In the absence of my actual family, I opted to spend my weekend with a few other warm, wonderful, intelligent, witty, and helpful people, and I won't be regretting their company any time too soon. You see, this week had two important and amazing events: Halloween, and the purchase of my first James Beard award-winning cookbook.
While this new cookbook was not from her, I turn to Ina Garten regularly, especially for hearty party food, and this Halloween she did not disappoint as I turned her Chicken Pot Pie into individual spider pies that did not disappoint my ["eating spiders? AWESOME!"] boys, who gratefully returned late last evening.
They also did not mind Mark Bittman's cabbage and apples masquerading as piles of brains
or the deviled egg eyes that ogled them as they examined their food.
The real winner, though, was this little brownie that did not have a Halloween theme, but did come straight from the James Beard award-winning masterpiece Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. This woman knows her way around sweet kitchen goodness, and I'm pretty sure I would follow her right off the edge of the earth as long as she was holding a baked good from this book. You know how some books have a to-die for recipe for brownies that has a cute variation you can use to mix things up? Ms. Greenspan has twelve, not including the blondies that follow. Yes an even dozen brownie recipes, each worth your time and energy, guaranteeing pleasure with names like Tribute-to-Katherine-Hepburn Brownies, French Chocolate Brownies, Honey-Nut Brownies, Brrrrr-ownies (with peppermint, of course,) and Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia (yes, that Julia.) This doesn't even touch her treatments of breakfast sweets, cakes, cookies, scones, custards, puddings, or cobblers. Over 225 in all, and each one a gem that's not too complex, tastes divine, and is some good home baking. Greenspan's baking is much like Garten's cooking: fairly simple, divinely wholesome, supremely adaptable, and just plain old down home good. It's also full of good baking tips, ideas, and variations on her already divine recipes.
For my first foray, I followed the original recipe exactly, and turned out these:
Quintuple Chocolate Brownies. Now, for those of you who struggle with big words, or are so unaccustomed to using them that I've just blown your mind completely, quintuple means 5. Five.
These are over the top, luscious, sinful, rich, decadent, and surprising, not overwhelming. I'm not suggesting you have an entire pan to yourself, but instead of stopping with one that is just "too much," you might have two.
There are two things that really amaze me about this recipe. The first is the amount of flour in it: 1/2 cup for an 8x8 pan of brownies. Yup, that's it. The second is how easy they are. Now, you do have to melt chocolate slowly in a bowl set over simmering water, but that's so simple, and by the time you finish with that, you're practically done. We're talking cut up butter, chop chocolate, melt, mix in sugar, add eggs and vanilla, dump in flour, cocoa, and salt, then stir in some chocolate and nuts. Done.
Now there is an extra step that might involve making a white chocolate ganache, but I'm totally on the fence about this. I think they'd be fine without it, or you could chop the white chocolate and stir it into the batter. I know they'd only be quadruple chocolate brownies without the ganache (which takes only 1 step, but the way,) but that's a sacrifice I could live with if necessary. I chilled them in the refrigerator overnight because I have a thing about cold brownies, and I was rewarded with the thickest, richest fudgiest brownie I've ever had. I really thought I was eating fudge. Now you know.
Culinarily speaking, Halloween was a winner this year.