Tag Archive | "Baking"

The Healing Powers of Brownie Pudding

The Healing Powers of Brownie Pudding



I baked something for you. I think you’re going to like it. It’s sort of a cake, sort of a pudding, with more butter than I’d ever admit to using in one small dish.

The first time I made this, Joe and I had recently moved to our new apartment. We were finally getting around to hanging things: pictures, shelves, kitchen hooks, and most exciting of all, a knife magnet. He’d been pining for a knife magnet for years. It was one of those little things you dream up for your ideal kitchen that never happens for arbitrary reasons—limited wall space, paranoid landlords, crumbling drywall in your century-old building. It was always something.

But we were in our new place now, with a bare, newly renovated wall begging to host Joe’s dream magnet. He charged up the drill. I moved my clutter from the countertop. He put on his shoes for better leverage. We had no idea what we were doing. Between the two of us, we’d probably used a drill three times. We’d usually have my dad on the phone at this point during a project if he wasn’t over doing it for us. But not this time. We were set on installing this thing tonight. We’d be one step closer to our perfect kitchen. Two screws, one strip of metal. It was happening.

Then the blood emerged. The drill had been going for a good four seconds when I heard the slip, the “AGH!”, and the tinny crash of falling metal. I guess you’re supposed to find out what a wall is made of before drilling into it, huh? Well, this one is made of concrete. We can definitely tell you that. And it doesn’t take well to drilling.

Joe was fine after a speedy first aid session, and this brownie pudding. This was the sort of injury that could only truly heal with butter, sugar, flour, cocoa, and eggs. Throw in a little of my brother and sister-in-law’s homemade Kahlua, a scraped vanilla bean, and the importance of knife magnets starts to quickly fade. My dad did end up installing it, giving us a much-needed Drilling 101 session in the process. We still need work.

Meanwhile, I’ve mastered the art of healing minor flesh wounds with this dessert. I’m sure I’ll use this superpower many times over. Try it. Don’t underestimate its influence in any situation.

Brownie Pudding
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten 

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¾ cup good cocoa powder
½ cup all-purpose flour
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon Kahlua, or other liqueur (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter a 2-quart oval (9 x 12 x 2-inch) or round (9 x 2-inch) baking dish. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow.

Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.


When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, lower the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, liqueur (if using), and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.



Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. I used a 9-inch round baking dish and placed that inside a bigger, round Le Creuset Dutch Oven (leave it uncovered). Any larger pan will do, as long as you can fit the baking dish inside it and have room to add water so the baking dish is submerged.

Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out three-quarters clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.


Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Posted in DessertsComments (6)

Unleashing My Inner Peasant Girl, with the Help of Heavy Machinery

Unleashing My Inner Peasant Girl, with the Help of Heavy Machinery


My mom hates her KitchenAid Mixer. She’s been trying to pawn it off on me for the last decade. She’s more of a get-out-the-whisk kind of woman. A stop-complaining-and-knead-it-by-hand mom whose daughter won’t toughen up to dominate a simple bread dough. I’ve tried. Really. There’s something about throwing all your weight into the dough that I can’t get right. Maybe it’s my hands. She has hearty, peasant hands (a size 7 ring, if that means anything to you) that can tell a ball of dough where to go. It concedes under her sausage fingers, morphing into whatever she wants in fear and reverence.

My puny kid hands are far less helpful. It’s laughable, really, watching me try to knead dough. Or at least, it makes her laugh. When visiting family in Sicily a few years ago, we spent a day making pizzas and bread. I tried to join the master dough ladies, rolled up my sweater sleeves and threw my whole body into it. Turns out, I looked like I was having a seizure, aimlessly thrashing and bumping around. They promptly shooed me out of the way. I understand. You can’t let the dough get too cold or it will lose its elasticity (or something…). You need to get in there and pull, flip, push, and turn with nonstop, purposeful gusto. But dough won’t cooperate under my watch—it laughs at me, unyielding, sticky, and limp. I heard later that they called my mom in New Jersey and recounted my sad attempt, cackling and hooting and asking why she’d never taught me how to knead. She’s tried. Really. 

I’ve developed different goals for my kitchen. I do want to master every one of my mom’s techniques, but I can do it my way, right? Well, my way involves the Cadillac of all kitchen appliances. The KitchenAid Pro 600 (insert choir of angels). This shiny red beauty is the reason I’ve refused my mom’s 1990, lower-end model. It just didn’t have the oomph and gleam I’d dreamed of during my years of wimpy kneading. It makes up for so many of my kitchen inadequacies, puny hands be damned. She is my strength, the steroids my inner peasant girl always needed. Together, we kick ass.*


Bread was my first order of business when this lady joined my kitchen in March. Even with my kneading issues resolved, I’d been fumbling for the perfect recipe. My mistake has been aiming too high and too complicated, when I really should have started by mastering the basics. How could I forget? The most brilliant things are the simplest. Wine and peaches. Tomato sauce and eggs. Bert and Ernie.

So I finally dropped the fancy recipes and made the best baguettes in my short bread-baking life. If you knew how many failures I’ve had, you’d recognize this as a major accomplishment. This is a combination of a few staple recipes I’ve tried. You’ve made a version of this if you’ve baked bread before. Use it as a loose guide then follow your instincts. That’s the pleasure that comes with mixing recipes until they’re your own: you’re liberated to do whatever the hell you want.



Simple, Simple Whole Wheat Baguettes
.5 ounce active dry, dissolved in 2 cups of warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg white1 tablespoon water 

1. Combine the yeast, all-purpose flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Mix until well combined, regularly scraping the bowl to catch any flour hiding at the bottom.

2. When the dough is sticky, add the whole wheat flour one cup at a time. You’ll know it’s doing well when the dough looks like it’s getting the crap beaten out of it. The scene reminds me of a playground brawl, the dough boy not standing a chance as the mean hook throws it around. Keep beating until the dough is smooth and elastic, but still slightly sticky.

3. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Turn it once so the surface is coated. Cover and let rise until at least doubled. All my big bowls were in use, so I plopped it in a Dutch Oven and put it in the oven (off, of course).



4. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves. Place onto a floured baking sheet (or cover the baking sheet with parchment). Let rise for another hour or so.



5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly beat the egg white with the water and brush onto each loaf. Cut a few diagonal slashes across the top of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the loaves make a hollow sound when you tap them. If, like me, you’re never sure when your bread is done, check out these great tips at the Kitchn.

*I swear KitchenAid did not pay me to write this. But they should have.

Posted in Breads & StuffComments (7)

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