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Elizabeth Scott

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

My husband and I had someone come to stay with us over the weekend, and to make up for the fact that on Friday night we drove forty-five minutes to wait an hour to eat a truly horrific meal, I made brownies. I don't usually cook with chocolate, as I have to be careful around it (yay allergies. SIGH), but this was a time when only chocolate would do. Plus I'd just finished reading Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries* for the second time, and there was a recipe for brownies in there that I thought sounded really good.

So here is the slightly modified version of Nigel Slater's "my very good chocolate brownie recipe" -- very easy, and, as my husband and our guest reported, "#@! good!"

1 and 1/3 cups sugar
2 sticks butter **
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate ***
3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
tiny pinch of salt

Preheat the over to 350 degrees and get out an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.

Melt the chocolate. I know everyone says to do it in a bowl over a pot of boiling water but forget that, it takes forever. Just put 6 oz. of the chocolate in a biggish bowl (set 2 oz of the chocolate aside for later) and melt it in the microwave. Then give it a stir to get any not-quite melted bits melted, and set aside.

Next, melt the butter in the microwave. (Save the wrappers) Again, I know you're supposed to leave it out till it's all mushy, but who has time for that? When the butter is melted, dump it into the melted chocolate and stir. Then add the sugar to the butter and chocolate and stir again.

Next, grease the pan you'll be using with the butter wrappers. Or, if you have non-stick cooking spray lying around, you can use that. (I don't, which is why I always use wrappers)

Now, take a break and drop the remaining 2 oz of chocolate into a bag or wrap it in foil or do something so that it's secure, and bash the hell out of it with a can or a rolling pin or whack it against the counter a bunch of times. Set the shattered chocolate aside.

Go back to your bowl of melted chocolate, butter, and sugar, and add in the eggs (and the extra yolk). I find it easiest to add them in one at a time because I never use a mixer (cleaning the beaters is a pain) and it's much easier to puncture one egg yolk at a time. (They're slippery little things)

Next, add in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bashed chocolate, and the tiny pinch of salt. Stir until it's just mixed, and then dump in the pan. The dough will be really thick.

Now you bake it. How long it'll need to bake will depend on how squishy you like your brownies and the size of the pan. I'd check after 25 minutes--just gently stick a fork in the middle, and if what comes out looks like drippy batter, stick the pan back in. Actual baking time will be around 25-40 minutes unless you like your brownies very dry, in which case it'll take longer. (The time variable is the one annoying thing about making brownies)

When the brownies seem done to you, or when they are almost there (they'll cook a little more as they cool), take them out. Then wait an hour, or until everyone is saying "Why did you make brownies if we can't EAT them?" and then cut into pieces. Nigel says it'll serve 12, but Nigel hasn't met my husband, and I think 'serves 9' is a better estimate.

*The Kitchen Diaries is sold in the cookbook sections of bookstores and it does have some recipes, but mostly it's Nigel Slater writing about all the meals he had over the course of a year. It's engrossing reading if you like reading about food. And I do! But it's not really a cookbook.

**I had to send my husband to the store to buy butter and cocoa. He brought home the cocoa, but forgot the butter, so I just used the no-milk-protein-of-any-kind margarine I use for everything and it worked fine. But I suspect they'd be even better made with butter.

*** My husband is a chocolate addict and snob, so we have a lot of chocolate bars lying around. Originally, I was going to go with Nigel's suggestion of using chocolate bars with 70%+ cocoa solids in them, but ended up using two large semi-sweet bars that someone had gotten my husband and that he hadn't eaten because he likes his chocolate on the bitter end of bittersweet. This turned out to be a good thing, because my husband and our guest reported that bittersweet chocolate would have made the brownies not sweet enough. So, in my long-winded way, I'm trying to say that while it's probably a good idea to use decent chocolate here, don't break the bank buying super expensive bittersweet chocolate. It's not necessary.

Some totally non-brownie links:

Steven Brust, author of The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars, and other works, on the myth of the slush pile.

Therese Fowler writes about how she sold her first novel. Really inspiring.

Tobias Buckell is taking a survey to determine how many novels an average author writes before she/he sells their first one. He says he'll be posting the results in about a week.