Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sea Salt Brownies

I know, I know, it's been awhile. My job has me staring at a computer and typing as fast as I can for whole days, so when I'm done for the night, I mostly want to eat in silence. And drink sippy cups of riesling in my bed. Which I do, and I love. Quite honestly, life has been very great. I have been baking a bit, but no recipe success worth posting -- I made some blueberry oat bars and got some difficult yet necessary notes from co-workers on its "flavorless crumb." I'm choosing to not read into it. I'm not a flavorless crumb! I'm delightful!

I could complain about the LA heat, but to be fair, I spent the last week in Minneapolis for the Fringe Festival. I can't believe it's already been a year since I went off on this very site about my obsession with this event! Guess what? I feel the same way. Another year, more shows. Another batch of well-meaning audience reviews. And another ten days of me yelling loud sexual stories at a Minneapolis bar followed by eating Taco Bell in my car. When it comes down to it, my favorite thing in the world is writing words for my funny friends to say. Crazy that I went to college for this? That it can be summed up that way? Everything's fine. The downside to Fringe is, of course, the comedown. I've been told even those in Minneapolis feel this -- the "now what?" that comes with going back to work after the shows are over. I'm sure even the woman who always writes a terrible audience review for every Fringe show I've ever done feels the same way. "Another year until I get to hate something Emily Schmidt writes? Man, what a bummer." I know, lady. I know. We are all in this boat of post-Fringe blues. We are all the same.

Even though I got to return to my sippy cups of riesling in LA, the blues are inescapable. I have to remind myself that even if I lived there, I wouldn't be able to yell loud sexual stories at Minneapolis bars EVERY night. Fringe is special. (Taco Bell isn't, I technically could do that whenever, but shouldn't, and that's important to remember, too.)

I'm easing back into my LA lifestyle by saying, "At least it's a DRY heat" aloud and accidentally getting stuck in the middle of intersections on Sunset. A large, flying beetle attacked and lodged itself inside my shirt yesterday until I hit its iridescent shell with my cell phone. That feels like something that would only happen in a desert environment I still don't fully understand!

It IS lovely to be back among my west coast friends and back at a job that is creatively fulfilling. Plus, street tacos! I can eat meats out of a truck at all hours and the meats are delicious! And it's socially "fine" to eat salsas from tubs that are balanced on trailer hitches! This is a dream. Also, I'm going to treat myself to a pedicure tonight. This is big for me, since the last time I was at this particular nail place, I ended up truly and fully FALLING into the pedicure bowl. I aimed for the chair, of course, as any human would do, but I missed. Like a baby who doesn't yet have depth perception. Like a cat who tries to jump to a bookcase and fails and ends up on YouTube. In I fell, while making a loud noise that was equal parts fear, shame, and confusion. I was so embarrassed, I didn't even use the massage feature on the chair for the rest of the pedicure. Honestly didn't feel like I deserved it. We'll see how tonight goes, going to be extra careful navigating the bowl.

Another thing that helps with any post-whatever blues is chocolate. I tend to prefer a lighter dessert, but when a co-worker requested brownies for her birthday, I tried out this recipe and fell in love with salty chocolate all over again. A love affair for the ages. These puppies are chewy on the edges and melty in the middle, rich but not overpowering -- all the things we look for in love and life and dessert. I hadn't made brownies from scratch before, and thought, "How will I ever make chocolatey powder like in the box mixes?" Turns out you don't make it that way. You need a double boiler or the creativity to make your own double boiler. Trust me, it's worth it.

Sea Salt Brownies
This is NOT a great picture, but brownies are NOT photogenic.
2 sticks of unsalted butter, in cubes
2 cups white sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 baking bar of chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao, but you're going to want to make sure it has a high percentage -- we're talkin' bittersweet, big time)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
coarse sea salt for that sprinkle top action

Preheat your oven for 325 degrees.
Do whatever you need to do to grease an 8x8 pan -- this could include butter, PAM, etc. If you're fancy, you may even use parchment paper and feel really superior for it!
Set up your double boiler. Honestly? I used saucepan balanced in a tub I've used to cook ham. You can make it with anything. Fill the bigger pot with simmering water, then place a saucepan inside that pot, without touching the bottom. You're going to make your entire batter in this saucepan, so make sure it's big enough!
Melt the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and chocolate in the saucepan. Mix often! If this burns, you will be sad. The consistency you're looking to achieve is smooth and glossy. It may appear grainy if you get a closer look, and that's okay. Just make sure all of the ingredients are completely incorporated.
Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and egg. Whisk well.
Add the flour and cornstarch to this chocolate extravaganza.
Stir until it's thick and well-mixed.
Carefully pour this mixture into your greased 8x8 and liberally sprinkle the top with sea salt. ...Like a goddamn provencal countrymaid or something.
Bake for about 35 minutes until it passes the toothpick test. You may find the inside is still pretty gooey, but trust me -- it's done. That's how you want it! That's how we all want it.
Serve warm or cold or with ice cream or in the middle of the night when you can't sleep.

I was a hit at the office and everyone forgot all about my flavorless crumb! A win, indeed.

Happy baking!