Wednesday, December 01, 2010


It's unreasonably cold in Albuquerque.

I've grown up in California my entire life (other than the first three years of my life, in Korea, which I don't remember, so those years don't count) so "cold" to me is anything below 60 degrees.

It barely gets up into the 30's here during the day lately. That's not cold, that's frigid!

Added to this weather problem that I'm having is also an insomnia that's suddenly decided to re-manifest itself. I have random bouts of sleeplessness, generally for a few months at a time, and this time, it's pretty bad. I can't sleep until at least 2:00, sometimes as late as 4:00, and then I have to get up and get to work at 9:00 (... or so).

It's been a crap winter, to say the least. So I should at least get some dessert out of it, right?

During a sleepless night two nights ago, I checked out my supplies and then decided I should make brownies. I didn't have the wherewithal to put together a whole cake, and brownies are much easier. So I did.

Cocoa powder (unsweetened- I like Ghiradelli's, it's very chocolate-y without that bitterness that chocolate sometimes has).
Eggs, of course. These are local eggs from a local organic farm, which are not (surprisingly) any more expensive than "regular" eggs.
Disaronno, because I don't have vanilla extract. I can't believe I don't have vanilla extract at home, but there you have it.

A stick and a half (!) of butter. Unsalted, of course. I used a two quart pot and it worked out just fine. I never went over medium-low heat.

Flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, dumped into an eight-cup Pyrex.

Whisk, whisk, whisk. I tried to whisk out all the lumps in the flour and cocoa powder ... but couldn't really be bothered to get too gung-ho about it.

Eggs with a (generous) splash of Disaronno. Because I'm at 5,000+ feet altitude in a very, very dry environment, I can go crazy with the liquids and it doesn't really matter. In fact, the brownies would probably have been overly dry had I not added a little too much of the Disaronno.

The butter was almost completely melted when I dumped the sugar in (I went a little shy on the sugar, because I like dense, rich, not-too-sweet brownies, none of those crazy sweet things that pass as brownies).

Stir, stir, stir. Bamboo spoon from my mother.

Smooth and melty butter with sugar. Yummmm. I did actually make sure there were no conspicuous bits of sugar left, because sugar becomes quite grainy, I feel. It only took a couple minutes- I just stirred occasionally while measuring out the dry ingredients and whisking them.

Adding the dry ingredients and stirring.

All the dry ingredients go in, and it looks like it's a powdery mess. It kind of is, and overly-enthusiastic stirring will result in chocolate-y brown puffs of cocoa and flour. I tried to stir gently and lovingly.

All stirred together. It ends up looking quite dry and sad.

I missed photographing a step here- the eggs and Disaronno get whisked together and then dumped into the pot, after taking the pot off the heat. Then the contents of said pot get stirred together until combined. It was late at night and I was kind of just snapping lazy photos with my phone. Eh.

Poured the (very thick) batter into a pan lined with foil. I used the waxed paper wrappers of the butter to lightly grease just the corners of the pan, since bunched-up foil can get a little clingy. It's just a teeny amount of butter, but I think it helps.

Into the oven for 20 or so minutes, then out it comes to cool. I cooled for a long time just because I forgot about the brownies while I was off doing other things.

I got 28 brownies out of this recipe. I think the next time I make them, I will try it with brown sugar (as in the original recipe) and try to remember to buy vanilla extract (though the Disaronno added a very nice, very subtle little hint of something- maybe I'll add both). I think I might try adding some form of nuts, too. Probably walnuts, chopped into biggish pieces.

A good, really easy recipe for brownies that doesn't require too much clean-up (a huge must in my book- I hate scrubbing and washing for ages after an experiment in the kitchen).

Everyday Brownies
adapted from Nigella Lawson

1  1/2 sticks of butter (12 tablespoons)
1  1/2 cups of sugar (I probably used about 1  1/3 cups)
1  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1  cup all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
4 eggs
1  tablespoon Disaronno

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a medium-sized saucepan.

Once the butter is melted, stir in the sugar and blend.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and pinch of salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the saucepan. When mixed (this will be a very dry mixture and not wholly blended at this stage), remove from the heat.

In a bowl or jug, whisk the eggs with the Disaronno and then mix into the brownie mixture in the pan.

Stir in chopped chocolate or nuts at this point, then quickly pour and scrape into a foil-lined baking tin, spreading the mixture out evenly.

Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes (I would start checking at 15 minutes).

The brownies should look set, dark, and dry on top, but a toothpick or skewer should come out gungy. Set the pan on a rack to cool before cutting into 16 pieces (Nigella's suggestion, I would suggest smaller pieces) and dust with confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar, which I didn't have and I didn't miss).

Make-ahead note: The brownies can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in an air-tight container. Will keep for a total of five days (or, if you leave then in an air-tight container in the fridge, much longer).

Freezing note: The brownies can be frozen for up to 3 months in an air-tight container, layered with parchment. Thaw overnight in a cool place (the fridge, I assume).

Really, honestly, very good brownies. And easy enough to make anytime, provided you have a few ingredients, which most people do have just lying about.

The brownies didn't cure my insomnia, but they are a great dessert. Very, very chocolate-y without being overly heavy or rich. And really good with a small scoop of frozen Cool-Whip on top (yes, I like my Cool-Whip frozen until it's rock hard).

Now if only I can sleep.....