Monday, February 22, 2010

Because sometimes, a girl just needs chocolate...

I've long been an advocate of baking from scratch. Box mixes, while convenient, aren't nearly as good as "the real thing" - and you just don't get that satisfaction of looking at your pile of ingredients and watching it transform into something amazingly delicious.

Turns out, baking from scratch is really not all that difficult or time consuming. In his book Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan recommends that you don't partake in any sweets you didn't create from scratch with your own two hands - the thought being that you will then consume less sweets because you won't want to go to the trouble of all that measuring and stirring and cleaning dishes. Well, Mr. Pollan has not met the likes of me yet!

Here is my favorite brownie recipe, taken from Smitten Kitchen, my very favorite food blog. (Her photos are to-die-for).

Classic Brownies

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9x13 inch pan (I use butter, of course).

If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.

Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.

Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve.

They are seriously so, so good. You'll never go back to boxed mixes. (And you can eat them for breakfast - I give you permission).


mark711777 said...

Oh no... why did I have to check the blog when I was hungry for chocolate! Those are EXACTLY what I want right now!!!

Suzanne said...

ditto...just finished dinner....and have no dessert. blast!!!!!!

Elaine said...

Isn't cake flour processed or bleached or something? Just wondering...those look very yummy.

Julia said...

I love Michael Pollan, but he is a fool if he thinks a little extra work will keep me from indulging in a fabulous dessert or homemade french fries, ice cream or donuts. Silly.

Emily Y. said...

Elaine - yeah, cake flour is def bleached - i buy the unbleached flour for all other baking. white sugar is also "processed" - we decided not to get that picky else we'd drive ourselves insane.

Julia - I agree! I have yet to make donuts, but we do homemade french fries quite often. definitely worth the mess it makes in the kitchen. :)