We all know how my baking efforts have turned out in the past - for example, this stunningly atrocious attempt at M&M cookies. So I'll be honest: I was pretty nervous going into this, especially since I have never - yes, never - baked brownies from scratch before. Ever. When it comes to baked goods, I hold Betty Crocker near and dear to my heart (the one exception is this incredible banana cake - if you haven't tried it, please do so - it will change your life, I swear). And now that the culinary goddesses reading this have finished fainting in horror, we'll proceed to the actual baking segment of today's post.
I decided to start with a cast of characters shot, ala The Pioneer Woman, to set the mood.
Why yes, that IS imitation vanilla and a wadded up bag of sugar. I never claimed to be good at this whole baking thing.
Only mine is considerably more cluttered and the picture quality grainier, thanks to my poor little point-and-shoot. And you don't see many glasses of wine in the PW's photos. I, on the other hand, find it an essential part of the baking process. Which may explain why my baking efforts often end in tragedy. Anyhoodle...
Step 1: whisk the flour, cinnamon and salt together.
Step 2: melt one stick butter in a saucepan over low heat.
Ah. Butter. Crapballs. This is when I realized that I'd forgotten to look up the USA <-> Australia conversion ratio for butter.
This thing is 250grams. What the hell is a stick? Luckily, onlineconversion came to my rescue and informed me that a stick is roughly this much of 250g:
More or less, anyway. Works for me.
Step 3: when the butter starts to melt, sift the cocoa over it and add the instant coffee. Hmm. Another little problem there. I don't own anything that could be used for sifting. Well, there's the pasta strainer, but I don't think that's really what Dorie was looking for. So I just cheerfully dumped everything into the pan and hoped for the best.
I know you all are probably clutching your pearls for dear life by this point. Sorry about that. I have put a sifter on my List of Kitchen Doodads to Buy.
Step 4: after blending the mixture, then letting it cool for three minutes, beat in the eggs one at a time.
You've gotta love how cheerful Australian eggs are. Yes they came that way from the store, and yes, the majority of eggs sold here are brown. Go figure.
Step 5: stir in the sugar and vanilla without beating anything too vigorously, followed by the dry ingredients.
Step 6: stir in the nuts and chopped chocolate.
Ehhhhh...this was the point where I realized I hadn't chopped anything ahead of time, so I had to take a minute to do that.
I went a little heavy on the nuts. This is what happens when you don't measure before you chop, and then don't want to waste them. Measure first, kids. Do as I say, not as I do, m'kay? Also, do you like the way the camera is focused on the wine glass? I think my subconscious was trying to tell me something...
And then I realized I hadn't coarsely chopped the chocolate. Le sigh.
This is the Aussie version of bittersweet chocolate, apparently - it was either this or dark chocolate (which I loathe with every bone in my body), but there doesn't seem to be anything that's actually bittersweet available.
And this was the point when I realized that I had no idea how many grams it took to make 4 ounces. Back to onlineconversion!
PSA: it's about 18 of these squares, should you ever be stuck in Australia with nothing to do but bake brownies.
Hopefully this is "coarsely chopped":
Step 6 repeat: stir in the nuts and chopped chocolate.
Step 7: scrape the batter into a pan. Scrape is right - like I said, I'd never made brownies from scratch and at this stage I was kind of freaking out because the batter was so thick. Betty Crocker's is like chocolate soup.
Step 8: Bake for 30 minutes, at which point the brownies will still be gooey but the top will have a dry papery crust (I like my brownies on the chewy side, so I gave them an extra 5 minutes - the end result was just the way I like them). Transfer the pan to a rack and let the brownies cool for at least 30 minutes. Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the paper and invert onto a cutting board.
Step 9: Cool completely before cutting into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side.
The end result? I liked them! They were flatter and denser than Betty Crocker's brownies, presumably because of the lack of a rising agent, but they were chewy and moist and crammed full of nuts (which I know many people dislike, but I'm a bit of a nut fiend). Altogether, not bad for my first brownies-from-scratch attempt!
From Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorrie Greenspan
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons finely ground instant coffee
- 2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup broken or chopped walnuts or pecans
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper. Butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan on a baking sheet.
- Whisk the flour, cinnamon, if you’re using it, and salt together.
- Put the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and place the pan over low heat. When the butter starts to melt, sift the cocoa over it and add the instant coffee. Continue to cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the cocoa and coffee are blended into it. Remove from the heat and cool for about 3 minutes.
- Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, beat the eggs into the saucepan one at a time. Next, stir in the sugar and vanilla (don’t beat anything too vigorously — you don’t want to add air to the batter), followed by the dry ingredients, nuts and chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, at which point the brownies will still be gooey but the top will have a dry papery crust. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the brownies cool for at least 30 minutes. (You can wait longer, if you’d like.) Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the paper and invert onto a cutting board. Cool completely before cutting into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side.