Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Books and brownies

Whoops. So much for my unannounced resolution of writing more blogs this year. Guess I can start that now?

Following on the heels of my previous post, I have come up with an aspirational plan for my reading this year: To make as many as possible of the books I read this year be by authors who are not white males. I want to read more books by women, more foreign fiction and poetry, more works by people of color - more that make me see outside my normal bubble. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with reading books by western white males - I certainly have my eyes on several upcoming books by favorite authors of that ilk - but I don't want to get stuck in a rut. I think I do a fair job of this normally, but I want it to be intentional, I want to notice that I am doing it. It shouldn't be too hard - just by cruising through my Goodreads to read list for a few minutes, I can easily come up with a year's worth of books to keep me reading. I will try to post some of what I read here - remind me if I don't!

And I promised brownies, didn't I? If you have been with me for any length of time, you know I love baking. I like trying new things, but there are days when I want something easy, something quick, and something I know everyone in the house will eat. Today was one of those days. I needed to bake something, since there was a serious lack of proper dessert items in the house, but couldn't muster the mental energy to find and try something new. When I asked Malcolm what to make, he wanted brownies. I used to dread trying to make brownies, since it seemed to require big chunks of baking chocolate and lots of stirring and mixing. I am not sure what recipe I was looking at, but I remember brownies being too much work. Then I found my current recipe from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook; it is almost as easy as making brownies from a box mix, and much better tasting. I thought I would share, in case you too are in need of a quick, easy brownie recipe.

Cocoa Brownies
Prep: 10 minutes (perhaps more, if baking with small children)  Bake: 25 minutes

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) (You can also substitute coconut oil 1:1 for butter. I used half and half this time and it made the brownies just a little nutty, in a good way)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts (4 ounces) coarsely chopped (optional - I never add them, since we are in the "no nuts in brownies" camp, but I am sure they would be good, if you like that sort of thing)
Sprinkles (Malcolm's addition to the recipe, also optional. They do make regular brownies festive)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan (this always seems too large, but always seems to be just right in the end. I bet you could try an 8-inch pan too). In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.
2. In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Stir in eggs, one at a time, until well blended; add vanilla. Stir in walnuts, if using. Top with sprinkles, if using.
3. Bake until toothpick inserted 2 inches from center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. (It has always been exactly 25 minutes in my oven). Cool pan completely on wire rack; don't cut them yet. Just don't do it.
4. When cool, cut into as many pieces as you want. (The recipe suggests 16, I usually go for 20, but then I am trying to keep a three year old and a brownie obsessed grandmother from eating too large of pieces).

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