I was listening to NPR's weekly food podcast today (subscribe here to enjoy the same geeky excitement), and this week's edition featured a conversation with Nigella Lawson, who was explaining the different ways she's involved her children in her cooking over the years.
Her descriptions of batter-stirring and bean-trimming sent me off into a reverie, thinking about the different ways my mom introduced me to the glories of the kitchen. Sometimes people ask me where my love of cooking came from - this seems, to me, to be such an odd question, but probably only because the answer seems so obvious to me.
I grew up in a house where the only food on hand for snacking was fruit, vegetables, or the kind you made yourself. As a result, I learned to bake chocolate chip cookies and how to arrange a cheese plate (complete with grapes, fancy crackers, and sliced saucisson) before I turned 10.
We were never forced to eat something we disliked (when the family had swordfish - which I still hate with a fiery, burning passion - Mom always grilled me some chicken), but we had to try everything once. As a result, I was the only first-grader who listed her favorite foods as strawberries and cucumbers.
On Parents' Night, our parents had to find our desks based on this information. While the other grown-ups wandered around, comparing endless worksheets that read "pizza" or "spaghetti," my parents were perched at my seat, patiently waiting for those with less cuinarily adventurous progeny to find the right desks.
My mom is an incredible woman - a successful, single (Well, not single anymore!) businesswoman who raised two (fantastic, funny, smart, kind, immodest) children, and she passed her love of good food, good wine and good cocktails down to me. In our house, dinner parties were the norm, and cocktail parties lasted long into the night. And, of course, we had to bake all our own sweets.
And so, in honor of my mother, I'm going to share one of her favorite recipes with you. These fudge brownies are incredibly simple to make, but have never failed to make people swoon on cue. I've tweaked the original recipe ever-so-slightly with the addition of a little espresso powder to bring out the flavor of the chocolate - but they remain, at heart, my mother's favorite brownies.
I hope you love them as much as we do.
Jane's Favorite Brownies
Based on a recipe from The Everyday Gourmet
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbs. instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 13x9 baking pan and set aside.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double-boiler set over very low heat. Allow to cool slightly.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until pale yellow. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and beat until well-combined. Mix in the flour, espresso powder, baking powder and salt and stir until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips and vanilla.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and back 25-30 minutes, until just set in the center. Allow to cool on a rack before cutting.
Makes 16-20 brownies.