This is a guest post from Jenna Helwig, Parents' food editor and brownie fanatic.
Disclaimer: Today we will be taking a break from our regularly scheduled, healthy eating programming on this blog to discuss... dessert. Now, of course, dessert should only be an occasional treat, especially for kids. So don't consider this post license to run wild. Understood? Good.
Okay, now on to the sweet stuff:
As food editor at Parents, I get a lot of emails reminding me that it's National This Day or National That Day. Truthfully, I've never been moved to post until now; when I learned today is National Brownie Day I couldn't help myself. If it were magically decreed that I could only eat one type of sweet for the rest of my life I would choose brownies, no question.
While history doesn't record definitively who made the first brownie (and come on, people, isn't this something that should be in textbooks?), it seems like the chocolate-y treat was invented either in Chicago in 1893 or Boston in 1906.
The beauty of living more than a century later is that we have so many brownie options to choose from, from store-bought to homemade, gluten-free to all-out decadent. (I am going to ignore those folks that prefer cake-y brownies. If you want a cake-y brownie, just have a piece of cake!) Here are my favorites:
If you like your brownie with a crunch open a bag of Brownie Brittle. This crispy, chocolate-y treat is available in four yummy flavors, including my favorite, Mint Chocolate Chip. Even better, you can now get Brownie Brittle in single-serving bags to make portion control more likely (although I can't guarantee it). You will probably see Brownie Brittle a lot more in the coming weeks—or your kids will—since the brand is partnering with the new Paddington movie out in January.
If you are craving an ooey-gooey, indulgent brownie check out Beverly Hills Brownie Company, which ships across the country. Look for the S'Mores, Movie Mix, and Cream Cheese varieties. They make a great holiday gift!
If you want a gluten-free brownie buy a mix from Cup4Cup, the gluten-free baking line. I love these brownies so much that this is my go-to mix, even though I eat gluten with wild abandon. Available online, at Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, or select Kroger stores.
If you love a classic DIY brownie check out our recipe. With only eight pantry ingredients, you can have these beauties on the table in under an hour.
If you want a knock-your-socks-off homemade brownie, look no further than this recipe from Dorie Greenspan, author of the recently released Baking Chez Moi and my all-time favorite baking book Baking: From My Home to Yours. I don't really know Dorie, but I feel like we're on a first-name basis. Her voice is so chatty, her directions are so clear, and her recipes are so darn good. These brownies are no exception.
So join me celebrating National Brownie Day today. I will enjoy a square of Dorie's brownies, and maybe a bite or two of some of my other faves. After all, National Brownie Day only comes once a year.
How will you observe National Brownie Day?
Chocolate-Cherry BrowniesMakes 25 squares
This is a one-bowl recipe: Everything is mixed in the bowl you use to melt the chocolate and butter. It's a simple recipe, but even simple recipes have rules. For the brownies to be the best they can be: Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large bowl set over simmering water and stay close (remove the bowl when the chocolate is just melted or even only almost melted). Leave your eggs in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them (cold eggs give you a smoother batter). And don't overbake the brownies—it's better to remove the pan from the oven a minute too early than a minute too late. Because of the chopped chocolate in the batter, the brownies won't set until they cool, so a tester needn't come out completely clean and dry.
2 tablespoons fruity red wine or cranberry juice
2 tablespoons water
1 cup moist dried cherries or dried cranberries
10 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup sugar
2 large cold eggs
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment or foil and butter it.
Pour the red wine (or cranberry juice) and water into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the cherries or cranberries and cook over low heat until the fruit is plump and the liquid has been absorbed, about 3 minutes. Turn the fruit into a bowl and set aside to cool.
Measure out 6 ounces of the chocolate and coarsely chop it. Finely chop the remaining 4 ounces.
Put the butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and scatter over the coarsely chopped chocolate. Heat the mixture until the chocolate is just on the verge of melting completely; you don't want to heat the chocolate and butter so much that they separate. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and stir; you'll have a thick, shiny mixture.
Working with a flexible spatula, beat in the sugar. Don't be discouraged when the batter goes grainy; it ends up fine. When the sugar is incorporated, beat in the eggs one at a time—give the eggs a little elbow grease and you'll have a heavy batter that will have regained some of its glossiness. Mix in the salt and pepper, then gently stir in the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the batter. Stir in the cherries or cranberries and any liquid that has accumulated, then add the finely chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top as best as you can.
Bake the brownies for 27 to 29 minutes, or until the top is uniformly dull; a knife inserted into the center will come out almost clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool until the brownies are just warm or until they reach room temperature.
To unmold, invert the brownies onto a cutting board and peel away the parchment or foil. Turn the brownies over and cut into 25 small squares.
Excerpted from BAKING CHEZ MOI, © 2014 by Dorie Greenspan. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.