Things a Monkey Could Cook: Brownies
By Jean Stites on February 14, 2011
Valentine tip: serve someone warm brownies in front of a good movie on a cold winter night and they’ll be forever in your power….
Or, if you need a favor, now’s the time; while if you want to borrow money, it might be a good idea to put a scoop of real vanilla ice cream on top; and although those in need of funding might view this as an expensive gamble, you only need one scoop, and warm brownies are so good that you can surely think of it as an investment.
Or maybe you’re sitting there this very morning, perhaps somewhat desperately searching for a last-minute, chocolate no-brainer. Well, you won’t do much better than this. Ready in an hour—start to finish—brownies are perhaps the easiest of sweets, and I especially like this old recipe for its light, cake-like texture. I can’t remember where it came from, but I suspect that by now those involved may be beyond caring if I use it.
Tip for beginners: timing is especially important with simple-yet-delicate brownies, where just five minutes can take them from an uncooked center to a burned crust. Watch the clock, and don’t be rendering it useless by letting out the heat due to repeated peeking into the oven—possibly destroying your dreams of chocolate paradise….
And if you have a five-year-old who accuses you of putting nuts into everything, you can leave them out in the interest of domestic harmony, or just sprinkle some on top of half of the batter before you bake it. It won’t be quite the same, but it’ll be just as good in its own way, which is of course so often the rule when orchestrating the rewarding complexities of family life.
Plus—like the equally ever-popular Chocolate Chip Cookies—brownies are a good thing to mail, freeze, or make in advance; while both can also even be made without the benefit of modern technology by those that possess instead a strong arm and a certain amount of patience.
- 1/3 cup butter
- 2 ounces = 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Melt the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, over the lowest heat. Watch it carefully, as chocolate can burn easily. Let this mixture cool until it’s no longer hot to the touch.
Generously butter the entire inside surface of a 9" x 9" square baking pan, says my old, chocolate-stained recipe card; and the Betty Crocker of my youth would probably tell you to grease your pan the modern way with shortening, while Julia Child might gasp in horror at anyone who could possibly abandon the far-superior butter…
However, both of them would probably ditch the added fat entirely if they had access to non-stick cookware lined with parchment paper, and so should you if at all possible.
In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Measure out the sugar.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the eggs with modern technology for about 3 minutes on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, or employ a sturdy whisk or eggbeater, along with the aforementioned strong arm and patience, for as long as it takes….
Gradually add the sugar, a few spoonfuls at a time, with the beaters still moving.
Stir in the cooled chocolate-butter, the vanilla, the flour mixture, and the optional nuts, periodically scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Spread the batter evenly in your prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes in the center of the oven. Remember to check the time when you put them in. When they’re done they’ll be dry on top, almost firm to the touch, and will have pulled slightly away from the sides of your utensil. Cool them in the pan on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before cutting into them—a bit longer if you intend to sweeten the deal with ice cream.
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