Baking Brownies

Yesterday, My Pirate took the morning shift with Barnaby and let me (and The Assistant) sleep three extra hours.  My Pirate woke me up by delivering a fresh cup of sweetened strong coffee and Barnaby greeted me with puppy kisses and a nibble.  Oh, those itchy puppy teeth!  And I felt like every atom of my being was aligned and ready to go.

As we chatted over coffee and eggs, I watched the big fat rain drops blanket our garden and decided to put off planting my new plants.  And instead, the urge to bake brownies took hold.   One of my favorite things to do on a rainy afternoon is to bake brownies and share them.  I savor the whole process and allow myself one warm chocolaty square with a cup of coffee. 

I’m a sucker for a new brownie recipe.  And I have a recipe for every brownie mood.  Yesterday, I felt like making a rich nutty brownie with a crisp shattered top, so I made Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts. As I measured out the ingredients, I hummed to Barnaby sitting on my feet. 

My Pirate walked into the kitchen and asked, “Are you showing off?”

And I laughed, “They’re just brownies.”   

“Mmm-hmmm.  You’re taking those to physical therapy today.” He replied.

“And to the vet,” I quipped.

“So, you are showing off,” he stated.

I simply waved him out of the kitchen after that.  Is it possible to show off with a simple brownie?  I’d never really considered it.  But, this recipe is my favorite brownie to bring to parties, diced up small in a pretty glass bowl. 

One small bite packs a rich nutty flavor followed by a wave of bitter chocolate and then it finishes off with the astringency of the toasted walnuts.  It packs a wallop of flavor and one bite is enough unlike those boxed brownie mixes that leave you unsatisfied and reaching for another brownie.  Oh no, these brownies deliver big flavor in a small bite.  And that’s the way that I like it.  And if that is showing off, so be it. 

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts
Ever so slightly adapted from Alice Medrich in Bon Appetite Magazine

                 Nonstick vegetable oil spray
            10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
            1 1/4 cups sugar—I used vanilla sugar
            3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into measuring cup)
            1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
               2 large eggs, chilled
            1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
pinch of espresso powder
2 teaspoons of water
¼ teaspoon (generous) salt
            1 cup walnut pieces-toasted in 325 degree oven for ten minutes

Preheat oven to 325°F. Pour walnuts on cookie sheet and toast in oven for approximately 10 minutes.

Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with foil or parchment paper, leaving an overhang.  Spray with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, for about five minutes, until it foams and then turns brown.  Take the pan off the heat and pour in the sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and salt.  Stir.  Then let it cool for 5 minutes.

Stir in eggs, one at a time making sure that they are completely combined.  Then mix in the flour.  Beat it vigorously for 60 strokes.  Then add the nuts.  Pour the mixture into the pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Mine took 35 minutes.  Cool on a rack.  Remove the brownies using the foil overhang.  DO AHEAD:  These brownies freeze nicely.  Unthaw on the counter.  Then share.