As a 20-year-old, I was 40 pounds overweight. It was fine, you know, not a big deal. Oh, I suppose if you care about your appearance, want to be attractive to 20-year-old young men, or want to fit into your Belgian roommate’s cool clothes, well, then you’re sunk. But other than that.
I eventually lost the weight, but it wasn’t through dieting. I can’t diet. It’s not an option. I hate the denial. The boring food. The scale. The early morning resolutions that crumble by day’s end.
So I devised a plan. I examined every portion I mindlessly heaped onto my plate, grabbed a spoon, and put half of it back. Then, after inhaling that smaller portion — and this is the crucial part of my plan — I used every ounce of willpower in my substantial frame to resist going back for more. Instead, I gave myself a 10-minute window to withstand the obsession with getting more food. If I could get past that 10-minute danger zone where I wanted more, much more, now, the fixation would fade and my mind would find something else to do. And I reached a good weight.
I still have to think about what I eat every day. I have to stop myself from pouring a second bowl of cereal in the morning (especially when I’m having Lucky Charms — is there some addictive ingredient in that stuff? Somebody needs to conduct a study…); or adding way too many potato chips next to my sandwich at lunch; or eating tremendous mouthfuls of some delicious dessert straight from the pan. And so it goes. My bad eating habits are still there, waiting for a chance to exert themselves, but I mostly keep them under control.
Certain desserts seem to activate my very bad habits and all hell breaks loose. I forget about the half-portions. I forget about not going for seconds. I forget about the 10-minute cooling-off period. No, I stand over the pan and consume bite after bite, cramming it in, until I suddenly come to, shocked at myself. What, am I a wolverine now? Raiding, tearing, scratching, devouring. It’s not pretty.
The Baked brownie has joined the ranks of a few other saboteurs that I allow myself to cook on a need-to-have basis only (Boston cream pie, whoopie pies, macaroni and cheese).
It’s the perfect brownie: dark, fudgy, soft, with intense chocolate flavor. Their beautiful dark, fudgy, soft, and chewy quality permeates the entire brownie, so there are no dry and crumbly edges.
I’m so in love with these. This week, inspired by a recipe I saw on David Lebovitz’s site, I added dollops of dulce de leche to the brownie batter. The results were wonderful, but the dulce de leche was overshadowed by the character of the chocolate brownie itself. That’s saying something, when caramel doesn’t improve a chocolate dessert.
Everything else I’ve tried from the Baked cookbook has been amazing, by the way. Try the rice krispie treats with peanut butter and milk chocolate topping and you’ll see what I mean.
So now I’m 41 years old, and I can’t get by on the portion control thing alone. I belong to a running group. I go to the gym. Still, as I get older, I follow a simple rule: if it’s worth the calories, have at it. This one is worth it for me.
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
Yield: 24 brownies
The Baked brownie is a beautiful thing. It has won the hearts and minds of many people, been featured on the pages of O Magazine as a favorite thing, and won best brownie by the folks at America’s Test Kitchen and the Today Show. Our brownie really owes many kudos to our friend and superstar pastry chef Lesli Heffler-Flick. She created the original ultimate brownie for us. It is dense, chocolatey, and slightly fudgy, and we are forever grateful to her for letting us adapt her recipe.
Baked Note: A great brownie is easy to make, but you have to be aware of several factors. 1. Use a dark cocoa powder, like Valrhona. A pale, light-colored cocoa does not have enough depth. 2. Make sure your eggs are room temperature and do not overbeat them into the batter. 3. Make sure you check your brownies often while baking. Once the brownies have been overbaked slightly, they have reached the point of no return.
1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
11 ounces quality dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped coarsely
8 ounces butter (2 sticks), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light colored metal pan 9x13x2 pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, the salt, and cocoa powder.
Configure a large sized double boiler. Place the chocolate, the butter, and the instant espresso powder in the bowl of the double boiler and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk the sugars until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. Mixture should be room temperature.
Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not over beat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula (do not use a whisk!) fold the dry into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.
Pour the mixture into the pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Bake the brownies for 30 minutes (rotate the pan half-way through baking) and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.