There are two brownies sitting on my kitchen counter. I can’t stop thinking about them. They are all that’s left of a batch that I made Friday night after a real shit day at work.
My mother told me once that she always knew when I had exams or a big paper due in graduate school because when she would call, I’d be making brownies. Some things don’t change. When I’m stressed, I bake.
But, I don’t run like I used to, so I took half of the brownies to work on Saturday to share with the rest of the weekend crew. “They’re so moist,” one of our business writers kept saying.
To the relativists — those Pollyannas who insist that cooking is as much an art as a science and that a recipe’s effectiveness depends mostly on what a particular cook enjoys eating — Kimball has this to offer: “Cooking isn’t creative, and it isn’t easy. It’s serious, and it’s hard to do well, just as everything worth doing is damn hard.”
This is a bit of a bummer to me, as I often cook for fun. Or at least, I thought I was having fun. Now I wonder if Kimball is right, and I’m just slacker?
Still, I love his magazine. The recipes always work. The New York Times noted that too:
What the magazine essentially offers its readers is a bargain: if they agree to follow the recipes as written, their cooking will succeed and they will be recognized by family and friends as competent or even expert in the kitchen.
Yeah, baby, that’s what I want. So, while I own umpteen cookbooks and have them piled up in both states I live in, when I came home Friday night, the brownie recipe that I went to was from Cook’s Illustrated.
I must confess: I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. It calls for cake flour. I had all-purpose flour. But I substituted 5 ounces for 5 ounces, not 1 1/4 cup for 1 1/4 cup, and it worked out fine. The problem with volume measures for flours is that depending on which flour you are using and how you scoop it, 1 cup can contain different amounts of flour. Weight measurements are more exact.
The brownies at work disappeared. Then G. showed up last night, and four more brownies disappeared this morning before I’d even finished my cereal. Then I ate two, one in the morning and one at lunch, and packed up four more for G. to take on his business trip. That left two on the counter. I am not sure they will make it through the night.
Best Brownies (ever)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour (or all-purpose)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate (Cook’s recommends chopping it up)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9-inch pan and then flour it. Or at least, that’s what I did. Cook’s lined it with tinfoil and then sprayed that, but it seemed like a waste of foil to me.
Put the butter and chocolate in a bowl, and melt it in the microwave. Work in 30-40 second spurts, stirring in between to avoid a spattering mess.
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. If you use all-purpose flour, weigh it and sift it.
When the butter and chocolate are melted, add the eggs one at a time. Stir in each egg until it’s combined. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in sugar.
Add the flour in three segments, stirring each one in thoroughly. Watch for lumps. When the batter is smooth, pour it in the pan.
If you feel like it, you can sprinkle chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans on top. I went with about 2 ounces of pecans. Cook’s recommends 4 ounces.
Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the brownies cool for about 2 hours before you try to remove them from the pan. They’ll keep for about three days in an airtight container.