I found this wonderful children’s book, “The Brownies,” on ebay.  It’s by Karl Wittig, and was published in German in 1956.

The book shows its age, but the vintage illustrations are still bright and whimsical.  I think they would be really neat framed and hung in a child’s room.

Like ordinary mortals, food plays a big role in the life of these brownies.  Here they are cooking pancakes:

 Eating “apple pie” and “pap” (no clue):

Pressing apple cider:

And enjoying a Forest Feast:

So what are brownies, anyway?  According to my interwebs research, brownies appear in English and Scottish folklore.  They’re diminutive, hard-working, elf-like creatures that live in houses and barns, and are said to come out at night and finish undone housework.

You would think, then, that brownie points could be earned by finishing housework.  Not necessarily.  A common definition of brownie points is “recognition for a good, but non-useful suggestion or effort,” as in, “That is a really stupid idea, but you get brownie points for trying.”  Urban Dictionary offers several alternative definitions.  One such alternative is simply “props for brown nosers.”  Another alternative offered is things a man does with a woman (shopping, going to an antiques fair, etc.) in order to amass points that can be later exchanged for sex (finishing housework arguably might fall in that category).

Brownies are also found in the Girl Scouts of the USA organization, which explains that “even before there were Girl Scouts, there were Brownies—magical elves who did helpful things.”  (I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that this could be a contributing factor in the membership decline that Girl Scouts has experienced in recent years.)  There’s a special Investiture Ceremony for girls bridging over to Brownies.  The leader creates a “pond” by placing a mirror on the floor and surrounding it with artificial shrubbery.  Then the young lady is brought to the pond where the big lie is revealed.  While the leader turns the girl around, the girl recites:

“Twist me and turn me and show me an elf,
I looked in the water and saw . . . myself!”

In other words, welcome to the real world, young lady.  The only way the housework is going to get finished is if you do it yourself (unless, of course, your husband is trying to earn brownie points).

All this brownie talk has inspired me to make — what else — brownies!  Years ago we had a block party, and someone brought of pan of brownies made from a box of Ghirardelli mix.  Everyone raved about them, and I don’t think anyone on my block has made brownies from scratch since — until now.

The recipe I used is adapted from this one for Fudge Raspberry Brownies.  These are dense, fudgy brownies, almost truffle-like, which are even better if you can make them a day ahead.  Because they’re so rich, they’re best cut into relatively small squares.  The raspberry jam is a great addition.  Just when you think you are about to slip into a chocolate-overload coma, the raspberry jam kinda slaps you in the face and brings you back from the edge.  They’re a decadent reward for finishing the housework.

  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup raspberry preserves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place chocolate and butter in a medium bowl and microwave on high until melted, approximately 2-3 minutes. (Check after each minute to make sure not to overheat). Stir melted butter and chocolate until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add flour and baking powder, stirring just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Spread about ¾ of the batter in a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Carefully spread raspberry preserves over batter. (It may help to warm preserves briefly in the microwave.) Drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over preserves, and using a small spatula or knife, smooth batter over preserves.
  4. Bake until the top is slightly puffed and a tester comes out clean, approximately 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.


Ready to go in the oven.

Ready for a deserving little brownie!


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