Clear-Your-Head Brownies, by Lillian.
February 29, 2012 § 7 Comments
Do you see that, folks? THAT, my friends, is a clear table. The last time I posted, the very table you see pictured above was covered with things like almost-started research projects, ungraded papers, tax forms, and a list of stressful distractions. BUT NOW?! Will you look at that beautiful, empty, almost zen-like space?? Now mind you, the way that table looks should not by any means suggest that I completed or really in any way Took Care Of any of the aforementioned. The way that table looks is instead part of a new thing I’m trying: WILLFUL AVOIDANCE, which is something I came up with and is probably in the long run not sustainable but nevertheless really, at the time, made me feel pretty pleased with myself. Willful Avoidance is closely related to slightly more legitimate things like Making Choices and Being In Charge of Your Life, both of which I only recently learned that I can actually do. It’s slightly more problematic than either Making Choices or Being In Charge, because eventually you’ll notice that—whoops!—those tax forms didn’t actually disappear, they are in fact just under the table and you can see them from the other side of the room. But for the time being! It’s a nice approach to a Saturday morning. So! How do you practice Willful Avoidance (of the strategic, rather than the pathological sort)? First, you clear off the table. Then, if you choose to put things on the table (you don’t have to! you can leave it totally clear and just look at how clean it is! you might even dust that poor table!), ONLY CHOOSE THINGS THAT YOU WANT TO DO/LOOK AT, thus Willfully Avoiding your to-do list, and giving yourself a much-needed Saturday Morning Breather. And then see what you end up with.*
Tada! I ended up with the ingredients to make brownies. Fancy that! I swear, when I did this I actually put my hands on my hips, surveyed the scene, smiled to myself, and thought Lillian, what a clever girl you are. Alright so what do we have here… Looks to me LIKE!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
6 ounces (6 baking squares) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup corn syrup (or honey, or maple syrup)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Also, in the foreground, we have a copy of Williams-Sonoma’s Comfort Food cookbook. Now. Brownies have been on my list of things to make because my dear friend Jen requested them, and since Jen is also a grad student, I felt that she was particularly deserving. But Jen also requested an easy, lazy recipe.** I maintain that this is, in fact, an easy recipe, however the longish list of ingredients above, along with the whole Williams-Sonoma thing might suggest otherwise. Fair. I have therefore adapted the original recipe in yet another baking-as-life lesson: simplify. Does the recipe call for annoyingly precious ingredients like “fine sea salt” and “pure maple syrup” and “high quality baking chocolate”? Omit Needless Words and you’re left with salt, syrup, and chocolate. Does the recipe assert that you must do things like “whisk in eggs, one at a time”? Does it claim that you must butter the pan, then line the pan with parchment paper, and then butter and flour said parchment paper? Gimme a break. This is real life. Whisk those eggs in all at once. I’ll admit that I was completely taken in by the promise that in using the parchment paper I could, in the end, “Lift up the whole brownie (note the singular—one giant brownie ZOMG!!!) by the parchment ‘handles,’” so like, I used the parchment paper. But do you need to? Is that really necessary? Nope. Omit needless words, omit needless steps, hell, omit needless everything and you’re a few inches closer to your table looking like the one pictured at the top of this post.
So first. Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare your pan in whatever way you see fit. First combine your flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, whisking together thoroughly. Set the mixture aside, and move your little self over to the stovetop. In a large saucepan (yes, large: you’re going to be combining the whole of the batter in this thing soon), melt the butter over low to medium heat. If you were to burn the butter slightly, on accident, it would not be the end of the world. For then you would be able to call these Brown Butter Brownies, which sounds hip and trendy in a cool epicurean kind of way! In any event then you want to step away from the stove for about five minutes (enough time to play this song for yourself, which I did about 18 times while baking these things, and I am…pretty certain they turned out better for it), thus allowing your concoction to cool a bit. When you have a saucepan of slightly cooled, shiny, delicious-looking butter and chocolate, whisk in your sugars. Then whisk in your eggs. You may do so one at a time. You may also crack all of the eggs into the saucepan at once and whisk whisk whisk your little heart out. Either one. It’s your life. One little suggestion, though: whisk quickly. You don’t want ze eggs to cook in ze butter and ze chocolate. Finally, add your syrup of choice and then…yes! Whisk some more!
Once that’s all together, fold in your flour mixture, along with the chocolate chips. I did this in stages—1/2 cup of each at a time. Working in the ingredients in succession like this made it easy to make sure things were thoroughly combined, thereby keeping the batter from getting lumpy. Finally, pour your not-lumpy batter into the prepared pan, and smack it down on the table a few times. My mom says this gets rid of any air bubbles—I have no idea if this is true, or whether or not it really matters, and it probably kind of annoyed my not-yet-awake neighbors (I was really excited to wake up at 7 a.m. on Saturday and bake? Is that weird? Is this getting out of control? Oy), but Mom said to do it, so I do.
You’re almost there, friends. Put your pan full of batter into your preheated oven. Williams-Sonoma says keep it in there for 25 minutes—they are wrong. I checked after 25, found a still-liquidy pan, and re-set the timer for 10 minutes more. And then 10 minutes more. My brownies were done after 45. But you have a different oven, so check in on things occasionally. So okay, 45 minutes. Around minute 25 your apartment will begin to smell LIKE HEAVEN ON EARTH I AM NOT EXAGGERATING. The most seductive, chocolatey aroma will fill your tiny little studio, waft down the halls, wake up your still-probably-sleeping neighbors, and tempt you to open the oven prematurely. You can; it’s not that big of a deal. The really difficult part will of course be letting them cool completely before cutting them into squares. If you can wait that long, you will be rewarded with a plate that looks something like this:
I know. I KNOW! You want to eat all of those things right now, don’t you?! I had to freeze most of mine so that I wouldn’t do just that. The great news is that they freeze quite well, and if after freezing them you pop them in a 350-degree oven for a few minutes, they’re as good as fresh (I’m eating one as we speak. As I write. Whatever. It’s spectacular).
…So you may notice that in the photo above, things seem to have crept back onto the table somehow. Yeah, I’m working on it. But that hour or so, back when the table was clear? It was glorious.
*If one were particularly desperate or especially brave, or both, one might consider adapting this approach slightly and applying it to one’s entire life…? But maybe that’s too much to think about on a Wednesday, and in any case I’m not really in the business of giving unsolicited advice to the internet.
**To Jen, and others: If you are really and truly in need of brownies and cannot spare the time to make the above recipe, you should know that you absolutely have my support in cheating and making Ghirardelli brownies from a box. I know things get desperate, really I do. I think they just call for oil and eggs and if you go to Costco and make the entire Costco-sized box you will have something like 289 brownies, which, if you’re like me, should last you at least a few days.