There is a debate in my family about brownies. My mom thinks that Duncan Hines makes the best brownies, and I used to agree. But once I started reading labels I just couldn’t bring myself to make anything that includes ingredients like partially hydrogenated oil and artificial flavors. Brownies shouldn’t need factory processed chemicals to be delicious! And to be honest, once I started thinking about what’s in them, they stopped tasting as good to me…I don’t know if my taste changed or my mind got in the way of my enjoyment, but I decided there has to be a better alternative.
So I set out on the somewhat bizarre quest to make brownies that taste as “good” as the ones that come from the box! I’ve tried out a few recipes that were promising, but none really blew me away, and my mother still won’t let me make brownies for any family function based on my previous experiments. So when I saw a recipe on Smitten Kitchen that Deb specifically said would appeal to those who love the boxed variety, I was intrigued! I wanted to make brownies for my brother’s family for the Yom Kippur break fast, which presented the perfect opportunity to test the new recipe out on my 5-year-old nephew who also loves brownies from a box.
I thought these brownies were absolutely delicious – dense, fudgy, and such a rich chocolate taste. My nephew (and everyone else at the table) seemed to agree! And the best part of this recipe is that it is made in just one bowl (plus a pot that just gets wet, not dirty), with one mixing utensil, and with ingredients that you may very well have in your kitchen already – I didn’t have to buy a thing!
So while the holidays have not been the best opportunity to showcase healthy cooking, I feel good that through my experiments with spinach leek dip and brownies, I’ve proven to myself that we don’t need chemicals in neat little packages to have tasty special occasion indulgences – good old wholesome ingredients still do the trick, and the effort involved does not need to be monumental. Take that food manufacturers! 🙂
One Bowl Brownies
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder (this seems like an awfully fussy measurement to me…it simply means 2 tablespoons short of a cup, which I’d call a scant cup – I just didn’t fill my cup all the way and it worked fine!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl on top of a pot of barely simmering water. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the pot and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.
Stir in the vanilla, and then add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts, if using (I didn’t). Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, approximately 30 minutes.
Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
Makes 16 smallish brownies