Real Simple is one of my very favorite magazines. While thumbing through this month’s issue, I was delighted to see a recipe for brownies. The picture looked delicious (what picture of brownies doesn’t?), and I have made recipes from Real Simple before, so I was pretty excited to give it a go.
The recipe is called “Espresso Brownies” simply because it calls for 2 tablespoons brewed espresso (you can substitute 1 rounded teaspoon espresso powder and 2 tablespoons water like I did, though), but as we all know, espresso is a key ingredient in many great brownie recipes. Espresso doesn’t necessarily make baked goods taste like coffee, it just brings out and intensifies the chocolatey flavor. So I sort of think the name of the recipe is misleading, but whatever.
Real Simple’s Espresso Brownies adapted from Lindsay Hunt’s recipe
Makes 16 brownies
3/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons brewed espresso, at room temperature (or use the mix I mentioned above)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semisweet because that’s what I had on hand)
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with 2 criss-crossed pieces of parchment, buttering in between the pieces to help them stick and leaving an overhand on all sides. Butter the top of the parchment.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
Combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugars, eggs, espresso, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 – 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan.
Holding the paper overhand, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
These brownies were really good. Before I had a chance to say anything to him, M announced how delicious they were and said they might be as good as the Baked brownies. That’s pretty impressive! I liked them quite a bit, too, but they didn’t melt in your mouth quite the way the Baked ones did. They were pretty moist (6/7), definitely chocolatey (10/10), and didn’t require much in terms of messiness preparing (3/3). This leaves a total score of 19/20, tying with the Supernatural Brownies. Nicely done, Real Simple!
We’re experiencing a pretty long summer here in Seattle – it has been hot. But that hasn’t stopped fall fashion from creeping its way into my mind. One trend I really like right now is pastels for autumn. Normally I’m more of a jewel-toned kind of gal (those jewels being onyx, tourmaline, and obsidian), but I like the juxtaposition of bright, cheery colors against fall’s grey skies and stormy weather. The soft, subtle colors also make for an easy transition from the hot summer we’ve been having to the cool, crisp fall that I hope we’ll be getting soon.
Plus, pastels match rose gold jewelry perfectly, another thing I’m loving right now.
We’ve all made mistakes we aren’t proud of, least of which involve our appearance. While at the time I thought each of the items on this list were the height of beauty/fashion/coolness/whatever, I was very, very wrong. At least my peers were doing equally idiotic things so we all looked like morons together.
- Blue glitter. My mom wasn’t really on board with me wearing makeup when I was in the 4th and 5th grade (who can blame her?), but I was raring to go. While on a trip to Claire’s with some friends, we all bought tiny vials of sticky blue glitter and proceeded to use it almost everyday for the next 6 months. I smeared it on my eyes, lips, cheeks, and hair. It held a special place on my dresser and I felt very, very grown up whenever I wore it. Because grown-ups often slather themselves with sticky, navy blue flecks of shiny plastic.
- Scrunchies were for my hair, obviously – I loved the way they made ponytails stick crazily far out the side of my head. Scrunchies also served as a fashion accessory, too: I used them as bracelets, anklets, and to tie up the sided of my oversized tee shirts.
- Bonne Bell Emotions perfume. Remember these guys? They came in little glass bottles with a silver top. My friends and I went absolutely nuts over them – almost as nuts as we went over gel pens. My favorite was the “Flirty” scent, despite being hideously shy around boys. I thought that if I wore the perfume, boys would flock to me because they would smell my alluring coquettishness like bloodhounds. They did not.
- I loved my overalls and was furious that my mom wouldn’t let me do as the cool girls did and let one of the straps remain unbuckled. Perhaps she thought it was sloppy or stupid looking. Either way, she was correct. For some reason overalls are making a bit of a comeback and all I can say is, unless you’re a farmer or a toddler, WHY.
- Exclamation perfume. This eau de barf by Coty is apparently still being sold at drugstores and online. After I deemed myself too grown up for Bonne Bell, I moved onto this perfume. It claims to be a blend of peach, apricot, amber, and sandalwood, and my friends and I all thought we smelled great, but in actual fact I think we probably smelled more like musky farts.
- Brown lipstick. Because who doesn’t want to look like they just snacked on a turd?
- Puka shell necklaces. These things were ridiculously popular in junior high and made every single wearer – male and female alike – look like a giant douche.
- Over-plucked eyebrows. Right before my freshman year of high school I decided that my eyebrows (which are dark blonde and naturally somewhat sparse already) needed to be taken care of. This meant plucking them within an inch of their life and then drawing them back in a single, thin line. It was certainly a look, but I’m not entirely sure what I was going for. I maimed my eyebrows for years until finally, the summer before junior year, I decided to grow them back. That summer was not pretty, but it was still prettier than my anorexic eyebrows.
