So after I cursed myself for marrying into a frighteningly large family, I realized that this was yet another chance to bring an uninvited dessert ! Last week to took the peanut butter filled chocolate cupcakes to my mother-in-law’s but didn’t tell her I was bringing them. This actually helped me deal with my simultaneous needs of baking and dieting. (Admittedly, it also satisfied my need to do unto her…) Personally, I would never think to do bring a dessert to a hostess’s house unannounced. I have come to learn, however, that in Iran it is apparently a proper custom — one to which I am now going to take full advantage! Given the pace of these family dinners I guess I ought to start thinking ahead — I didn’t have much on hand today for any fancy cupcake or pie. My Persian relatives would have to “settle” for the quintessential American dessert: The Brownie. A more appropriate thing for me to bring I couldn’t think of. and it will be the perfect antidote to any rose water flavored whatsit they might have on hand to go with tea after dinner!
Now, I don’t really get into the “which is the best brownie” contest that seems to be a national pastime. People like what they like. (If you ask me, if you have to put frosting on it, it isn’t really a brownie.) I don’t even make brownies that often though I have amassed quite a few recipes over the years — all from people who claim theirs is “the best”. Before I made these particular lovelies, however, I was thinking of making “the brownie” a regular pursuit of this blog. I gotta tell ya however, that these here are quite good and I’ll probably be making these for awhile before I start feeling experimental again. I found this particular recipe at smittenkitchen.com and it mostly appealed to me due to its utilization of cocoa and not baking chocolate (something to which my pantry never seems to have in the ready). No chocolate chips. Just cocoa. Simple ingredients most people always have on hand. So this just makes it perfect for today’s unplanned, uninvited dessert for Aunt Vicky’s party! I had some very high quality “rouge” cocoa in the pantry just waiting for such a recipe like this to show off its rich, earthy flavor. I know my Persian audience will appreciate a pure cocoa brownie without any danger of a cloyingly sweet chocolate based brownie with chocolate chips or even worse, frosting! (Blech.)
Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet
This is what you will need:
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process, I used natural and used ‘the good stuff’ since this is the type of thing I bought it for in the first place.)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, cold
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
This is how you make it:
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
- Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.
- Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.
- Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
- It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.
- Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.
- Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
- When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.
- Stir in the nuts, if using.
- Spread evenly in the lined pan.
- Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter.
- The recipe in the book calls for 20 to 25 minutes but it took me at least 10 minutes longer and I was cursing my oven as I have been suspecting it does not bake accurately at 325.
- I checked Deb’s site and she had the same problem so be sure to check these often and get them after they set.
- Let cool completely on a rack.
- I also took Deb’s tip and and threw them in the fridge for a while to get them to cut with clean lines.
- Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board.
- Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (you can cut them small if you want to. You will want a lot. I suggest cutting them large so you can kid yourself and say “I only had ONE brownie!”)
(Note: All this talk about univited desserts reminds me of Alanis Morissette’s song, “Uninvited”. I love this particular mix of the song which I will now christen as the official theme song of the Uninvited Dessert blog posts at Sis. Boom. [blog!] )