I once heard nostalgia described as being homesick for a time to which you can’t go back. Saturday was the beginning of week 7 of social distancing for my household. We are both homesick and nostalgic, for people and places, especially for mine and my husband’s parents and siblings (who are all safe and healthy… thank goodness!). So, we spent the weekend calling, texting, and Zooming with them, and doing the things that make us happiest, even if we can’t be physically together – for me one of the things that hits all of those – nostalgia, homesickness cures, and comfort is brownies.
I’ve never been one to turn down a fancy dessert, especially if it is chocolate. However, when I’m at home and the moment calls for real comfort, I want a brownie, hot, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if it’s being offered. Saturday night our little pandemic pantry (erm… freezer) did not have vanilla ice cream, but it did have all the ingredients to make up the these cocoa powder-based brownies from The Kitchn. They remind me so much of the box mixes that I have always loved, but give more richness and depth, and come with added bonus that I can make them when that red cardboard box is absent from my pantry.
Also, little public service announcement, if you are not reading The Kitchn, you should be – their recipes are top notch, their product recommendations have never steered me wrong, and their overall voice is one I love to have with me in my kitchen.
I made a few tweaks to the recipe provided on their website and I like my version better, it’s fruity from the substitution of olive oil for the vegetable oil, and the dutch processed cocoa makes them deeply chocolaty and keeps them from being cloyingly sweet. Two things make these brownies resemble your favorite boxed brand (crackly top, fudgy interior), and also amp up the depth of the chocolate:
- “Blooming” your cocoa powder in the warmed olive oil for five minutes before adding to the rest of the mixture , it releases the aromatics in the cocoa powder and intensifies the flavor dramatically (isn’t science cool?). This mixture can also create the biggest mess ever made in your kitchen, so stir in that cocoa powder slowly into the warmed oil with a fork until you have all the lumps out, then put it someplace safe while you mix everything else up.
- Really whipping the crap out of the eggs and sugar. When you look at them and think to yourself “yah, that looks combined,” you’re going to want to whip them for another minute. Your toils will reward you with a divine crackly top, and you will thank me!
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Prepare a 9 inch square baking pan by greasing sides and bottom
Warm oil in a microwave safe container until warm to the touch (it does not need to be hot). Gently stir in cocoa powder to oil until combined, and no lumps remain.
With an electric mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix eggs and sugars 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined.
Add oil/cocoa mixture, and vanilla to egg mixture and mix until just combined. Add baking powder, salt and flour and mix one last time until combined and no lumps remain.
Pour into prepared pan and bake 25 minutes.
Wait for brownies to cool before cutting into 16 squares.
These store well in an airtight container for 4-6 days.