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.
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.