Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of this day, I thought I would bring you a special recipe, with enough time to pick up the ingredients at the grocery store on the way home from work to make for your Valentine!
Anyone who knows me well knows sweets aren’t a particular weakness of mine. Crunchy, greasy potato chips and a creamy dip, yes; dessert, not so much. I will jump at a good homemade pie and will eat the obligatory birthday cake, but for the most part, I can pass on sweets when they’re offered. Until now.
A few weeks ago we were invited to spend the afternoon with friends. A downfall of being told to others you’re a good cook by your significant other is you (I) feel obligated to always take along something special; a plate of nice cheese and crackers wouldn’t do. I always want to make something delicious that people would just say “wow.” I wasn’t sure if I was going to make something sweet or savory, but while looking for a recipe in the Essential New York Times Cook Book, I came across a recipe for brownies. Originally printed in the Times in 1943, this was noted as a treat that traveled well in a soldier’s care package. I had all the ingredients in the cupboard and the instructions were super easy, so I thought I would try these. (If you hang out with me long enough, you are bound to be a guinea pig for a variety of recipes!) The recipe I’ve been using for the past 30 years have always been just OK; they are moist when they come out of the oven and are flavorful, but tend to turn rock hard in a day.
I pulled these out of the oven and they were super moist, too moist to be done I thought. I was told by the sweets eater in the house, “I think that’s they way they are supposed to be.” And he’s right. Right out of the oven, the top is crackly and shiny. They are moist, dense and dark, with a deep chocolate flavor. Heaven in a little square.
I packed them up carefully, still warm, and brought them to our friends. Set on the table, they were gone in a matter of minutes. (I think the “wow” was there; it’s called silence. And when people have seconds!) These are sure to be a hit with any group. You can take these to a bake sale or potluck or even bribe friends to help you with something (yes, I’ve done this). Or make a batch just for yourself. (I’ll give you a little hint, wrap each brownie individually and put in a freezer bag. This way you can control how much you eat, and have a nice little treat for a later date!)
From The Essential New York Times Cook Book, Classic Recipes for a New Century, by Amanda Hesser, 2010.
Makes 16 brownies
• ¼ pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Cook’s note: I use a bar of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate)
• 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup sugar
•½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
• ½ cup chopped nuts (Cook’s note: I use walnuts)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•¼ teaspoon salt
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the base with parchment.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from the heat.
3. Beat the eggs with the sugar until the sugar is mostly dissolved, and add to the chocolate mixture. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost, but not quite, clean, about 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes, then invert the brownie onto a rack, remove the parchment, and turn it right side up. When cool cut into 16 squares.
Hesser’s Cooking Note: You might laugh at the size of these brownies, which are 2-in squares–brownie “bites” by today’s standard. Cut them larger at your (waistline’s) peril.