

2) For middle layer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Add nuts. Spread over the bottom layer Bake at 350 degrees [Fahrenheit] for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.

The brownie layer: nice and gloppy! =D

Okay, it may not look like much . . .

. . . but it spreads out to the edges as well!

(And yes, I know our chairs are as embarrassing as the table cloth.)

I'm not sure why we also took this picture . . . =S

Yes, that is Yours Truly squatting in front of the oven to take the picture.

We baked them at 150 degrees Celsius and for only 25 minutes or so
because all the thin, sharp knives we inserted
started coming out nice and clean.

3) For icing, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in brown sugar and milk; bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Cool until just warm; beat in confectioner's sugar until the icing achieves spreading consistency. Spread over brownies. [Browndies!!!] Let stand until set. Cut into bars.

As you can see, we cut them into bars before we did any frosting.

(Have I mentioned that that was the best greased tin we've ever had?)

Here are some, but not all of them, cooling on our wire rack.

The book says the recipe yields two dozen bars, but we didn't count ours.

Yeah, I was too close and the flash was too bright,
but I really wanted you to see the layers.

Unfortunately, all my bars come out that flat.
I can never figure out how to make them blockier.

By the time we got around to making the frosting, half the bars had been eaten,
so I halved the recipe given in the book.

That turned out to be a good thing, because nobody liked the frosting.

And we actually didn't have enough confectioners' sugar for even half of the recipe,
so it ended up more of a glaze than a frosting.

Which made no difference because the frostings in this book are always too sweet
and nobody I bake for ever likes them.

(Hey, at least we have pretty plates! =D)

Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee actually has lots of food in it, and my brothers and I could have ordered some pizza and then tried making someone's homemade twist on butterscotch Krimpets. (We could have also dropped peanut butter on the floor and tried sliding around in it . . .)

Food plays a very significant role in the novel. I have a post somewhere (on my old, defunct blog) about why the Baby Ruth bars in the movie Hellboy are a symbol of Communion (the Catholic understanding of Communion, of course). We don't have an obvious equivalent here, but it is obvious from Maniac's love of Krimpets . . . from Mrs. Beale's cakes . . . from the holiday dinners shared with Grayson . . . and from the openness of the Pickwell family's dinner table that this novel was written by an author who understands all about the soul's hunger for the sacramental. So for our concluding activity, my brothers and I could also have gone to Mass.

We did take our "Maniac Magee Appreciation Project" from our trusty "Taste of Home" Baking Book (which has proven good for everything except frostings). At first I wanted something with three layers, to represent the three stages in Maniac's search for a real home. But my brothers liked the way "brown" and "blond" come together in the Double Brownie recipe (which we've since renamed the "Browndie" recipe), the way some black characters from the East Side and some white characters from the West Side come together in the book. So that is what we did.


Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

Yum! What a delicious and fun project to do with the little brothers.

I noticed the recipe didn't call for baking powder or baking soda. You might try adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to each batter next time to see what happens. then adjust more or less the third time. Also, using a smaller pan would make them thicker.


Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Lesa! I was worried about tweaking the recipe too much because the last few times I did that yielded disastrous results! =P And The "Taste of Home" Baking Book actually carries a warning that the bars will not come out properly if one's tray is not the recommended size, so I decided to err on the side of safety. =(

But I think I'm confident enough about the recipe to try using baking powder next time. Thanks again for the tip! =)

Sullivan McPig said...

Oh, that looks so good!!
And I actually like your tablecloth and chairs. Do I get wacked now?

Paul Stilwell said...

"By the time we got around to making the frosting, half the bars had been eaten..."

Sounds just like where I live.

They look perfect and scrumptious.

And just one more reason to read Maniac Magee. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: I'll assume it's because you're a kind pig. =) Voodoo Bride might have a different opinion on them!

(In fairness to the chairs, they're actually pretty decent. They just don't go with the tablecloth. They do go with the table--which is an old card table recruited for use in the kitchen--but you'd never know that from the cloths we indiscriminately throw over it.)

Paul: Just as long as you aren't under the impression that I give free food away to people who take my book recommendations! (Hmmmm. Now that I think about it, thought, that would totally increase my success rate with recs!)

/dev/null said...

Hmmm... vague thoughts; in an unleavened recipe, "light and fluffy" is code for "catch as many small air bubbles as you can". And that's *really hard to do* with the sort of metal spoon that seems to be visible in your bottom-layer mix, there...

You know, I think these brownies are screaming for a cream cheese frosting! Cream cheese: it's got bite, an acidity that cuts through all the sweetness of the frosting and the blondie layer... (the cocoa is a good balance to the brownie layer's sweetness already...)

Anyways, somethings to think about.

(pst! /dev/null *is* Belfry, don't forget!)

Enbrethiliel said...


The science of it never occurred to me! I use a metal spoon because it's handy. Should I also stop using the metal bowl?

Cream cheese frosting, aye? =P It will be a while before I try this recipe again, but I'll keep that in mind. Thanks!

PS--I think the walnuts would have helped to balance the sweetness, too.

Paul Stilwell said...

What if I write a review on my blog after I read the book?

Can you FedEx?

Enbrethiliel said...


I actually can FedEx. Let me ask them if they'll let me ship food. =P

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

Hi! back to the food-- I am a foodie as well as a bookworm. I don't think the bowl matters much but using a whisk would get the airbubbles in-- but I'd still add some leavening as an experiment.

I really wanted to ask you about 'food of the gods'-- is that a traditional dessert in the Phillipines? I've made a version from a Pioneer Woman contributor twice and I'm addicted. Just curious if was a dessert staple in your country?


Enbrethiliel said...


We did use to have a whisk, but it collapsed on us! =P I guess it pays to invest in another one!

"Food of the gods" isn't considered a desert over here.
(Then again . . . it's not really traditional for Filipinos to have something sweet after a meal!) It's a fancy delicacy that a man might bring a woman he is courting or which you can give to a host who has invited you to dinner. My family gets boxes of the stuff around Christmastide . . . You get the idea. ;)

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

Well, I would much rather have Food of the gods at Christmas than a fruitcake! Very interesting-- the contributor on PW indicated it was an everyday food-- wrapped up and taken to work in a lunchbox. I can't get enough of it but the recipe I have has 3 sticks of butter so I probably shouldn't make it too often.

Enbrethiliel said...


The contributor must be a member of a really posh family, then! ;) There's no reason for people not to do that, but it's just not very common. I know I wouldn't have minded a sweet treat in my lunch box every day. =)