Before I start, though, a word about these brownies. It's common that I see a recipe on a food blog that I bookmark to make for later, but it's rare for me to see a recipe that makes me drop everything and run to the kitchen. But here's one, posted yesterday by Hannah of honey & jam. I saw these brownies pop up on the top of my reader feed while working late at the office last night, and immediately after getting home, I whipped out the cocoa and butter. Everything about these brownies screams midnight lux and indulgence: that I made these at midnight; that I used black cocoa powder, making them ultra-dark; that they aren't sweet at all, especially with the sprinkle of coarse salt thrown in; that they are super moist and fudgey, like eating baked extra dark chocolate in a pseudo-cake form. These brownies are like that sultry and rich DJ voice playing slow Marvin Gaye on the radio at 2 a.m. In comparison, regular brownies are like listening to brainless happy-go-lucky pop in the bright daylight sun. Hence, midnight cocoa brownies. Go make them and eat them in the dark at midnight in your flannel PJs by the fire. Trust me--you'll know exactly what I mean then.
Alright, now that you're settled in with brownie and milk in hand, on to the questions! You all had such fun ones for me and so many, too, that I'll be splitting them up through posts over the next few weeks. There were also several requests and questions about photography and photography tips, so I'm thinking seriously about doing a food photography-dedicated post. Sound good?
Okay, here goes, in no particular order....
Q: Have you ever made doughnuts?
No! I've never made doughnuts. In fact, it's worse: I've never deep-fried anything before. But, it's on my to-do list, and I even know what flavor of doughnuts I want to make first.
Q: If you could only eat one flavor of ice cream for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Q: Can you make an awesome vegan dessert for me? Chocolate preferred, but not required.
One of my good friends who's vegan is coming home to visit for the holidays soon, so we'll try to put our heads together for an awesome chocolate vegan dessert. In the meantime, I do have two I've posted about already: chocolate pumpkin cupcakes and ooey gooey caramel apple blackout cake.
Q: Why linguistics? How did you end up majoring in that?
Majoring in linguistics in college was actually quite a serendipitous thing for me and the result of a long string of seemingly unrelated events that sort of all came together in the end. For the longest time, from seventh grade through the end of my time in high school, I wanted to be a screenplay writer. I had my whole life mapped out accordingly. Then, because I had a very hurried early graduation from high school, I didn't have time to research or apply to many colleges and ended up at pretty much the only one I applied to, which, though an excellent school, didn't have a good film program. So I bounced around from major to major during my freshman year and even tried to transfer out to a music conservatory. However, one thing led to another, and at the end of the year, I decided to stay at Berkeley.
Lo and behold, almost immediately after the decision to stay, on the first day of my sophomore year, I walked into a "Literature and Linguistics" class for my English major (I'd always planned to be an English major because I'd been fascinated by Shakespeare since sixth grade drama class) and fell in love with it. I had absolutely no idea what linguistics was, but the professor was talking all about the parallels between music and language, which made complete sense to my inner musician--and in a formal way, which appealed to my scientific side that often found English literature study far too subjective, -- and so something just clicked. Linguistics, it turned out, was the perfect intersection for me of all of my interests in life that I'd never thought could be reconciled: music, science, literature, language. And that's how I ended up in linguistics!
Q: What's on your shirt right now?
"Berkeley" <-- it's Big Game Week. Hence, blue and gold paraphernalia all week! Go Bears!
Q: Which dessert do your family and friends request the most from you?
Something chocolate-y. Besides that, they trust my judgement. :-) Oh, I also get lots of requests for ice cream from my parents. We're a big ice cream family.
Q: What is your favorite cookbook?
I don't really have a particular favorite! All of my cookbooks serve a different purpose. For chocolate, I always turn first to the Scharffenberger Essence of Chocolate book, which has yet to lead me wrong on any chocolate recipe. For ice cream, hands down David Lebovitz. For big cakes, Beranbaum's Cake Bible is my first stop. For inspiration, I'll crack open any one of the Chez Panisse or David Tanis cookbooks (I have all of them, except for the pizza and calzone one), even though I almost never actually use any of the recipes from them.
I'd actually love to hear any cookbook recommendations you have for me!
Q: If you had a cookbook, would you name it Desserts for Breakfast?
We'll just have to wait and see, now, won't we? ;-)
Q: What is on your menu for Thanksgiving?
I've actually been so busy this November that I, uncharacteristically, haven't even given Thanksgiving a single thought! I'm a big fan of traditional Thanksgiving fixings--mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes-- as well as my own personal Thanksgiving "traditions": baked salmon, corn soup, peas'n'carrots, pomegranate cranberry sauce. Most likely, I'll wait to see what I find at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market on the Wednesday morning before Thanksgiving to decide what to make!
For ideas, check out last year's Thanksgiving menu and more recent fall menus. For dessert, might I recommend pumpkin cheesecake ice cream or a drunken pear frangipane tart or cognac-caramel, pecan, and pear pudding cakes? And don't forget breakfast the day after: pumpkin-sage blackberry pancakes, meyer lemon ricotta blueberry pancakes, spiced banana pancakes, and apple-ginger blackberry pancakes.
Q: How do you set up a reader feed?
On Blogger, try this, which I found via Googling "how to set up feedburner for blogger." It's been a while since I've set mine up, so I don't exactly remember.
Q: What about desserts for dinner? What types of sweets could you transform into dinner?
Because I eat so many desserts at other times in the day, I actually really like for my dinner to just be dinner. But, that doesn't mean that I don't try to incorporate dessert-y elements into my dinner--case in point: candy salad.
Q: Do you come from a family that likes baking/cooking?
I think the people in my family like to cook, but no one's quite fanatical about it the way I am. I definitely didn't grow up in a family of foodies. My dad, though I love him to death, still drinks orange juice from that frozen concentrated can. My mom did once upon a time take cake decorating classes, but then she stopped when she got tired of how many dishes she had to wash making all of those fancy cakes! My late grandfather was probably the person who enjoyed cooking the most, I think. But, like all Chinese families, everyone in mine loves *eating* a good meal.
Alright, I think that's enough for one post. Stay tuned for more next week!
And really... you want to try these brownies. Really.
Read on for recipe...
Midnight Cocoa Brownies
adapted from Alice Mendrich, via smitten kitchen via honey & jam
makes two 8 x 8" square pans
2 1/2 sticks butter (1 1/4 cups)
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup black cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 heaping tspn coarse salt
1 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
1 cup AP flour
1. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the sides and bottom of the two 8 x 8 baking pans with parchment paper or foil, leaving some overhang so that you can lift out the brownies after baking. Set aside.
2. In a double boiler over simmering water, combine the butter, cocoa powders, sugar, and salt. Stir until the butter melts completely, everything is thoroughly combined, and the batter is just barely hot to the touch. Remove from the double boiler and let cool until warm.
3. Add the eggs to the chocolate batter one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
4. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.
5. Fold in the flour in < 40 strokes. Divide the batter between the two prepared baking pans.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. The brownies will look a bit underdone, but they will continue to cook as they cool in the pans.
7. Once completely cool, lift the brownies from the pans and cut into pieces.
Note: This recipe is double that of the original from Alice Mendrich, just because you're gonna want it that way. Seriously.