Discerning Diner...with Elan Head
With trick-or-treaters, it’s OK to fudge

Trick-or-treaters who make it to the door of my apartment—and because it’s a third-floor walkup, there aren’t many of them—are nevertheless well rewarded for their pains.

I love trick-or-treaters. I love trick-or-treating. And I love it for the simple reason that I never got to do it as a kid.

Oh, sure, I think I went trick-or-treating once in the eighth grade with a friend. But when you live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, you don’t get many kids knocking on your door, and it’s hard to convince your parents that cheap candy is worth the considerable drive.

Particularly when your parents take a dim view of the practice to begin with. Don’t ask me why.

The long and the short of it is that, beginning with my first Halloween as an independent adult, and every Halloween thereafter, my trick-or-treating candy bowls have been absurdly lavish.

Last year’s lucky spooks got Swiss chocolate, chocolate “oranges,” full-sized candy bars and every seasonal doo-dad that next-door Target had on its shelves.

I like to think that at least one or two of them appreciated it. It’s hard to gauge the expressions behind plastic masks.

Of course, my real regret is that I’m limited to the mass-produced, individually wrapped candies that have become Halloween’s sole currency.

I would love to lay out a spread of gooey rich cakes, cupcakes, popcorn balls and caramel apples for my trick-or-treaters, but of course no self-respecting parent these days allows their kids to accept homemade treats from a stranger.

Still, I’ve thought about the problem long enough to conclude that if I could offer one uncontrolled substance to my trick-or-treaters, it would undoubtedly be brownies.

The one thing I remember from my limited trick-or-treating experience is: chocolate is king.

Sure, I eventually ate the lame generic hard candies that the cheap-o houses handed out, but it was the mini chocolate candy bars that really got me excited.

Brownies are sort of the mini chocolate candy bars of the baked goods world. Everyone loves them.

Here’s an easy, excellent recipe for fudgy brownies adapted by one from Jo Bettoja.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and butter a 9-inch square or round baking pan (I use a nonstick cake pan).

In a saucepan on the stove or a bowl in the microwave, heat together until just melted 3/4 cup sugar (use up to 1 cup for sweeter brownies); 6 to 8 tablespoons butter (I use the lesser amount); and 3 ounces of a great bittersweet chocolate, like El Rey or Scharffenberger.

Beat three eggs together with 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, then beat in 1/3 cup flour. Fold in the chocolate mixture and pour the batter into your pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the center of the brownies is still a little soft—err on the side of underbaking, if you have to. The brownies will set up as they cool.

Serve these at your Halloween party, or anytime. And as for those trick-or-treaters? Well, this year I may have to outdo myself by purchasing Fairytale Brownies for the ones who make it to my door.

Fairytale Brownies, made at 6280 W. Erie Street in Chandler--(800) 324-7982, www.brownies.com--are an excellent product: almost as good as the best homemade brownies, and a heck of a lot better than anything you can make at home from a box.

And each one is individually wrapped and sealed, making them A-OK to hand out to kids. If, that is, there are any left by the time they finish climbing the stairs.