about bliss

Saturday, March 14, 2009

daily bliss: brownies

I brought brownies to the little soiree last night--brownies and ice cream. The brownies were homemade, of course, but the ice cream was not, though it was Hagen Daaz and free of fake weird stuff (have you seen their new five line? just five real ingredients!). It was surprisingly good, if not homemade.

But I'd like to ask readers to indulge me in a little Brownie Manifesto...

Brownies are quintessentially American, and the default snack for many a harried baker who shares chocolatey goodness with others. As such, I feel positively evangelical about from-scratch brownies.

People, boxed brownies are a sad, sorry imitation of the real thing. A slight metallic twang *always* lingers, even if the brownies are laced with cream cheese, or frosting, or caramel, or peanut butter.

I beseech you, give this recipe a try. It's so simple that *anyone* can make it in about the same amount of time it takes to make brownies from a box. You need to have a few ingredients on hand, but honestly, life is better with a bag of flour and a tin of cocoa at your disposal.

The Best Brownies
from my Mom's small Hershey's chocolate cookbook, circa late 1970s/early 1980s
with a few small adaptations by yours truly

1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa (I like Valrhona or Ghiradelli, but Hershey's is just dandy)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. espresso powder (optional)
as many chocolate chips, chunks, or discs as you want to toss in

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

I melt the butter in my 8 inch square baking dish as the oven heats up. Once it's melted, I combine it with the sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl--stir by hand, with a spoon or spatula, until combined. Next, add the eggs, and once they're incorporated, add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Add chocolate bits if you'd like, pour into the pan (which is already greased from melting the butter in it--how clever is that?) Pop the pan into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until the center is just set.

* I suspect you could mix the whole business in the baking dish if you wanted to save a dirty bowl--my Moosewood 6-Minute Chocolate cake can be mixed in the pan to no ill effect.*

How simple! And how impressive and delicious they are a la mode or naked, with an icy glass of milk or a steamy mug of coffee.

Won't you give them a try instead of reaching for a box if you're a box brownie fan?


  1. your brownie recipe sounds so good--you'll have to post pictures of them sometime! :) i 100% agree with you on the made-from-scratch brownies concept. there is just no reason to use boxed. and if it's really a time issue, you could easily have all the dry ingredients mixed together and stored in a ziploc bag--that way you could just dump it in a bowl with the butter, eggs and vanilla when you wanted to bake!

    my go-to brownie recipe alice medrich's bittersweet brownies. they're amazing, because they're so incredibly fudgy!

  2. I fully support this manifesto. I love, love Dorie's brownies--they taste like my great-aunt's dark chocolate-pecan pie, which is legend in my family.

    I was going to say the same thing about cakes--sure, cakes can be as complex as you want, but there are simple recipes that beat any mix, and once you have a decent pantry, you usually have ingredients on hand. Which is perfect for those last-minute, late evening "must have baked goods NOW" emergencies...

  3. Goodness, I love brownies! Thanks so much for the recipe - I'm bookmarking your (your mom's) (hershey's) version of brownies for those times when I don't want to chop and melt chocolate. I made the BAKED brownie for Fat Tuesday (will post it someday!) and they are absolutely amazing.

  4. Anonymous1:28 PM

    I agree with everything you wrote!