There's a good chance that if you’ve visited Disney World, you’ve come across some ridiculously good cookie dough brownies (they were the best-selling desserts at Disney for three consecutive years). There’s an equally good chance that while strolling the aisles of your local grocery store you’ve come across packages of Brownie Brittle — a chocolatey dessert that gives eaters only their favorite part of brownies: the crispy edges. Yes, these two highly successful, highly irresistible treats come from one titan of the brownie industry, the “Brownie Queen” herself, Sheila G. Mains.
In a past life, Mains was a CFO for an industrial advertising industry, but her passion for baking and chocolate got the best of her. She began her baking business, whimsically called Brownie Points, in 1992, and hasn’t looked back since.
Building upon her success, Mains’ recently released a brownie-centric cookbook, Sheila G’s Butter & Chocolate: 101 Creative Sweets and Treats Using Brownie Batter, offering home bakers easy and delicious recipes made with staples usually found in most pantries: butter, cocoa, chocolate, flour, and sugar.
Beyond the gravitational pull that butter- and-chocolate-filled desserts inherently have on humans, the stand-out feature of this book is Mains’ voice as she introduces the recipes. It’s fun, light-hearted, and makes you want to jump in the kitchen to whip up a quick batch of brownie goodness. What also sets this book apart is that Mains is able to show the versatility of brownie batter, transforming the base of her favorite dessert into a number of different treats like Brownie Scones, Brownie Buckeye Cookies, Brownie-Filled Doughnut Holes, and Glazed Brownie Bonbons. Mains’ also shared with us some non-chocolate (aka blondies) treats such as her White Chocolate-Cherry Macadamia Nut Squares and her White Chocolate-Cinnamon Blondies.
We caught up with Mains, who is currently on tour — National Brownie Day is December 8 (tomorrow), after all — and she generously allowed us a chance to get to know more about her and her brownie obsession. Read the interview below:
The Daily Meal: What is your philosophy of cooking?
Sheila G. Mains: Cooking? Who cooks? I do make a mean reservation! As for baking, however, my philosophy is this: It must be easy. No one has time for complicated, time-consuming recipes, and, of course, I have always believed that if you’re going to indulge, make sure it’s worth it. These two philosophies go hand-in-hand. Keeping the recipes simple means you can whip up something homemade for friends and family quicker than it takes to run to the bakery or supermarket to pick something up. Plus, nothing makes the home smell better than something fresh baking in the oven.
How did it inspire the recipes you chose to include in this book?
Butter & Chocolate is filled with simple recipes using the same high-quality yet basic ingredients. There is no need to run out to the store for special ingredients in order to make a last-minute treat for the family. Once you have my Signature Brownie down pat, you’ll be able to create so many mouthwatering variations like brownie truffles, brownie cookies, brownie mini bites, or brownie bonbons.
What’s your favorite recipe in the book, and why?
The Cookie Dough Brownie recipe is my favorite for two reasons. First, the taste and texture are amazing (is that two?) And second, this recipe saved my brownie business back in the 1990s. I had just started working with Disney and was struggling to get our brownies noticed. When I presented our Cookie Dough Brownies, the chefs went wild over it. Soon it became the No. 1 selling dessert at MGM Studios and was also picked up by Animal Kingdom as one of their featured desserts. It really created quite a buzz about us and helped us grow our business.
How do you hope readers will use this book, and what do you hope they take away?
I hope Butter & Chocolate will become the readers’ “staple” baking cookbook — and will find itself in its rightful place on the counter and/or within easy reach. For that same reason, I believe it will also make a great gift.
Anything else you would like the share?
I’m very excited to share this collection of my favorite recipes, knowing that they’ll be handed down from generation to generation, just as the Signature Brownie recipe was handed down to me by my mother who had it passed down to her from my grandmother. Baking truly is in my blood and some of my fondest childhood memories were the times spent baking on the weekend with my mom and grandmother.