Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Guest Post by Nina Badzin: Grandma Suzie’s Brownies

We are happy today to feature a guest post by Nina Badzin, a published writer whose delightful and informative blog reflects her writing life, her take on parenthood as a mother of four, social media tips, and whatever else she feels like discussing. Enjoy!

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Grandma Suzie’s Brownies
by Nina Badzin

I'm going to ruin every other brownie for you. Those cake-like brownies; the frosted ones; the busy ones with nuts, caramel, marshmallows, or cream cheese—you won't stand for any of those chocolate charlatans once you've tasted Grandma Suzie's Brownies.

Ironically, my Grandma Suzie (of blessed memory) was not known for her cooking. She didn't fit the stereotype of the Jewish mother or grandmother busy cooking up feasts and sneaking schmaltz into meals. My mom tells of her mother forgetting about food in the oven until it burned. Of my grandmother's entire cooking repertoire, my mom remembers a rice dish "that was decent," the occasional turkey, and the now-about-to-be famous brownies. I only remember the brownies.

In my mom's words, her mother was unlike any of the other mothers. Grandma Suzie (originally from Buffalo, New York) was an artist who majored in illustration at Syracuse University in the early 40s. She did mechanical drawings as part of her program and was a tool designer in Syracuse until she had children and moved to Rochester, New York. In later years, she dabbled in sculpture and painting. I'm proud to have one of her more abstract pieces hanging in my house. Grandma Suzie was an excellent seamstress, too. My mom remembers receiving a handmade wardrobe for one of her dolls including a coat with a fur collar. And whenever the synagogue put on a play, Grandma Suzie took charge of the costumes and make up.

Given my grandmother's passion for art and design, it's no surprise she always set a gorgeous table, but paid little attention to the food. The only guaranteed delicious treats to come out of her kitchen were those brownies. And they were perfect. According to family legend, she got the recipe from a childhood friend she only saw in the summers at the family lake house in Canada.

The ingredients for the brownies are simple and the directions are delightfully specific. Be sure not to overcook them, and you'll end up with a brownie with just the right amount of gooey-ness. They won't have the too-cake-like properties I find in other brownies. They're rich, but not too rich. Fudgy, but not too-fudgy. I'd describe the texture and taste as fudge's cousin. My husband's cousin, Andrea, and her husband, Jacob, who live in Iceland, made the brownies recently and swear I'm not exaggerating. We're talking international seal of approval, folks.

As for the ingredients, I'll share one piece of advice straight from my mother's mouth: "If you're not going to use real butter, don't bother messing up your kitchen."

I give you Grandma Suzie's Brownies. You can thank me later.

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 9 squares bitter chocolate
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 11 x 15 jelly roll pan

Exact directions as handed down from Grandma Suzie (Special thanks to my sister, Lisa, for sending me the recipe card in our grandmother's handwriting):
Melt butter and chocolate together over water on low heat. Mix flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Pour in butter/chocolate. Mixer is nice, but not necessary. If using mixer, stop and scrape sides and bottom of bowl at least once. Spread in well-buttered and floured jelly pan. Bake about 20-25 minutes in 350 degree pre-heated oven. Remove from oven while still slightly under baked. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Keep in fridge or freezer. This is a big batch!
My mom's addition to the directions: "I bake mine for 22 minutes.


  1. You had me at "Grandma's brownies." How could I not try this recipe.

  2. Aw Nina, how delightful. I love her story and will absolutely try her recipe. What is so special is that her legacy can be cherished each time you mix up a batch of her great brownies and each time you pass her abstract each day :)

  3. Oh my lord. Thank God my oven is kosher and reserved for Meat!

  4. I can't wait to try these -- they look amazing; I've been searching for a good brownie recipe forever. Thank you (and what a amazing person your grandmother sounds like, too!).

  5. i have one word for you! yummy!!

  6. I am not known for my cooking skills, nor do I set a beautiful table (although I do try with both. I promise!).

    Still. Your seal of approval (along with the knowledge that Suzie wasn't exactly the Martha Stewart of the kitchen) makes me actually tempted to try these.

    My sister has long been the Great Baker of the family. Perhaps it's time for a changing of the guard. Courtesy of Grandma Suzie.

    Thanks for sharing with us...both the recipe and her life.
    A very special gift indeed.

  7. Two sticks of butter! I love her quote about messing up the kitchen. This looks fabulous.

  8. Nina, thank you so much for this sensory delight! I gained five pounds just reading it (and can't wait to try the recipe).

  9. Thanks so much for your comments everyone! Please report back if you make the brownies. I want to know what you think!

  10. Nina, you're killing me! I have to be in a bathing suit in 3 months and you post THIS? Well, I do allow myself one cheat day...hmm, wonder if brownies work for breakfast? ;)

    This actually looks like a fun recipe to try with the kids. Thanks for sharing Grandma Suzie with us!

  11. Nina, your story behind the brownies was told with such humor and heartfelt warmth, I couldn't help but cry a bit. :-) I bet what makes Grandma Suzie's brownies better than anything else, is the love behind them. :-) I'm bookmarking this page to try them. Thanks for the recipe and story!


  12. I've been in the mood to bake and this recipe gave me the inspiration I needed to head for the kitchen. I tried it yesterday afternoon and all I can say is "Wow!" They are truly fabulous. You're right, though. It is a huge batch. Such a shame that I'll have to eat all of these brownies. :)

  13. As Nina mentioned, we made these a few weeks ago amid tweets and emails and even phone calls as I wondered whether there should have been baking powder or soda (haha, it had been a while since I made brownies clearly)

    They truly are delicious and I could have eaten the entire pan, no exaggeration. We froze half to enjoy another time.

    Nina, I loved reading about your Grandma, I could totally imagine her and love her!

  14. I had no idea how desperately I was craving brownies until I read this wonderful post! (Hum 10:00 pm...too late to get mixing? I do wonder...)

    And I love the beautiful story, too. Grandma Suzie sounds just delicious...I mean, precious, too!

  15. Wow, these look amazing! Will have to give them a try as I'm always looking for good brownie recipes.