Friday, May 21, 2010

26 pages for brownies? Yes, here's why

By Donald Sensing

Katherine Mangu-Ward at takes issue with the fact that, "The Pentagon's brownie recipe is 26 pages long."

Except that it isn't. The source she cites is MIL-C-44072C, which is actually entitled, "MILITARY SPECIFICATION: COOKIES, OATMEAL; AND BROWNIES; COCOLATE COVERED" [sic]. As its title says, this is a specification, not a recipe. This is not a document you will find in an Army mess hall dining facility's kitchen, although the recipe for preparation is included. As even Katherine must admit, the recipe itself is quite short, requiring only 12 lines in the specification document.

What the specification does is lay out standards for suppliers. The section Katherine mocks in her post makes it obvious: Nuts, walnuts, shelled. Shelled walnut pieces shall be of the small piece size classification, shall be of a light color, and shall be U.S. No. 1 of the U.S. Standards for Shelled English Walnuts. A minimum of 90 percent, by weight, of the pieces shall pass through a 4/16-inch diameter round hole screen and not more than 1 percent, by weight, shall pass through a 2/16-inch diameter round hole screen. the shelled walnuts shall be coated with an approved food grade antioxidant and shall be of the latest season's crop.
This is pretty much useless information for a cook but is exactly what a supplier or contract bakery needs to know when it comes to walnuts. It lays out precisely what is required with no ambiguity. That's why the document is called a "specification."

So why would this be an object of Katherine's ridicule? Because brownies aren't the point of her post. It's simply an anti-government snark. Usually, Reason offers more thoughtful, indeed, more mature, writing than this. Must have been an off day in the editorial room.

BTW, here is the actual approved recipe for brownies that appears in the DOD's joint-service recipe book. This, not the specification document, is what cooks use in a military kitchen. Click image to enlarge.

Seems pretty simple. It may be helpful to know that all Army recipes are for 100 people.

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