Sunday, November 15, 2009

When nothing but chocolate will do... The Ultimate Brownie

Sometimes you just need chocolate. We've all been there. Maybe you've had a bad day or a rotten week, maybe you're stretched so thin that even a little indulgence seems like complete and unattainable luxury. Perhaps you're in a terrible mood with no explanation. You realize, as Ishmael does in the opening pages of Moby-Dick, that something needs to change: "Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off..." Whenever he finds himself in such a state, Ishmael goes to sea. I, on the other hand, make brownies. It seems far less dangerous, though every bit as deliberate. And while it instantly gratifies, the effect lasts far longer than one might expect. The more hats I feel like knocking off, the more chocolate I add, until the sea of white chocolate chips somewhat resembles the eponymous white whale of College English fame. These brownies offer a perfect escape from the Ahabs of the world, and despite my numerous literary references, they are so simple and indulgent that you will not feel an ounce of guilt eating half the pan while curled up watching Glee. Remember: all will be well with the world again. As Ishmael said, "The drama's done," and for more comfort, "the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago." Take a moment for yourself. Have a brownie. This too shall pass.

The Ultimate Brownie
(adapted from One Smart Cookie by Julie Van Rosendaal)

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 1/2 tsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla (a little more never hurt)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

I prefer a few handfuls of white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and mini chocolate chips (I sprinkle the minis on top of the batter before baking). You could also add any kind of baking chip, toffee chips, nuts, etc. Have fun here--the more you need chocolate, the more kinds you can add. You can even press crushed cookies or candies into the top of the batter before baking.

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9x9 pan liberally with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder. Mix until well-blended--it will resemble wet sand.
3. In a large bowl, whisk egg, egg whites, coffee, and vanilla. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until well-blended--this may take a minute and some upper-body strength :-)
4. In the empty saucepan (so you don't have to dirty another bowl, though you can if you wish) mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add these to the chocolate mixture and stir until there are a few streaks of flour left. At this point, and in your mix-ins and fold until well-distributed.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth into the corners. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes, or until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides. (It is better to underbake brownies--these in particular are supposed to be fudgy.)
6. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares--16-25, depending on the size you want your brownies.

Basic Nutritional Information, pre-mix-ins (per serving for 16 servings):
Calories: 151
Fat: 4.4 grams


Stephanie said...

Oh, my.

Sarah said...

Check out the nutritional info.--they're actually not bad for you at all! Hard to believe, but true.