Brownie Showdown: Pentagon Brownies

Pentagon brownies.jpg
Pentagon brownies...worth the hype?

When we heard about the 26-page Pentagon brownie recipe published recently, we couldn't resist trying to bake them. Emphasis on trying

. What better time for the next Chow Bella Showdown? We gathered the staff and got them baked -- er, baking.

Whose cuisine will reign supreme? Tune in all week to see who baked what and learn who won in a final post by
New Times food critic Michele Laudig.

You may have heard in the last month or so about the Pentagon's elaborate 26-page brownie recipe. NPR did a great little piece about the over-the-top ridiculousness that is the government's protocol for baking one of America's favorite chocolaty sweet treats.

Since I'm not much of a baker, and I don't have a brilliant signature brownie recipe of my own, I gladly volunteered to wade through government paperwork for the sake of being able to taste the Pentagon's brownies. (I was hoping that this meant that they were the same brownies that the First Family eats, but now that I'm done, for their sake, I really hope they aren't.)

NPR quoted Jeremy Whitsitt of the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate: "One thing we like to say is, 'What would happen if you cooked a meal, stored it in a stifling hot warehouse, dropped it out of an airplane, dragged it through the mud, left it out with bugs and vermin, and ate it three years later?'"

Apparently, making sure the food is still edible after all of this is even more important than actual taste quality...

So my first question is this: Under what psychotic, war-torn circumstances would it be imperative to drop brownies from an airplane, drag them through the mud, and then serve them to some hypoglycemic G.I.?

Next, it must be made clear that the 26-pages are a bit misleading. The entire packet includes the recipes for "Cookies, Oatmeal; and Brownies; Chocolate Covered". Additionally, I suspect that between 2/3 and 4/5 of the recipe was full of government mumbo-jumbo.

Examples of government mumbo-jumbo:

Section 3.2 Ingredients. All ingredients shall be clean, sound, wholesome, and free from foreign material, evidence of rodent or insect infestation, extraneous material, off-odors, off-flavors, and off-colors...Section 3.2.7 Water. Water used for ice making, formulation, and washing shall conform to the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations.

On top of all this, there are special instructions in case certain ingredients could not be obtained in traditional form. For instance, if liquid eggs are nowhere to be found, dried ones may be substituted to certain specifications.

(Again, when would it be so necessary to make brownies or oatmeal cookies that you'd have to do it with powdered eggs? If you don't have access to eggs, my guess is that there are other more important things to focus on that you also probably don't have access to. And you likely have big enough morale problems they won't be solved with sweets.)

Despite all of this, I baked the brownies, with a few modifications explained below.

As much as I don't like to give the government credit for very many things, I must say that they may not be entirely to blame for the unpleasant taste and texture of the brownies I produced. There are a few things you must be aware of.

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