Deborah's Killer Brownies

mmm...brownies...

The brownie recipe on the box of Hershey's cocoa (that's plain unsweetened cooking cocoa, not the kind where you just add water for a nice cup of muck) is a pretty good one, and it has the virtue of being quick. So is the Katherine Hepburn brownie recipe -- you might be able to do a search on it, or Laurie Colwin's book More Home Cooking has it.

But surely the most killer brownies of all time are the ones I bake up for my book group every month.

Beat one to one and a quarter cup (depending on if you like your brownies deep and moody or sweeter and cheerier) of sugar with two eggs and a dash of salt for 15 minutes. Unless you're Amish, you're going to need some electric help with this.

Meanwhile, melt eight ounces of semisweet and unsweetened chocolate with one stick of butter in a pot. The proportion of semi to un depends, again, on your own preferences and what you have in the cupboard. 5 semi to 3 un is good, but you can do four and four -- lean toward that extra quarter cup of sugar in this case. 3 semi to 5 un is territory I have yet to tread, even at that time of the month. Proceed at your own risk and expect to lose a little skin off your tongue. (I'm not here to pass judgment on your idea of a good time.) As for the butter, some purists insist on unsalted. I think the salt in salted brings out the flavor of the chocolate, but again, I'm not the boss of you. Do as you see fit, and don't blame me if the party ends early and abruptly.

Most people insist on using a double boiler for melting chocolate. I happen to think they're scaredy-cats, but whatever. The fact that I have no dishwasher and my double boiler is way way in the back of my pot cupboard and undoubtedly harboring a thriving colony of silverfish may have something to do with my prejudice here. If you do melt your chocolate in a single pot, though, use a heavy-bottomed one. (No heavy-bottom comments from the peanut gallery, please.) And use the tiniest lick of flame you can get. If you cook with electric, you're past my help. Stir a lot (gently -- melted chocolate spattering onto your eyeball is even less fun than it sounds like), and take the pot off the heat before the chocolate's completely melted. Stir it some more until it decides to finish the melting job on its own, lecturing it on the virtues of self-responsibility to wear it into submission if necessary, and then stir it even more, since you're in the swing of it by now and to cool it off to lukewarm.

When it's completely cooled, stir it into the beaten egg mixture, using one of those rubber spatula dealies. Stir in a quarter cup of cake flour (you can use the regular kind, I guess, if you want), a teaspoon of vanilla (if you use the "imitation" kind because it's cheaper, or if you have some untreatable neurological condition that makes you think "imitation" is just like the real thing, please do not darken my door step. some things are WORTH PAYING FULL PRICE FOR, dad gum it! did you ask for a discount on your KID? buy the store's brand if you want to save a few cents, but if it doesn't say real vanilla, IT AIN'T VANILLA! you wouldn't want to tool around town in an "imitation" CAR, would you? WOULD you?), and a cup of chocolate chips or, even better, hunks of chocolate you've hacked right off a bar of your favorite dark chocolate. (What do you mean, you don't like dark chocolate? It's always gotta be about you, doesn't it?)

You can use a square pan; I use a round cake pan, but that's a decision every adult has to make for herself. Go back in time and preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and then do some research to explain to my satisfaction why my keyboard has no degree symbol, forcing me to waste precious seconds typing out the entire word "degrees" what is it, twice now? Bake the brownies for twenty-five minutes and then check them. Whoa, whoa, hang on there, Tex -- I didn't say take them out, just check them. You know -- poke them in the belly (use your finger -- toothpicks are for sissies), jiggle the pan a bit, ask them how they're feeling. If you like them "slumped," as the English say (that is, soft in the middle, like so many of us), take them out when they still have a little give to them. Otherwise, leave them in five or ten minutes more. Let them cool for as long as you can stand to. As far as I'm concerned, life is way too short to spend waiting for the darned brownies to cool. I have been known to cut just one out of the pan, throw it (cursing and screaming about my burning fingers) onto a plate, and put it in the freezer for a few minutes to bring it down to a manageable temperature. I've read recipes that suggest letting brownies cool for six hours, but that's just ridiculous. I mean, I didn't wait that long for my own baby to be born, and he didn't come out smelling half as good as a batch of brownies.

If you're some kind of sick pinko freak, you can eat these with something (frosting, heavy cream, whatever). Normal people recognize perfection when they see it and understand it needs no embellishment.

You could probably gussy these up a bit, once you've got them down pat. Try adding a little peppermint extract, especially in the winter, or chopped-up peppermint patties (mmm), or stir in some caramel with or instead of the chocolate chips. If you can find some really high-quality dried cherries, they go achingly well with dark chocolate. If you insist on adding walnuts, fine. Just don't tell me about it.

Serves one.

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