Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What I Love: Browned Butter Brownies

First things first: don't forget to bid at the online bakesale Wednesday March 30th, to benefit Second Harvest Japan!  The sale is international, so there's bound to be something that can come to your mailbox!

As I've been thinking about the direction this blog, and my future, will take, I've been taking stock of what I love.  And since Audrey sent me a Stylish Blogger Award (Thank you, Audrey!  Though anyone who knows me in real life will probably laugh out loud at the idea that I'm stylish ... by most people's definitions I am anything but), which means I have to list some number of things about myself, maybe I'll take this opportunity to enumerate some of those loves (not counting family, of course, which is a given).

1: Writing.  Having a blog has reminded me just how much I like to write.  Some people have suggested that I'm actually good at it: once upon a time, I actually won a prize or two.  I'm less sure I have talent, and this blog is admittedly not great writing (there are much better bloggers and writers out there who actually read my blog, much to my embarrassment ... you know who you are, and I am humbled by your presence here), but having a project has given me a (semi)regular schedule for producing something, which I never had before, other than my dissertation, and let's not talk about that, shall we?

2: Food.  In case it's not obvious, I am a foodie, par excellence.  It's beyond mere appreciation.  I will spend hours gaping at pictures on foodgawker.  I plan day trips to bakeries and specialty food stores for tastings.  A good day for me is a day when I get to wander the aisles at Whole Paycheck Foods and our local farmer's market.  For two months I subscribed to the Foodzie tasting box, and though I cancelled it, I am dropping not-so-subtle hints to my friends and relatives that a subscription would make an ideal birthday gift.
    2a: Chocolate.  But it's not just that I like to eat chocolate.  I like delicate tastes and textures, discerning the differences between varietals, pairing it with things like lavender and chile and cardamom.  Did you know that you can order a chocolate bar with whatever you want on it?  I have not yet done this, but it's not out of the realm of possibility.
3: Yoga.  OK, this is related to none of the above.  And I don't even have a regular home practice to speak of, so I probably shouldn't count it.  But I know that I love the spiritual space I find when I'm in a yoga class, and I love the sangha at the studio where I currently practice when I can get away (which, sadly, has not been at all since N. was born).

4: Problem-Solving.  I think that the reason I left my first graduate program and decided to become an administrator instead of a faculty member was because I wanted to help people in a more immediate way, cliche as that sounds.  I had thought, years ago, I'd become a psychologist, but that was a no-go for my parents (not to mention that I am not the most tactful person ... a therapist probably shouldn't say something like "pull yourself together, man!" which I, in an unsympathetic moment, very well might). Still, I ended up  problem solving for people, anyway.  I've also liked problem-solving for community organizations.  I'm good at being my own boss, setting my own deadlines, and figuring out how to do something in the most efficient way.  In fact, come to think of it, I get pretty ticked off if someone interferes or thinks their way is better.  S. can attest to this character flaw.

5: Sustainable Living.  This has become sort of a mini-obsession for me.  What can I recycle?  How can I live more greenly?  How can I support local farmers?  How can I bring others to the dark side?  (Muahahaha.)

So all of this adds up to ... what?  Food blogger for a green soup kitchen?

I'll have something more thoughtful and useful to say next time, I promise.

The Stylish Blogger award requires that I share the love by passing on the award to 10+ other bloggers.  I will list a few new ones here, as I usually do, with the note that they need not feel obliged to enumerate loves or even pass on the award unless they feel moved to do so ... rather, I'd like them to go comment on a new blog today and pass it on way, instead.  I will also share a recipe for something covering my loves 1 through 2a, which I made today in preparation for a visit tomorrow from a sweets-loving former neighbor.  No culinary lavender required, and they are incredibly moist and fudgy, especially for a recipe that uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate.  I don't think I've ever made browned butter before for a dessert base, but it seems to be all the rage these days in the food blogger community.  I hope you love them (the blogs and the brownies), too.

