Cocoa Brownies

Med school is hard.

I don’t mean in a study-all-the-time-and-sleep-for-4-hours-if-you-want-to-not-get-yelled-at-the-next-day-for-not-knowing-the-answer-to-the-question-you-didn’t-know-existed-because-it-wasn’t-in-the-book-you-read kind of way. I don’t even mean in a four-years-of-misery-to-graduate-100,000-dollars-in-debt-and-an-M.D.-after-your-name-that-means-nothing-if-you-don’t-submit-yourself-to-cheap-labor-in-the-form-of-residency kind of way. Not an everyone-else-my-age-is-vacationing-with-spending-money-to-boot-and-possibly-getting-engaged-and-having-babies-before-the-risk-of-conceiving-difficulties-and-congenital-abnormalities-skyrockets-at-age-35 kind of way either.

I mean in a I-have-no-social-life-and-therefore-bake-solely-for-my-lonesome-self-and-sometimes-Boy-except-he-has-3-of-something-max-because-he’s-health-conscious-and-I-have-to-eat-the-rest kind of waybecause-I’m-the-chub-chub way.

Here’s the thing. I read blogs. Blogs of women who are married, who have families, who have jobs with coworkers, who have neighbors/friends who throw get-togethers or have birthdays. I? Am not one of those people.

Marriage/families? P’shaw! I have apparently chosen the life of a career-driven human being who may or may not be thought of as a workaholic except it’s not really by choice anymore. Coworkers? Not likely! While I would love to give residents and attendings some baked treats, it isn’t appropriate in terms of grading. And besides, you can’t bring treats for some without bringing for the whole class, can you? Where would it end? Residents? Attendings? Nurses? And neighbors? Haven’t spoken to a single one. Mostly because I’m holed up in my cocoon of staring at books and doing questions at all times. Also because one of them tends to yell and scream and an FBI agent came by once asking if I knew anything about her (true story that I’ll save for later). Friends? Yes, I have those. But we’re all so busy nowadays and have such varied schedules that we don’t even always celebrate birthdays anymore.

So I’m stuck with me, Boy, and sometimes my family. Except right now. Because my mom won’t eat chocolate during Lent. And all I seem to want to bake is chocolate things. Oh, the irony. Buuuuuut, I don’t really mind eating an entire batch of brownies by myself. So, GO LENT!

These brownies are quite possibly my quintessential brownie. No solid chocolate whatsoever because no fat added from cocoa butter in the chocolate bars means you control the fat content completely. The top was hard and chewy and the inside literally melted in my mouth and lingered on my tongue. It’s one of those things that you can eat over an extended period of time, little morsel by little morsel, because it’s so good you don’t want to waste any tiny bit of it on a hastily scarfed down bite.

I’m already craving another one just thinking about it. Except I already ate them all.

Best Cocoa Brownies
adapted from smitten kitchen who adapted it from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

Makes 16.

10 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/4 c sugar
3/4 c plus 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, cold
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2/3 c walnut or pecan pieces (optional) [I dislike nuts in my brownies.]

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside until the mixture is warm to the touch.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Stir in the nuts, if using [ewww]. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until toothpick comes out slightly moist with batter, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. [Or if you can’t wait, just dig in. That’s what I do. Brownies are best warm and still oven-gooey in my humble opinion.]

[Helpful hint: It’s MUCH easier to get a cleaner cut in brownies if you use a plastic knife. You’ll thank me later.]

MMMMMMMM-mmmmm good!!

– Sharlene


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