I think I mentioned that I don’t bake. I lied. I do bake, sort of. The problem is I’m not a measurer. I’m more of a little of this, a little of that kind of girl, not a take out the scale and weigh the flour gal like many dessert recipes require. Over time I’ve learned to finagle a handful of desserts for when I have friends over. I can make a pavlova, an apple tart, a pineapple upside down cake, really good pudding. And brownies.
I started making homemade brownies in 1999, when they graced the cover of Gourmet magazine’s December issue instead of holiday cookies. I was invited to a friend’s Christmas open house and as a firm believer that it’s poor form to show up empty-handed, I wanted to bring something sweet. Since I can’t roll out a cookie to save my life, I saw my salvation in the pages of that magazine. Melt butter and chocolate. Beat eggs and sugar, combine with chocolate mixture and add flour. Seemed easy enough even for a novice like me. And with that party, brownies became one of my signature gifts.
Brownies, like lasagna, are another great example of a recipe that once you know the basics you can mix and match flavors and add-ins. I’ve made Sambuca brownies with pignoli nuts, hazelnut brownies with raspberry jam and this Sunday to take to my friends Easter dinner, chocolate brownies with a peanut butter swirl.
I found this recipe on Epicurious and made a few modifications. First, I lessened the sugar. I couldn’t in good conscience add 2 cups of sugar to anything, but since I was using bittersweet chocolate, I knew I had to keep some of the sugar, so I used 1 ½ cups instead. I also added 2 tablespoons of espresso powder. This is a secret you can use in almost any chocolate dessert. A little espresso powder adds richness to the chocolate flavor without interfering and taking over. And lastly, I added a cup of peanut butter to the top, well, because peanut butter makes everything better! I also switched to a 13 by 9 inch pan.
The result was a cake-y brownie with a decadent peanut butter swirl on top. Facing tough competition from the Italian pastries my friend’s boyfriend brought, they were a big hit, not only at the dinner, but at the police precinct where my friend’s boyfriend works. When cops like your sweets, you know you have a winner on your hands and a new addition to your dessert arsenal.