Stumbling Gracefully   AFM   A Moment 2 Think
Lauren vs. the World   Love Life Project   One Year Down, 2 Years Left ...
Sparkling Ink   Three Is A Magic Number    Too Many Fish

Browned Butter Brownies
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2011, recipe by Alice Medrich

1 1/4 stick unsalted butter (10 tbsps) cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/2 t. sea salt
2 large eggs (I beat them first)
1/3 c. plus 1 T. flour
1 c. pecans, chopped (optional) or orange zest (I added about 2 t. dried)
Extra sea salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 F, and line the inside of an 8x8 square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving 2-inch overhangs and pressing the foil tightly to the sides of the pan. (If you like, spray the aluminum foil with non-stick cooking spray, though I didn't find this necessary, and it meant that some of the brownie stuck to the foil, which I could scrape off later and eat.  Yum.)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring often. The butter will first melt, then foam, then form more clear bubbles. Once the butter has only bubbles (and no foam) and there are browned bits at the bottom of the pan, remove the butter from the heat.  (This step requires patience.  Cultivate it.)  Stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, salt, and 2 teaspoons water. Let the mixture sit for about 4-5 minutes to cool, then mix in the eggs one at a time, beating quickly after each addition. Once the chocolate mixture looks relatively smooth, mix in the flour, and then beat well for a few minutes. Mix in the chopped nuts (or whatever else you decide to add), and transfer to the prepared pan, smoothing the top before baking.

Bake for about 30 minutes or more, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean - if there is still a tiny bit of moist batter at the very bottom that is ok. Remove the brownies from the oven and cool completely on a cooling rack. Once cool, remove the brownies from the pan using the aluminum foil overhangs; peel the foil away and cut as you like. Eat immediately or store in an airtight container.
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  1. Wow. Yum. Also, a subscription to a tasting box? I think I know someone who would totally love that idea! Hipster. ;)

  2. I can hear your evil laugh all the way over here and wish I could taste those brownies all the way over here, too. :)

  3. I think your blog is SUPER stylish. Your photographs are amazing. I hate to cook but your recipes and pictures get me more interested in trying things than anything else ever. Even Top Chef! ;-) I also think you're a great writer. I love the theme of your blog, incorporating food and the feelings it brings up, or how you choose to cook something in response to what you're feeling. As someone who is more detached from what she eats than she wants to be I'm learning a lot about appreciating food and understanding what it can do for people. I just LOVE this blog.

    Thanks for the shout out! I really appreciate it. I hope you get to go to yoga again soon. I also haven't been since my daughter was born and I'm thinking of shelling out the cash to start going again. We'll see.

  4. You sound like a pretty well rounded girl/women (I always prefer girl because it makes me feel young) in my book. :) It also sounds like you know your strengths and really play to them.

    Very stylish blogger indeed!

  5. I think your blog is magically AND stylishly delicious. :)

    Yesterday I happened to see a recipe for browned butter blondies on another food blog I follow (Brooklyn Supper), but I felt a bit intimidated by browning butter. BUT NOW I am very inspired and maybe I'll give your recipe a try this morning.

    My new fave confection recipe (new to me, anyway) that incorporates that perfect chocolatey and salty complement is Dorie Greenspan's World Peace cookie recipe.

    And, on the subject of chocolate...do you have a fave cocoa powder? I've been using some Green & Black's cocoa powder, but I would love to hear your recommendation on a splurge-worthy one. :)

  6. I like foodblogger for a green soup kitchen:) (And I happen to think you're a good writer). I've actually never heard of foodgawker. I may give it a pass for the next few weeks. But then? I foresee open season.

  7. @Trinity, the cookies sound delicious! I will have to go find the recipe. For a splurge: Valrhona cocoa powder. ;)
    @Adele: the green period WILL pass!
    @Everyone: I'm basking in the love. Thank you for the kind compliments, even when I wasn't fishing! :)

  8. Heya! I made 'em! I improvised on the recipe a little... I only had salted butter, so I nixed the 1/2t of salt. And I used 2t of coffee instead of water, just because I had a little left in my coffee pot this morning. It probably wasn't enough (or strong enough) to make much difference in the flavor though...

    ANYWAY, they are yummmmmy. Super moist. Dense. Rich. Chocolate+salt. I will now forever call this recipe Justine's Brownies. :)

    On the prowl for Valrhona!

  9. @Trinity: *love*! Great idea to add coffee, too!! Espresso, next time. :)

  10. I made these brownies too and loved them. Congratulations on the award!

  11. Congrats on the award and mmmm those look tasty!

  12. Thank you for the shoutout! And oh my gosh, thank you for the brownie recipe! Once my kitchen is reassembled, I will have to make those!

  13. Somehow I missed this the first time around! Thanks for the shout-out!

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