Thursday, April 21, 2011

Eat: Brownies, beyond the box

Until about seven years ago, I thought that the only way to make brownies was to start with the sack of brown powder provided by Duncan Hines and then follow the directions on the box. 

One day when I was feeling particularly adventurous, I decided to take on the herculean task of making brownies from scratch. Imagine my surprise when I used the Brownies Cockaigne recipe from The Joy of Cooking and realized it was just as easy as using a mix. I felt empowered, and to this day I credit that brownie-baking breakthrough for my determination to cook from scratch whenever possible.

As much as oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are my sentimental favorite, these brownies are easier to pull together on the spur of the moment, like Little E and I did to celebrate my finishing my grades on time.  These brownies are great for customization --bake them as mini cupcakes, frost them, top them with leftover Halloween candy.  This time we went the festive route with Cadbury's mini eggs.

Please know that if you're a cakey-brownie person, we have some fundamental differences and these may not be for you.

Brownies Beyond the Box
adapted from The Joy of Cooking

  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 stick of unsweetened butter
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a 9 by 13 inch pan by lining it with foil that overhangs the edges on the ends. Give the flour a quick squirt of cooking spray for easy removal.

Chop the chocolate and cut the butter into chunks, placing all of it into a medium-sized microwave safe bowl.

Melt the butter and chocolate together by heating in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until they are fully combined.

Allow this mixture to cool until it is no longer hot --warm is okay, just not hot.

Add the sugar and vanilla and stir until combined.

Add the eggs and stir until they are fully incorporated into the chocolate and sugar.

Add the flour and stir until just combined.  Make sure that you don't see any lingering flour, but don't overmix it. 

Mix in nuts if you're using them, or just spread the batter into the prepared pan.  If you want to top with candy like we did, considering freezing it (like we didn't) so that it will hold its shape better.

Cook for about 25 minutes and check with a toothpick.  Remove them when the toothpick comes out clean.

Let the brownies sit in the pan for about five minutes and then use the foil overhang to remove them. Allow them to cool completely before removing the foil and cutting the brownies.

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