Brownies 101: Taking care of yourself starts with chocolate

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In times of uncertainty, it’s important to take a moment to think about the simpler things in our lives that give us true pleasure. Family and friends? Absoutely. Good health and happy children? You bet. Sensual sunsets and fall foliage? Thank you so much. But right now, I prefer to focus on another joy: chocolate.

While chocolate is not a panacea, let’s be frank. Chocolate is a delight to eat. It can also be healthy (in moderation, straight and preferably as dark as possible). Chocolate is considered an antioxidant. According to the Mayo Clinic, the main ingredient in chocolate, cocoa, contains flavanols that fight cell damage and may help lower blood pressure. Chocolate also makes your brain release endorphins, the beneficial chemicals that make you happy. Now, that doesn’t mean you should overdo chocolate, but in the spirit of simple pleasures, chocolate ranks high on the list, along with a few healthy properties to boot.

I’ll be honest: this recipe is for a soft brownie, not a 100% sustainably sourced unsweetened dark chocolate bar. The chocolate / flour ratio in this recipe is very unbalanced (chocolate wins), resulting in a rich and dense brownie. In other words, it’s barely fat and sugar free. However, this recipe falls into the category of gourmet delicacies to be consumed in moderation. (Tip: Cut them into bite-size pieces. That way you can eat two of them.) More importantly, when you serve them to your friends and loved ones, it will make them smile. And nowadays, making those who are near and dear to us smile is another genuine pleasure.

Ideally, prepare these brownies a day before serving. (I know, I know, that’s a big request, so no judgmental if you can’t wait.) Overnight cooling will allow them to set, ensuring an easy, neat cut and a dense, melting interior.

Variegated fondant brownies

Makes about 36 small brownies

INGREDIENTS

1 cup unsalted butter, plus a little more to grease the pan

12 ounces of high quality (70%) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs, room temperature

1½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper with a 2 inch overhang on opposite ends for easy removal.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or heatproof bowl placed over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from fire.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until frothy and light in color. Add chocolate and vanilla and mix. Add the flour and stir to combine without over-mixing.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is set and starting to crack, and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean, 30 to 35 minutes. (The brownies will be tender.) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Run a knife around the edges of the brownies to loosen them from the pan, then cover the pan with foil and refrigerate overnight. (This step is optional, but it will allow you to cut clean squares.) The next day, remove the brownies from the pan by lifting the parchment paper from the sides. Cut into small squares. Store brownies in the fridge and they’ll be good for up to a week, if they last that long.

Lynda Balslev is a San Francisco Bay Area cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer.


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