27 April 2009

Chocolate Treat

Sometimes the world needs a little chocolate.

I wasn't much of a chocolate person until I sat next to a self-proclaimed chocolate addict back when I was a newspaper reporter. Colleagues knew she loved chocolate so much they'd bring her little candies and chocolate treats. She had the kind of self-discipline, however, that allowed her to indulge. She'd hit the gym on her lunch break, and she'd set aside the little candies on her desk waiting for the late-afternoon energy dip.

I, on the other hand, could not let any piece of food -- be it chocolate or cheese -- sit there teasing me for hours before I chose to indulge. Perhaps I have other admirable qualities, but willpower is not one of them.

Slowly, she converted me, even if I couldn't save a piece for later to save my life.

So now that I consider myself a "chocolate person," I thought it best that I have a good brownie recipe in my stash.

I'm not sure any brownie will compare to the ones we made at ATT that were about four-inches square and contained copious amounts of dark chocolate. But I think this recipes makes a brownie fit for a good Sundae. The results are a dense chocolate bar that holds its structure fairly well -- the one thing the boxed variety doesn't seem to have.

Next time you make brownies, take a tip from the pros and line your pan with parchment paper (you may need to grease the pan anyways). Then, when the brownies are baked and completely cooled, invert the pan and slide the entire thing right out and place it upright on the counter. Then, cut away the outer half-inch or so and cut your squares from that. This will leave you with uniform brownies, which look much more beautiful on a white plate than the dingy pan anyways. (And don't throw away those trimmings. They are usually a little crisp, so crumble them up and use them to top ice cream!)

This recipe called for hazelnuts, which I left out because I wasn't sure if my crowd was of the nut-eating variety. And instead of chunks of chocolate, I simply used dark chocolate chips, which seemed to work just fine. If you're not familiar with creme de cacao, it's a chocolate-flavored liqueur. Before Godiva and Starbucks got into the liqueur-making business, creme de cacao was the staple for cocktails. And, thank goodness, it's much cheaper that the name-brand varieties.

Whether you turn your brownie into a sundae or just eat the thing alone, it's hard not to savor just a quick moment of bliss. Chocolate can do wonders. One other thing about that old co-worker who savored her chocolate treats: She was always happy.

Triple-Sin Brownies
From Lari Robling's Endangered Recipes: Too Good to be Forgotten
1 1/3 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter

1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon creme de cacao
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

1 ounce semisweet chocolate, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray and 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, sift or blend together flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat well. Add vanilla and creme de cacao. Mix well. Blend in nuts and chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Makes 9 brownies.

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