By Cal Orey
From the author of
The Healing Powers of Chocolate...
As we edge into pre-spring with days full of rain and snow, a traditional brownie is not to be ignored. A brownie is a square baked treat that can be cakey or fudgy...The brownie was a household word in America back in the 20th century. Brownies are often enjoyed as snacks, also popular in restaurants and coffee shops. On the South Shore, I’ve purchased brownies at Starbucks, baked them from a brownie mix, and ordered brownies online. This time around I made a batch from scratch.
Several years ago, my former neighbor, best friend, and pet sitter watched my senior Brittany and cat while I went to Reno to shop. I bought framed art, clothes, a standing mirror, and gourmet brownies. I wasn’t used to living in a place without malls. I was like a kid in a candy store and brought home all the goodies with a smile on my face. When my gal-pal looked at me with her soulful eyes and said, “Do I get one?” I placed a large chocolate square on a plate. She added, “What about Ed?” I couldn’t say no and two large brownies were a gift. After all, this senior woman, a surrogate mother to me, taught me throughout the years that Tahoe locals are self-reliant and DIY became an acronym, and part of my vocabulary. She deserved the brownies.
As time passed, like my mom, I began to bake and cook more and buy ready-made food less. Despite writing a book on chocolate, this was the first time since I was a child that I made brownies from scratch—and I sit here wondering, “Why did I wait?” Baking brownies is easy as making it from a mix in a box. Sometimes going back to nature is best.
Mediterranean Chocolate Chip Brownies
1⁄2 cup European style butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 brown eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons premium coffee, brewed
½-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup milk or dark chocolate chips
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Whipped cream for garnish
Toppings: Nuts, berries, chocolate curls, vanilla, coffee, or Mediterranean Mint gelato for pairing with brownies.
Use an 8” by 8” glass baking dish and lightly grease with the butter. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream melted, butter with sugar. Add eggs, beaten, vanilla, and coffee. Mix in cocoa powder, flour, and baking powder till smooth. Fold in chips. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Do not over bake or these brownies will not be chewy. Cool, place in refrigerator, for about an hour to help make the texture less cake-like. Before serving dust with sugar and cut into rustic chunky squares. Serve with whipped cream and/or toppings. Makes about 16-20. (They freeze well plain if put in an airtight container.)
These brownies are worth making all by yourself because you can add good chocolate, and real butter and exclude artificial ingredients. Less is more (there is sugar and fat), and adding nutritious nuts, berries, and calcium-rich gelato gives it Mediterranean diet flair. The rich, chocolaty flavor of these moist brownies are decadent and guaranteed to make your kitchen smell like a bakery. While my good neighbor has since moved, maybe I’ll whip up a new batch for the new neighbors arriving this spring.