It’s holiday season, and what could be more delightful than savoring Grandma’s chocolate-covered brownies?

Helpful spirit that I am (and since Dec. 8 actually happens to be – no lie – National Brownie Day), I’m gifting grandmas everywhere this year with a fail-safe recipe for these treats from an unimpeachable source: the United States Department of Defense.

Great baker that she is, Grandma may be unaware of some nuances the military requires in the creation of mess hall  “Brownies, chocolate covered.” 

Grandma’s own recipe may be scrawled on the back of an envelope, but if she wants the military version, MIL-C-44072C, she’ll find a list of instructions spanning 26 pages.

She may swear by her own method, using “a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” but the DOD insists on more precision, viz:

  “The shortening shall have the stability of not less than 100 hours as determined by the Active Oxygen Method (AOM) in Method Cd 12-57 of the Commercial Fats and Oils chapter in the Official and Tentative Methods of the American Oil Chemists Society.

“The shortening may contain alpha monoglycerides and an antioxidant or combination of antioxidants, as permitted by the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.”

The military advises that if nuts are used, “a minimum of 95 percent, by weight, of the pieces shall pass through a 4/16-diameter round hole screen.”  If pecans are the choice, they “shall be coated with an approved food grade antioxidant and shall be of the latest season’s crop.”

When it comes to cracking eggs, Grandma better pay attention: “Whole eggs may be liquid or frozen and shall have been processed and labeled in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products (7 CFR Part 59). The whole eggs shall be egg whites and egg yolks in their natural proportions as broken directly from the shell eggs as evidenced by a USDA Egg Products Inspection Certificate.”

Vegetable fat for the chocolate coating “shall be natural or hydrogenated coconut, palm kernel, babascu, tucum, or other high auric acid oils or mixtures thereof … The free fatty acid content should be no greater than 0.08 percent…”

Making the chocolate coating is a breeze, once Grandma melts “Sorbitan monostearate and polyoxyethylene” in with other ingredients and makes a mixture refined to “20 microns or less, 7/10,000 inch so that it has a smooth mouthfeel without grittiness.”

Now, enjoy – it’s done, as long as “the dimensions of the coated brownie shall not exceed 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches by 5/8 inch.” 

Short of going AWOL and begging the nearest bakery for a covert box of Christmas brownies, I don’t know how most grandmas would handle all this. But I can just imagine mine in her kitchen years ago at Chanukah – reading the recipe, slapping a hand to her wrinkled brow, and muttering a plaintively Yiddish and very non-military, “Oy, vey!”

Gerry Goldstein (, a regular contributor, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.

Gerry Goldstein

Gerry Goldstein, an occasional contributor to What's Up, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist who has been writing for Rhode Island newspapers and magazines for 60 years