Chocolate Comfort

Let’s start with a story, shall we?

Once upon a time, there was a couple who was ready to buy a house. Ready to give up apartment dwelling and sign their lives away for a yard (that they’d have to mow! whose idea was this again?!), a garage, and a kitchen with one tiny strip of counter space. So, like most people do, they set out one weekend to see what the world housing market had to offer.

One was realistic. The odds of finding their “dream” house? Slim. The odds of finding it on the first day? Even slimmer. The other, optimistic. The glass is always half-full. Not only will the dream house be found on the first day, but it will be within budget and move-in ready.

Guess who was NOT disappointed after an afternoon of house hunting? And guess who returned to the apartment, flopped on the couch and declared, “We will NEVER find a house!” (Dramatic? Me? Never.) I decided, then and there, that only one thing would cure this state of affairs: chocolate.

And that’s how I found my go-to brownie recipe. It’s taken me the better part of five years, but I’ve finally gotten it to the point where I like it better than a brownie from a mix. (Foodie fail, I know, but so many homemade brownies are dry and cakey.) It’s a one-pot recipe; it comes together quickly; AND it makes a 9″ x 13″ pan of brownies. Let’s face it, 64 square inches of brownie are not enough. At least, not around here. 😀 They also lend themselves well to mix-ins, if you’re someone who likes “things” in their brownies. (I usually opt for chocolate chips or chopped Reese’s cups.) 

The trick, as far as I can tell, is to substitute some of the butter with canola or vegetable oil, giving the brownies a moist, fudge-like texture. I borrowed a technique from this recipe and cooked the sugar for a few minutes. (The experts at King Arthur Flour say it helps the brownies get the shiny crust on top.) I also underbake my brownies because I like them on the gooey side. Finally, I use both dark cocoa powder and regular cocoa powder.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we did find a house. Not that first weekend, or even the next, but eventually we found one. And we love it, even when we have to mow the lawn, snowblow the driveway and clear ice dams out of the gutter. :D) 


Beth’s Brownies 

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (honestly, I don’t measure this… I tend to be pretty heavy-handed with it though.) 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips, chopped Reese’s cups or other mix-in of your choice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and oil over medium-low heat. Whisk in the cocoa powders until smooth. Stir in the sugar and cook for a minute or two, being careful to not let the mixture boil.

Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool slightly. Beat in the salt, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until just combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Spread batter in prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until brownies appear “done” and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and let pan cool on wire rack before slicing. Store in an airtight container.

Adapted from Hershey’s Ballot Box Brownies

Click here for a printable version.


6 thoughts on “Chocolate Comfort

  1. Beth,
    Yeah . . . ice dams . . . who thought home ownership was fabulous again?
    We looked at 12 houses in 3 days and were planning to settle for the one that best met our needs because the one that charmed us only met our minimum needs (3bd/1.5 ba) when a rainfall for the ages and the resulting ‘never before seen’ flooding steered us back to the charming house.

    You’re right–64 inches is not enough. These look delicious. Thanks!

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