Extreme Comfort Brownies

I made these brownies at the end of what had been a tough week for some of my friends.  Nothing makes me feel better faster than a gift of comforting baked goods.  Especially if they’re made of chocolate.  This comfort recipe is an embellishment on the traditional brownie, and has an extreme amount of frosting.  It’s fab.  I doubled the recipe here to make two 8-inch pans, but you can halve this easily if you wish.  For this recipe I also used unsalted butter for once, so I did end up adding salt to the mix, which I usually don’t do.  Go with your own preferences on this one.

Line your two pans with foil and spray them evenly with vegetable oil or cooking spray.  Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Sift together in a large measuring cup 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder.

In a large heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler if you’ve got one), melt 4 squares (1 ounce each) baking chocolate (your preference as to sweetness) together with 2/3 cup butter.

I also had some leftover Nutella lying around so I added that as well, about 4 tablespoons.

When it’s all melted and smooth, remove it from the heat and allow the bowl and its contents to cool slightly before stirring in 2 cups granulated sugar.

Add 4 eggs and beat until blended.  For a lighter-textured brownie, beat the eggs more thoroughly.  For a denser brownie, beat the eggs a little less. 

Pour in 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

Add your flour mixture and stir it up, then spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the pan comes out clean.  Place the pan on a rack to cool completely before lifting out the giant brownie blocks.

Now, you can just leave them plain at this point, or dust them with icing sugar, or you can frost them.  I’m going with frosting.  More chocolate means more comfort.  Honest.

While the brownies are cooling, cream together 6 tablespoons softened butter with 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder.  An electric mixer helps with this part.

Alternating and adding a bit at a time, stir in 4 cups confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) and 6 tablespoons milk.  Blend it until smooth and the right texture for spreading. 

I think I added more milk than was required to get the right texture.

When you get it to your preference, add in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix that up as well.

Remove the brownies from the pan and separate them from the foil lining.  Spread the frosting generously across the tops of the brownie.  And I’m serious when I tell you to be generous.

Cut the brownie into small squares and pop them in the refrigerator so the frosting can harden a little.

You can keep them at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for a little while.  Kristopf ate all of the leftovers, however, so I’m not sure how long that little while actually is.

Margarine Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies?  While I’m not the cookie monster that the Pie is, I sure enjoy making them.

This recipe comes from The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie by Gwen Steege, and it’s pretty much the only recipe that the Pie and I use from this book.

It’s also the only reason we buy margarine, for that matter.  Well, that, and grilled cheese sandwiches.

This recipe is actually called “Chocolate Chip Cookies II”, which isn’t all that descriptive, so we call them margarine cookies, as that is the key ingredient.  The consistency of your margarine will determine the ultimate consistency of your cookies, so super-firm stuff will give you big puffy cookies, while the stuff that is more slippery will give you more flat cookies.

These cookies are also dependent on adequate beating with an electric mixer or stand mixer for their fluffy nature.

Keep in mind that cookie batter is pretty basic, and if you aren’t a fan of chocolate chips, you can stick in lots of other things.  When Kelly, Kª’s sister, was in town, I ran out of chocolate chips and so made a conglomeration of baker’s chocolate chunks, raisins, and nuts, and it was very popular.  While I called them ‘garbage cookies’ at the time, she has given them the more gentile name of ‘cupboard cookies.’  When I make these regularly I like to put in a combination of milk chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips for variety.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a bowl, sift together 3 cups flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda.  Set aside.

In another bowl, combine 1 cup margarine, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 firmly packed brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 teaspoon water.  Beat with an electric mixer for about two minutes until it is creamy.

And seriously you have to wait the full two minutes.  If your batter is dark, you haven’t mixed enough.

Add 2 eggs and beat until fluffy.  Don’t forget to scrape down the sides of your bowl.

Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients a bit at a time.  Once all the mixture is added, beat for another two minutes until smooth and well-blended.

Stir in 3 cups (18 oz) chocolate chips.  I recommend doing this part by hand.  My mixer makes horrid crunchy noises when I use it for this step.

You can keep your dough covered in the refrigerator overnight or you can bake them right away.  You do have the choice.

Drop the dough in heaping teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets.  I like to use a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop for this job.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the middle of your oven, rotating the pan halfway through for even cooking.

Do not over-bake.  Remove the cookies from the oven when they are lightly brown and crisp on the bottom.  They may seem slightly undercooked, but it’s a lie. 

They will continue to cook as they cool on the baking sheet for another few minutes, and they’re supposed to be nice and chewy.  Then remove them to paper towels or a rack to cool completely.  Makes a couple dozen.

Alternately, plop your dough in cookie-sized balls on a baking sheet and pop it in the freezer.  Once the mounds are frozen you can seal them tightly in a plastic bag, with baking instructions written on it, and keep them that way for a couple of months.  Simply allow them to defrost completely before baking.