Lynda Balslev: Self-care with chocolate
In uncertain times, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the simpler things in our lives that bring us genuine pleasure. Family and friends? Absolutely. Good health and thriving children? You bet. Sultry sunsets and autumn foliage? Thank you very much. But right now, I prefer to focus on another joy: chocolate.
While chocolate is not a cure-all, let’s be frank. Chocolate is a delight to eat. It can also be healthy (in moderation, straight up, and preferably as dark as you can take it). Chocolate is believed to be an antioxidant. According to the Mayo Clinic, chocolate’s main ingredient, cocoa, contains flavanols that fight cell damage and may help to lower blood pressure. Chocolate also causes your brain to release endorphins, those feel-good chemicals, which make you feel happy. Now, this is not to say you should overindulge in chocolate, but in the spirit of simple pleasures, chocolate ranks near the top of the list, with a few healthy properties to boot.
I will be honest: This recipe is about a fudgy brownie and not a bar of unsweetened 100% sustainably sourced dark chocolate. The ratio of chocolate to flour in this recipe is wildly out of balance (chocolate wins), which yields a rich and dense brownie. In other words, it’s hardly fat- and sugar-free. This recipe does, however, fall into the category of a luscious treat to enjoy in moderation. (Tip: Cut them in small bites. That way you can eat two.) More important, when you serve them to your friends and loved ones, it will bring a smile to their faces. And these days, generating smiles on the faces of people who are near and dear to us is another genuine pleasure.
Ideally, make these brownies one day ahead of serving. (I know, I know, this is a big ask, so no judgment if you can’t wait.) The overnight chill will allow them to set, ensuring easy and neat cutting and a dense, fudgy interior.
Cure-all Fudgy Brownies
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: Makes about 36 small brownies
1 cup unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
12 ounces high-quality dark chocolate (70%), coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch-square baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper with a 2-inch overhang at opposite ends for easy removal.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from the heat.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy and light in color. Add the chocolate and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir to combine without overmixing.
Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake until the top is set and beginning to crack, and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out nearly clean, 30 to 35 minutes. (The brownies will be fudgy.) Transfer to a rack and cool completely.
Run a knife around the edge of the brownies to loosen 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 the lifting parchment paper at the sides. Cut in small squares. Keep the brownies stored in the refrigerator, and they’ll be good for up to one week — if they last that long.
Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay area
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