- Noxzema and Sea Breeze toner. I thought the tingling, cooling, almost-burning sensation on my skin meant the products were working to eliminate clogged pores and pimples. I was wrong. I now know that ingredients like menthol, alcohol, camphor, and eucalyptus oil are all extremely bad for the skin and strip it of moisture. But those kids in the Noxzema and Sea Breeze commercials looked so good!
- Jelly shoes. I loved my jelly shoes and wore them all summer. Nevermind the fact that spending more than 20 minutes in them would result in icky foot sweat and brown muck on your feet. I desperately wanted the high-heeled ones, but Mom said no. It’s just as well – all the sweat would have made me slip anyway.
- Butterfly clips. Sparkly butterfly clips were all over my head for a few years. Teeny tiny clips that really could only hold a few hairs at a time seemed glamorous and trendy. And who doesn’t want to look like a bunch of bugs have landed in your hair?
- Frosted pink lipstick. While this is slightly better than the poop lipstick, it still makes anyone who wears it looks like a glittery corpse.
- Peel-off nail polish. Nothing says glamour like bits of plastic-y crap stuck to your nails. For some reason they made a comeback a few years ago and a grown-up version of peel-off nail polish was being sold at Anthropologie. I was tempted to buy it, but somehow restrained myself.
- Crimped hair. I loved crimped hair. There are still unfortunate pictures of me at a roller rink with huge, crimped hair. I would spend the night before painstakingly braiding my wet hair and the next morning woke to a big, delightfully poufy coif. When I see crimping irons being sold in stores nowadays, I shake my head. This style looks good on no one.
- Bucket hats. No summer outfit during the 6th grade was complete without my bucket hat. For some reason I thought it made me look trendy and outdoorsy. I’ve since learned that I’m really not a hat person, especially if the hat looks like a bucket.
I haven’t been making brownies much lately – I’ve been spending more time honing my chocolate chip cookie recipe and M has been a-okay with that. He isn’t a big fan of me trying new recipes for brownies because he already likes the Baked Brownie so much. M feels all other brownies pale in comparison and doesn’t like having lesser brownies around the house. I understand his plight, but I’m doing this for brownie science. He just doesn’t understand.
Anyway, last month I made Cook’s Illustrated’s Chewy Brownies with a few tweaks: less oil – I didn’t want the brownies slipping out of my hands, and I used Earth Balance instead of butter, though that’s never been an issue for me taste- or texture-wise. The amount and type of chocolate (the most important part!) remained the same, though.
Chewy Brownies adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 12 – 16 brownies
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance), melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Adjust your oven rack to the lowest positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in a large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. The mixture might look clumpy, that’s okay. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue whisking until smooth.
Whisk in sugar until fully mixed. Add flour and salt and mix with a rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and the center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs – about 30 – 35 minutes. Let cool completely.
When cooled, lift the brownies from the pan and cut into 2-inch squares.
Well, these brownies certainly lived up to their name – they were delightfully chewy. But that’s about it. They weren’t all that chocolatey and just didn’t do it for me. They were sort of moist (5/7), but not at all chocolatey enough (4/10). They also were easy enough to make, but required lots of different bowls (2/3). This leaves a total score of 11 out of 20 – not excellent. I expect more from you, Cook’s Illustrated!
I sent in my application for the University of Washington a few weeks ago – I should find out if I’m accepted in mid- to late-November. If I am, this will be my first time at a traditional university – I graduated from art school in 2007. Art schools are quite different in a lot of ways (Think Stella Artois and cocaine instead of Pabst and pot – though there were those things, too)(I also never did any coke, just saying.), but there are some guidelines that are universal. With college right around the corner for many, I thought I’d share some of my very, very wise tips for the incoming freshman.
- Befriend people in your major who are ahead of you. They have a lot of good advice – what classes to take and from who, how to get in good with a professor, what topics are the most important, etc.
- No one cares about what you did in high school. Seriously. No one in college is going to care that you were the head cheerleader/Homecoming royalty/star quarterback/valedictorian/whatever. It doesn’t carry the cache it did in high school. Please do not wear your high school letterman jacket to college. It’s embarrassing.
- Teachers will not hold you accountable. Your education up until now has involved a lot of handholding, largely because classes were smaller. College classes can be enormous, and professors don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to make sure you don’t fall behind.
