Last week: pudding. This week: brownies. Are you getting the theme here? Yes. Chocolate. But that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m making things simple. Making it cozy. Baking it easy. Brownies. That’s about the speed I’m at right about now. I don’t know about you, but my mind is cluttered. I’ve got a lot weighing on my brain these days. Brownies take the edge off. Lots of brownies. (Thank goodness I’ve also picked up my running shoes after a much-too-long-post-ankle-surgery hiatus.)
So brownies. Everyone has a different opinion on what makes the perfect pan. Chewy. Cakey. Fudgy. What have you. I like mine from a box. Always have. Always will. But I wonder if that makes the best sense.
Michael Pollan suggests that it’s ok to eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. He argues that making junk food from scratch is too complicated to do on a regular basis and the inconvenience of it will prevent you from overindulging. Hmm. Obviously Mr. Pollan doesn’t read Love, Cake. That theory doesn’t fly in my house. But I like to think that whatever I cook from scratch, no matter what it is, is better to eat than processed, packaged, industrial foods. That’s got to be true, right? So here we go. I’m an adult. And I’d like to eat fewer chemicals. It’s time to get on board with homemade brownies.
Homemade brownie recipes are like snowflakes. No two are ever the same. Well, more like no two ever produce the same results. I wanted mine to be 1. similar in texture to the boxed mixes and 2. be just as easy. I like the texture produced when the only chocolate in the batter is cocoa powder. A lot of recipes call for melted chocolate in the mix but I think that makes things a little too dense. Fudgy in a bad way. You may think fudgy is a good thing and I think you’re wrong. Let’s just agree to disagree. Don’t worry. There is still a lot of chocolate going on. I threw in a bunch of chopped chocolate for extra rich chocolaty goodness.
As for easiness, I learned a brilliant trick back when I worked in the test kitchen at Good Housekeeping magazine. First, melt the butter in a pot. Then dump everything else in there. Done. Genius. One-pot-wonder. Melt, mix, pour. None of that dry ingredients then wet ingredients malarkey. No butter creaming. Just butter dreaming. I love it. If you really wanted to simplify things, I guess you could take it one step further and melt the butter directly in the baking pan and then mix everything right in there, spread it out, and be done with it. Then you’d just have one dirty wooden spoon. But then what bowl could you lick clean while the brownies are baking? Don’t answer that.
That’s it. Nothing fancy. Just a couple of brownies. It took me an embarrassing number of tries to create this recipe. So many tweaks to arrive at something I liked as much as Betty Crocker. Betty and I are still friends. Good friends. She just doesn’t come around quite as often. But thankfully I don’t miss her as much anymore.
Cherry Almond Brownies
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled, plus more for pan
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped roasted, salted almonds
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish and line it with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang. Butter parchment.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat and let it cool a bit. Stir in sugar and then eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and stir to combine. Stir in chocolate, cherries, and almonds. Pour into prepared pan, smooth top, and bake until just set, about 25 minutes. Set on a rack to cool.
3. Using the parchment, lift the brownies out of the pan and cut into squares.