Conventional wisdom says that baking requires precision, whereas with cooking you can eyeball it and go by instinct. I am more of a cook than a baker. Which probably explains why my baked goods tend to be OK, but never quite what I’m hoping for.
Having recently lost a family pet, I conceived a sudden, grief-induced craving for brownies the other night. Lurching recklessly about the kitchen, I threw them together in what felt almost like a drunken stupor. Brownies are hard to ruin, but I made a heroic effort. Here are my 10-step instructions for Reckless Brownies…
1. Preheat oven. Consider yourself off to a good start because you preheated the oven. Consult favorite recipe and decide to double it, but choose arbitrarily not to double the butter.
2. Put a cold stick of butter straight into the microwave to soften it, and hope it doesn’t turn into a puddle and leak out of the paper. Cook it about twenty seconds. After butter is already soft, check the cabinet for cocoa and realize you only have about two tablespoons. Forge ahead in the knowledge that there are chocolate chips in the pantry. Rip open a bag and pour some chips into a measuring cup. Blast them for ten seconds at a time until they melt, stirring with a chopstick.
3. Dump dripping butter into a small bowl; add the melted chocolate chips and vanilla and cocoa. Try futilely to mix with a rubber scraper. Add 2 cups of sugar before butter is completely mixed with chocolate. Try to mix the whole mess together without success and realize it’s too thick to stir.
4. Meanwhile, put one cup flour in a large bowl, and daringly upend the Morton’s salt container over it until you have 1 teaspoon salt. Probably you have more than that, but who’s going to know? Forget to blend them together, and forget to add the baking powder in the recipe.
5. Go back to the butter/chocolate/sugar mixture and realize you have yet to add the eggs. Aha! That will loosen things up. Crack two eggs over the mess, not considering that the residual heat might begin to cook the eggs, and go at it with the hand mixer. Watch it turn an unappetizing shade of light grey. Not very chocolatey! However, note with approval that it seems kind of fluffy. Keep mixing, hoping that the sugar will dissolve fully, even though it won’t.
6. Scrape the grey stuff into the bowl with the flour, finally using the rubber scraper for its intended purpose. Lick the spoon, scraper, beaters and the odd chopstick that by now have all become enrobed in various chocolatey substances. Recklessly ignore the fact that the mixture contains raw eggs in favor of the fact that it is composed of sugar, butter and chocolate.
7. Fold in the flour, feeling superior because you know how to fold in, but with a sneaking suspicion that bravado does not make for successful baking. Fold in some chopped almonds (having failed to locate any walnuts) and pour in some more chocolate chips to augment the chocolate flavor. Resist the temptation to dump the whole bag in, thinking that if the brownies are horrid, at least there will be a few chocolate chips left.
8. Spray a 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray that tastes and smells awful but which you use anyway, because there is nothing worse than baked goods that stick. Hope that you won’t be able to taste the spray once it’s baked. Scrape the brownie mixture into the pan, and attempt to spread it over the whole surface. When mixture only covers eight tenths of surface, spread some more until it seems dangerously thin. Give up and leave the corners unfilled.
9. Place pan in the by-now piping hot oven. Set the timer for, oh, twenty minutes. Go check blog.
10. Check pan after twenty minutes and find that the mixture has puffed up like a soufflé, with a crackly top, and filled the corners. Test with a knife and discover that despite the crackly top, the inside is still liquid. Set timer for another ten minutes. Go check blog. Repeat, setting timer for an additional five minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
This procedure (I hesitate to call it a “recipe”) miraculously resulted in the best brownies I’ve ever baked. They just may be the best brownies I’ve ever tasted. I’m a brownie partisan, and I go for the chewy type. I didn’t feel the slightest need to frost these, because they are already so good in their pristine, naked state. A case of accidental perfection. But… how do I make them again?
Just in case any of you wants to try this at home, here is my list of ingredients. As best I can remember them.
Oven 350F, for approximately 35 minutes.
1 stick butter, softened in the microwave until still solid but dangerously warm
2 eggs, cold
2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt (roughly)
2 teaspoons vanilla (sort of)
about 2 T Hershey’s cocoa
about 1/3 cup Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in the microwave
large handful of unsalted almonds, chopped
large handful of chocolate chips