- Learn to cook. Going out to eat with new friends or ordering pizza is a lot of fun and is certainly easier than cooking at home, and you should do it on occasion. But it is also extremely expensive and bad for you. Learn to cook a handful of relatively cheap, healthy meals to have on hand. A slow cooker is a great idea, as your meal can cook while you’re in class.
- Don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Colleges mark up their books so much. Look on Amazon, Half.com, and other resources for much better prices. Amazon even lets you rent books for a quarter.
- Go to class. This one is related to #3. Your parents aren’t around anymore to wake you up and make sure you get to school on time. Go to class, pate attention, and you’ll be doing better than a lot of your peers. College is also very expensive and every class skipped is money down the drain.
- Remember to sleep. It can be hard to get all your studying done without staying up extra late, but it is equally hard to do well in school if you’re a zombie. Study every day to avoid late night cram sessions and make sure you are getting adequate sleep so you can operate at your best.
- Use alcohol/drugs in extreme moderation. Technically you shouldn’t be drinking at all if you’re under 21, but pretty much no college student follows that rule. Alcohol will be made available to you, and it can definitely be a great way to loosen up, meet new people, and have fun*. Know ahead of time what your limit is so you don’t get too crazy – 1 or 2 drinks an hour, plus 1 glass of water for every drink – is more than enough. Make sure to eat and stay hydrated, and keep close, trusted friends with you at all times. These rules apply for drugs, too. Basically, don’t be a dummy.
- Eat right and exercise. Freshman 15 is very real for most people. This relates to #4. Pizza, fast food, and cafeteria offerings are not the healthiest of options. And it can be tempting after a long day of classes to go home and crash. But try taking a walk, going for a run, or lifting weights at your school’s gym instead to blow off some steam. It can do a world of good.
- Make a few practices trips of your class schedule before school starts. This can avoid being late and having to ask for directions.
- Get to know your professors. They can help you out in a number of ways. Familiarize yourself with their office hours and try to set up meetings with them throughout the quarter. As a for-instance, years ago I had a Buying class and would get terrible test anxiety. My teacher knew that I knew the information, but despite this I’d still get average grades on tests. After setting up a meeting with him to discuss the problem, he came up with a great solution: He’d split my test scores between the actual exams and questions he’d ask during class. No one else knew, so it wasn’t embarrassing, and I was able to bring up my grade.
- Take notes with a pen and paper, not a laptop. Laptops lose power and can also be very distracting. I also find the act of writing material down further cements it in my brain.
- If you’re feeling depressed or otherwise not mentally up to snuff, there are plenty of free resources for you. Talk to your school counselor, the college health clinic, a trusted professor, etc. Don’t suffer in silence!
- Be considerate of roommates and others in general. I had a roommate in college who would routinely eat my food (it was clearly marked with my name, too. One time she ate all the delicious bread my stepdad had made for me before I came home from class. I wanted to punch that bitch in the throat.), leave body hair she’d shaven off on the bathroom counter and in a ring around the tub, and once I came home around 1 AM to our front door open with her inside, passed out. She was the worst. Don’t be this roommate. Clean up after yourself, ask before using/eating other people’s things/food, be quiet if you have to wake up before them in the morning, etc. In short: Don’t be an asshole.
- WATCH YOUR BEVERAGES! This is true for the ladies and Do not ever accept a drink from someone you don’t trust implicitly, unless it’s from an unopened can or bottle. Before I left for college, one of my older brothers told me to never go to parties, because I would get roofied, and I would get date-raped. While that’s a huge overreaction from a protective brother and you should definitely go to parties if you want, be smart and aware of yourself and your drink.
*You do not have to have alcohol or drugs to have a good time! If you’re not comfortable drinking or doing drugs, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that.
Last week I was happily surprised to find out Life Beyond Graduation nominated me for the One Lovely Blog award. How sweet and unexpected! Thank you J I’m so glad people are reading and enjoying my work.
There are a few guidelines, however, that come with accepting this honor:
- Thank the person who nominated you for the blog.
- Display the One Lovely Blog Award on your blog.
- Share seven things about yourself.
- Nominate fifteen bloggers you admire. Inform them by commenting on their blog.
Now on to the seven things about myself:
- I have the same breakfast almost every morning: Plain Almond Dream yogurt, raspberries, homemade granola, and tea with vanilla almond milk.
- I never miss an episode of Pretty Little Liars.
- I love the summer, but get cranky if the temperature is over 75 degrees.
- My phone is currently without a case. So I’m pretty much the ultimate rebel.
- I prefer Pepsi to Coke.
- I love the smell of gasoline.
- Flying on airplanes makes me bloat and puff up like a balloon.
The fifteen bloggers I admire are: