Sunday, July 13, 2008

To Brownies, With Love

Certain dishes have stories, like ballads that remind you of fond relationships. Gumbo means heritage. Cornbread dressing means work. Bread is my constant struggle. Chocolate brownies also fall into that category, a dessert I don't typically crave but always make for friends. When I make them, I am automatically taken to the smile of a well-satisfied palate and the instant gratification well-cooked food gives. Seems like nothing says love and appreciation more than a batch of chocolate brownies.

The first time I made this recipe, I was nervous beyond belief because it was the first time had ever I made it (and I was hoping I didn't over sell myself to the person that I was making them for). I checked the recipe every five minutes to make sure I was doing it right and looked in the oven every 10. And once I pulled them out, perfectly moist with a slight crunch on top, I felt like I graduated to next level of cooking. The next time I made them wasn't so successful; I learned never to try to double baking recipes. They came out more like brownie gum than a pastry--a beautiful letdown.

Brownies are the one sweet that has grown with my ups and downs over the past year, something I have sought to perfect as much as I have sought after personal growth. And as I made them quickly today--stirring the melting butter and chocolate at the same time as beating the eggs, vanilla and sugar (and watching Ratatouille)--I knew I hadn't arrived as a cook, I instinctively knew that I was further along than my college days of pasta made 10 different ways and boiled chicken now and again. And more pasta.

Looking at a half-empty pan a day later, I realize I love making them as much as the recipient loves to eat them. And on the days when my desserts turn out perfectly and I have no disasters to report, for a brief moment, all is right with the world.

Chocolate Brownies
(adapted from Betty Crocker)
2/3 cup butter or stick margarine
5 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate cut into pieces (Baker's is a good brand)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of square pan, 9 x 9 x 2 inches, with shortening. I spray it with Pam; it's a much healthier option.
2. Melt butter and chocolate in 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Cool 5 minutes.
3. Beat sugar, vanilla and eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed 5 minutes. Beat in chocolate mixture on low speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in flour just until blended, scraping bowl occasionally. I usually beat the flour in gradually--doing it all at once can make the batter REALLY thick. Stir in walnuts. Spread in pan.

4. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or just until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.


AnticiPlate said...

Brownies are great! I like the batter, I like them hot, I like them slightly cooled, I even like them stale:) Mmmmmm!

Erin @ The Skinny Gourmet said...

Ahh brownies. I've been looking around for some healthier versions lately, but who can resist the full flavor, full indulgence of old fashioned brownies?