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Mark Bittman’s Brownies with Raspberry Jam Glaze

June 26, 2010

While we luxuriated in our new summer setup (which basically involves adapting our downstairs into a much-easier-and-more-economical-to-cool studio apartment with three “bedroom areas,” a dining area/office and, of course, the kitchen) and waited for our special delivery, I decided to make a few treats for us to enjoy while simultaneously pondering what my own kitchen philosophy really is.

Basically, my personal cooking style boils down to these four rules:

1. Try anything, and not just once
2. Be a witness to nature doing its thing
3. Listen to the voice of experience
4. Homemade is best

I try to be as courageous in the kitchen as possible because, since I am entirely self-taught, there’s really no other choice. If I don’t try something, well, then I’m never going to get it, if you know what I mean. It might seem obvious, but a lot of this cooking stuff can be very intimidating.

But one person’s “courageous” is another person’s “old hat.” The truth is that I really don’t know that much about cooking. Some of the logic of it escapes me (I still don’t totally get eggs) and I haven’t been exposed to very many techniques, unique ingredients or fancy recipes. For now, I just try to experiment with what I do know, and I make sure to try something new as often as possible.

I also try to make sure that my family is eating the most wholesome food with which I can provide them. Before I had kids, I think it’s safe to say that my knowledge of nutrition was very limited. My mother and grandmother are both very nice cooks, in different ways, and they have proffered invaluable cooking advice and guidance over the years, but their generations really relied on those convenience foods that came into fashion in the 50s and 60s, and most of the recipes to which they have sentimental attachment utilize ingredients like Cool Whip, Miracle Whip, Velveeta and Crisco. Developing my own style involves using as many whole, fresh ingredients as possible, starting from scratch for almost everything, and never taking shortcuts. Then again, I have a lot more conveniences in my life than either my mother or grandmother did, so it’s all relative.

Luckily, whole, fresh, local food is in fashion, and so, being part of this particular trend is not too hard at all, and, also luckily, my family is very brave and always willing to try anything that I make. (I have excellent partners for this life/experiment, which makes the whole entire thing even more easy/worth it.) As I discover more about cooking and creating with food, I also learn more about my family: my family of origin, my husband, and the family we’re making.

This whole thing is really just a giant experiment in how much effort I’m willing to put into my family’s eating, and even though I already know a vague version of the answer (a lot), I’m terribly excited to keep taking it to the next level for as long as I’m standing.

*********************************************************

Today, Irene asked for brownies, which I was only too happy to bake for her since my new mixer had yet to arrive and I was dying to try one of the recipes in my new How to Cook Everything iPhone App anyway.

I mention all that cooking philosophy hulabaloo above not to pass judgement on anyone else’s cooking style, but to put this into context for you: until three years ago, it never even occurred to me that brownies could be made from scratch. I never took my brain past “add eggs and oil- stir-bake.” I don’t know if I thought brownies were invented when Betty Crocker first put the mix in the box, or if I never bothered to think about it, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I was very surprised to learn that one could make brownies, and cakes, too, for that matter, by gathering a few simple ingredients and mixing them together. In fact, making a cake from scratch is only marginally more complicated than using a mix, and infinitely more delicious and rewarding- something that my own ignorance prevented me from experiencing first-hand until very recently. I guess that this journal will not win any awards for originality, but if I can pass this information- this love of food, this respect for the craft of cooking, and this desire to learn as much as possible, to make up for lost time, as it were- to my kids, then the whole exercise is worth it. Just like that fancy new mixer.

Brownies by Mark Bittman

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

(It’s worth noting that I substituted raspberry extract for vanilla.)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8 or 9 inch square baking pan.

Combine the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is just about melted, remove from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.


Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sugar. Then, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Gently stir in the flour, salt, and extract.

Pour and scrape into the prepared pan and bake until just barely set in the middle, for 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack before cutting.

Mark says that it’s better to underbake brownies than to overbake them, which I agree with, but even after baking them for 30 minutes in a 8X8 inch pan, my brownies were still seriously batter-y.

While the brownies were in the oven, I tried another of Mark’s recipes to make a raspberry glaze for the brownies.

Berry Jam Glaze

Ingredients:

1 cup berry preserves or jam
1 cup water

Put the jam in a small pot, add the water and turn the heat to medium. Bring to a low bubble and cook to a syrupy consistency, for about ten minutes. Set aside to cool and then use immediately.


Again, even though I followed his instructions exactly, I just didn’t feel like I was cooking this long enough, and after cooking for twenty minutes, I still didn’t have the syrupy consistency that I was looking for.


Overall, the recipes were kind of a disaster, but seemed to satisfy, regardless.

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