Brownies remind me of being a little kid. I hate milk, so I have no nostalgic memories of enjoying a plate of brownies and a cold glass of milk. That sounds like a good way to ruin a plate of brownies. Even so, the crackly tops and chocolate-y interiors and fighting the good fight for a corner piece (this was before those all-corner brownie pans were around) reminds me of bake sales or classroom birthday parties.
These brownies have nothing to do with those brownies. These brownies grew up, got a job, and became productive members of society. Apparently, I’m expected to do the same at this point in my life. Fortunately, I believe that making brownies for friends does, in fact, make me a productive member of society.
There is no baking chocolate in my grocery store, but I found some unsweetened cocoa powder at Castroni, an international foods store. So began the search for a brownie recipe calling for cocoa powder in place of actual chocolate. I found a recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, but Deb’s pictures didn’t look like the brownies that I’m used to. I made it anyways, because the lady is never wrong, and wowww, I’m going to be making these again.
They are super dense, almost like fudge, but less sweet than any brownie I’ve ever had. In my mind, I have chocolate separated into two categories: sweet and bitter, so because I knew these wouldn’t be that sweet, I figured they would be a little bitter. Not the case. They are just…chocolate. There’s no other word for it.
To ease the transition from childhood to adulthood, I threw a couple of m&ms on top – baby steps, right? As you can see, the brownies have a wonderful dark chocolate color, so the m&ms give a nice splash of brightness, plus an added bit of sweetness to those of us who might still be jonesing for the brownies of yore. White chocolate chips might also make a good addition these, if you really can’t leave well enough alone. Better yet, throw in some liquor, make these really grown-up.
Now for the usual dose of Rome, this the view from Ponte Garibaldi, bridging the gap between the centro storico and the neighborhood of Trastevere. In the background is the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. More pictures of St. Peters to come soon!
Cocoa Brownies recipe (adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet)
- 9 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Lindt)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, cold
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- m&m candies for decorating
Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease an 8×8” baking pan and set aside.
Combine butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium-sized saucepan. (Note: the original recipe called for heating these in a double-boiler arrangement, but because I had no heatproof bowl, I just heated these ingredients directly over low heat in a saucepan.) Stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot. Remove from heat and set aside.
Stir in the vanilla, then add the eggs to the mixture one by one, stirring vigorously upon each addition. Once batter looks smooth and well-blended, add flour and stir until fully incorporated. Transfer batter to baking pan. Top with m&ms.
Bake for 25 – 35 minutes, or until an inserted tester comes out clean. Allow to cool (or freeze) fully before cutting.