Better-Than-Boxed-Mix Brownies

IMG_5367In late April, my boyfriend, Kaleb, and I decided to take a Saturday off of homework and instead spend the day shopping in a nearby city. That meant clothing stores for me, an art supply store for Kaleb, and REI for us both. We ate lunch buffet-style at a little Indian restaurant I had heard good things about, and it was delicious. Kaleb bought me a new sundress at Target, I watched him wander around his art store with childlike excitement in his eyes, and we had fun pining over all the incredible REI running clothes we can’t afford. We got back to our university campus in the early evening and ate chicken gyros at the cafeteria, which was a pleasant surprise considering that on weekends it usually features very few, very unexciting options. After dinner, we settled down to watch House M.D., one of the shows that we are currently re-watching. It was a fabulous day…until about 8pm.

To spare you the details, I ended up getting a mild case of food poisoning, which kept me in bed all the next day and unable to attend one of the massive outdoor programs we were putting on as Resident Assistants. Darn. 😦 I moaned to Kaleb that I might never eat at a buffet again, sounding just like my mother. She once had a horrific experience at a buffet in an airport–food poisoning on an airplane=not fun at all–and has refused to come within five feet of so much as a salad bar ever since. Of course, seeing as there was an eight-hour gap between my lunch and my symptoms, the culprit could just as easily have been the gyro I ate in my very own university cafeteria, but there’s no way of knowing. Either way, it might be a while before I will touch chicken curry or Greek tzatziki sauce again. IMG_5369

The kicker is that just that morning I had exclaimed to Kaleb how I hadn’t been sick in over a year, which seemed like quite the triumph. I immediately regretted saying anything that could jinx my healthy streak, and sure enough I paid the price for that moment of gloating with my illness later that night.

“Isn’t it so weird that I got food poisoning on the very day I was bragging about not getting sick?” I asked Kaleb.

“Umm..not really, actually….” he said, much to my disappointment.

“Why?!” I demanded.

“Well, because you worry about getting food poisoning pretty much every day,” he said. I thought about this for a few moments, then begrudgingly agreed. Yeah, okay…that is valid.

The truth is, I am just a teeny bit paranoid about food poisoning, and am constantly asking if it’s okay to eat this turkey sandwich that’s been sitting out for an hour, drink this milk that has a sell-by date of three days ago, or buy sushi from the cooler in our campus store that seemed to be not quite cold enough. My dad patiently texts reassurance from hundreds of miles away, and Kaleb patiently voices reassurance from our kitchen counter or a cafeteria table. It’s not like I question everything I eat–maybe one thing every few days–but I certainly have earned my reputation as a constant food-poisoning-worrier amongst those who know me well.IMG_5377

Surprisingly, one thing I have never worried about is raw eggs–but only if they’re in something I’m baking. I grew up licking mounds of raw cookie dough off my fingers as my mom washed the dishes, and I can never resist taste-testing cake batters, muffin batters, and brownie batters. I once read a book in which a girl’s mother let her mix up an entire bowl of brownie batter and eat it with a spoon when the girl came home from a hard day at school, and I always yearned to re-create that scene in my own kitchen. I don’t think I ever did, but not for lack of want. I realize that salmonella and other food-borne pathogens are potentially very dangerous, but I’m afraid that my cookie-dough-eating days are far from being over. Sometimes I think I am nothing more than a walking contradiction, but I mean, we’re talking about raw chocolate chip cookie dough. Let’s be real.

Anywhoo, enter these fantastic brownies. The title says it all: they really are better than a boxed-mix version, but still have those characteristic crackly tops and chewy, fudgy interiors. These are not, I repeat not, cakey brownies. There is nothing dry, crumbly, or cake-like about them. One of the reasons I love them so much is that it almost seems like you are eating a square of brownie batter…they’re that rich! I had the slight problem of “evening my rows” as I cut these babies, and by the end of the whole ordeal I had probably consumed close to a whole brownie’s worth. I still maintain that I was ensuring that each square had perfectly straight edges and no stray crumbs attached, but I also refused Kaleb’s offer to help me cut them and take some of the “work” off my hands. IMG_5390

All you need to mix up these brownies is one bowl, one whisk, and one rubber spatula. I recommend weighing your ingredients to ensure the perfect texture, but regular measurements are also listed for those of you who don’t own a kitchen scale. Be careful to take these brownies out of the oven as soon as a toothpick comes out clean so that you don’t over-bake them, which could result in dryness. I warn you that they are a little difficult to cut cleanly due to the fudginess (which I declare is a word), but that just means all the more post-cutting “clean up” for you. 🙂 And you don’t even need to worry about consuming raw eggs, since they’ll be all baked up by then! You can have your brownie “batter” and eat it too, without a trace of salmonella paranoia. Yay!

Note: just to be on the safe side for food poisoning, you should probably eat up all these brownies as fast as you can. No point in risking it by letting them sit around, right? 😉IMG_5382

Better-Than-Boxed-Mix Brownies

1/3 cup (28 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (140 grams) vegetable oil

2 eggs + 2 egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 & 1/2 cups (496 grams) granulated sugar

1 & 3/4 cup (248 grams) all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Adjust your oven rack to its lowest position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13″ pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 1″ overhang. Spray with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Quickly add in the chopped unsweetened chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted. Add the butter and oil and whisk until combined (the mixture may look separated or curdled, which is fine). Whisk in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla until smooth.

Whisk in the sugar until the mixture is homogenous. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour and salt until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean (or with just a few crumbs attached). Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 1 & 1/2 hours.

Holding onto the foil, lift the brownies out of the pan and place directly on the cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing into squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, originally from Cook’s Illustrated

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