When Epiphany slipped past a few days ago, the Holidays were Officially Over. Whereupon we began the long slog through The Rest of Winter.
It’s going to give us lots of time to think over resolutions we’ve perhaps made, should have made, or at least thought about. I’m endeavoring to get through these cold days as actively as possible. The dogs need to get out every day, and, honestly, so do I. I bundle up; we sally forth. I feel virtuous, and they feel like, well, dogs. Happier ones.
One day while the daughter was here, we went down to my favorite hiking area right on the river, where a cold day was that much colder. Doing anything physical in cold weather seems to burn higher numbers of calories, be it shoveling snow, especially in amounts we’ve had this winter, or shouldering into today’s gale-force (I’m not exaggerating) wind with the dogs, who really don’t care what the weather is as long as they are out and running. On the other hand, it may simply be my imagination. But sometimes I’m content to let perception be reality.
All resolutions aside, you know that at some point, you’re going to want something darkly sweet. You know you will. These brownies are a good indulgence because they are so densely chocolatey that a small piece is extremely satisfying. The hint of mint sweetens the deal. And you don’t even have to use a mixer to make them – think of the effort as working off enough calories to justify eating them.
Maybe even double your caloric expenditure and take the mixing bowls outside.
NEWLY MINTED BROWNIES
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate *
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate *
6 ounces unsalted butter *
1/4 cup cocoa powder *
1 3/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon mint extract
1 cup chocolate chips
* In Step 2 I’m going to explain how to safely melt chocolate in a microwave. It sounds simple enough, but it can be fraught with disaster, as I’ve unfortunately needed to learn the hard way. More than once. Because I know you. You’re going to think, oh I know what I’m doing, it will be fine. But please, take heed. That’s what I tend to think, and it’s been known to lead me into all sorts of unforeseen consequences.
1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
2. Break the bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate into pieces and place them in a microwavable bowl. Cut the butter into 1″ pieces and add them, along with the cocoa powder. You’re going to melt everything in 30-second increments. No longer. Because the point of no return is never far away. After each 30 seconds, remove the bowl and give it a shake. As the contents begin to soften, begin stirring them before adding another 30 seconds.
Within a couple of minutes, you should have something very stirable. Remove the bowl once a d for all from the microwave when you can still see some small pieces of chocolate, and stir, allowing residual heat and friction to finish melting it all. This way you won’t run the risk of scorching the chocolates. Too, it won’t be so hot that you’ll risk scrambling the eggs in the next step.
3. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs.
Add the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, whisking well after each.
4. Sift the flour and salt onto a piece of parchment and tip it into your bowl.
Switch to a spatula and stir to blend. Finally, stir in the mint extract and chocolate chips.
5. Line a 9″ square baking pan in both directions with parchment cut to fit its width. The parchment should overhang the edges by a couple of inches. This is an easy, neat way to simply lift the brownies out of the pan when they are done.
Scrape the batter into the pan and use your rubber spatula to level it.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The surface should be shiny, and the center set but not firm. They will set up considerably as they cool.
7. Remove from the oven and use the parchment “handles” to lift the brownies out of the baking pan. Set them on a rack to cool.
If having crisp, sharp edges to your brownies matters to you, wait until they are completely cool and firm before you cut them. Ideally, wrap them and let them sit overnight. On the other hand, if the immediacy of a warm brownie is more important, you can cut them sooner. This is especially nice if you have a moment that needs a great cup of coffee and a little something to go with it on a blustery Rest of Winter afternoon.
Like today. Happy slogging.