Man, I had a tough week last week.
It was a combination of things. First things first, my family was in town. While I love my family, it's always a little bit stressful hosting them as they require a lot of hand-holding in terms of entertainment, figuring out what to do, etc. In addition to taking care of all the planning and activities, I basically played chauffeur all week. If you know me in real life, you know what a foul mood driving around will make me since I tend to avoid it at all costs (I bike to work everyday, rain or shine). Needless to say, I was pretty exhausted when we said our goodbyes.
My family's visit to Portland also happened to coincide with Saveur Magazine's Best Food Blog Awards Ceremony. A few months ago, I was absolutely thrilled to find out that my blog was a finalist for the ceremony's Best Desserts & Baking Blog category. As a finalist, I was invited to attend a ceremony recognizing all the winners and finalists hosted by Saveur in Las Vegas's famous Bellagio hotel. The invitation promised two days of amazing food tours, as well as the chance to be in the company of some of the world's best bloggers and important people in the food industry in general.
After several weeks of hemming, hawing, and discussion with both friends and family, I decided to forgo the invitation to the ceremony and instead spend the time with my family. For several reasons: 1) my parents were coming from abroad (by way of a 13 hour+ flight) to visit, 2) it was my dad and brother's first time in Portland, and 3) I hadn't seen any of them since Christmas (or in the case of my brother, since 2009). Family is more important, right?
And although I know that I made the right choice, it still sucked looking at Saveur Magazine's and other invited bloggers' instagram pictures, tweets, and posts of the extravagant event. I know I should have blocked my instagram feed or something, but the masochist in me just kept monitoring the event hashtag and staring at the pictures of awesome meals, incredible views of Vegas, and most importantly, bloggers I admired all together, looking like they were having the time of their lives. And to spend just two days being treated like a star, especially considering how much time and effort I've put into this blog? It would have been the experience of a lifetime — most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity. One that I passed up.
And it was with those gloomy thoughts in mind that I found myself baking a batch of brownies:
When times get tough, I do what I always do: I bake brownies. Sure, I love desserts of all kind, but nothing can cheer me up like a brownie and a tall glass of milk.
These brownies, recommended by my coworker Alanna (who knows the best recipes), are the best recipe I've ever made: Nick's Supernatural Brownies. Intensely, unapologetically chocolatey. Almost pure unadulterated fudge, yet topped off with the papery, flaky top that is the signature of the best brownies. Supernatural brownies, indeed. I found myself eating almost the entire pan on Thursday night. And it helped a lot. Eating your feelings away always does, right?
Especially when you eat them away with brownies.
A few baker's notes:
- I've never seen brownies that have brown sugar in the recipe, and this recipe uses the brown sugar to great effect. The brown sugar adds a subtle caramel flavor and texture that gives these brownies their unique taste and fudgy texture.
- Under any circumstances, DO NOT OVERMIX THE BROWNIE BATTER. Doing so will result in tough, hard brownies that will make me cry for you. Simply fold together the ingredients until they are just incorporated. Ideally, you should still have one or two small flour streaks left in the batter when you transfer the batter to the baking pan.
- Word on the internets is that these brownies improve over time; you're supposed to let them sit overnight before consuming so that the flavors really soak in and you're left with an ultra, caramelly, chocolatey brownie. But good luck holding off a whole night with these babies.
(makes one 9 x 13-inch baking pan)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Preheat the oven to 350 (F), and prepare your baking pan by spraying with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and grease paper. Set pan aside.
- In a double boiler (or, a homemade version with a heatproof bowl sitting on top of a saucepan), combine 16 tablespoons unsalted butter with 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to stir constantly until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 eggs in a large bowl. Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt. Whisk until fully incorporated — the mixture should be a golden tan color. Whisk in the chocolate mixture (from the second step).
- Once the mixture is a uniform dark brown, use a rubber spatula to fold in 1 cup flour. Be careful not to overmix during this part! Simply fold in until the flour is incorporated —it's okay to have one or two small flour streaks left in the batter.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, using the rubber spatula to spread evenly. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack, preferably overnight, before cutting and serving.