What better way to begin this journey of living simply than cooking up a good 'ol batch of brownies?
I decided to attempt making brownies from scratch for a friend's bridal shower. And, I discovered, making them from scratch isn't that complicated at all. I assumed since box brownies are the norm that homeade brownies must be complex and frustrating. I'm finding there are a lot of foods that I've always purchased at the store when, in reality, they are amazingly simple to make at home.
In fact, I am 31-years-old and never, in my life, do I recall making brownies from anything but a box. We always got a Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker box, added an egg and some oil and voila! While the steps seem simple, I don't think there's anything simple about the ingredients list for these old-school classics.
To be clear, I'm not knocking Betty or Duncan. This was a rare and precious treat at my house growing up. My mom and I would whip up a batch of them and leave them on the counter covered all night. In the morning, I would lean in to take a sniff of that chocolatey-goodness, reach out my grubby little hand to take one for breakfast, expecting to hear a stern "uh-uh, not for breakfast!" Evidently, brownies were a weakness for my mother too. Instead of slapping away my hand, she would reach in and help herself to one of the perfectly chewy morsels. I remember loving that my mom stopped being a parent for those few bites. She couldn't resist the temptation herself and so we were on equal footing giggling like the true chocolate-fiends we were, age be damned!
OK, on with it! Here is the recipe from Cook's Illustrated with some pics I took along the way. Funny thing is I didn't actually get a picture of the FINAL product (whoops!) I'll just have to make them again, won't I?
Enjoy and feel free to indulge again tomorrow morning…
1 cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces), chopped medium (optional) *I didn't do the nuts.
1 1/4 cups plain cake flour (5 ounces) *Evidently the flour should be cake flour. That's important!
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups sugar (15 3/4 ounces)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13- by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
4. 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 one at 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.
5. 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. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)