Cooking with Commandant M. Stewart.
Part I. (Battle Brownies)
So, we all know who Martha Stewart is. She’s almost like a military leader in the field of baking and home ec type things. (does any school even have home ec classes? If so, can we sign up?) What you probably don’t know is that she drives C insane.
C tends to be an “Act First, Think Later” type. She’s not what one would call super organized. Or meticulous. When she wraps things, she tends to use more tape than wrapping paper. When she bakes, it usually takes two full loads of the dishwasher, a mop, a broom, and Windex to make the kitchen safe for ordinary humans again.
K, on the other hand, would clearly be promoted to a high rank in the Commandant’s army. Although she is capable of causing her own share of chaos, she is an amazing painter, and has yet to be bested by any sort of arts and crafts type activity. In fact, K has the special talent of making even accounting look pretty.
But C wanted to prove that she too could join the Martha Stewart Army, if she really wanted to. So, she found a recipe for homemade brownies and got to work. But, first, she called the other half of the team. Following is a REAL C and K conversation
C: “I’m making brownies from scratch”
K: “It’s really not that hard.”
C: “LIES! Besides, they’re Martha Stewart Brownies. That makes them way harder.
K: Umm…Sure. I’m going to go make chocolate cappuccino cheesecake from scratch.
Regardless of K’s calmness, C did find the brownies challenging, and she almost gave up about thirty times. However, she managed to get them in the oven with only minimal destruction of kitchen property, and the results were so worth it.
The recipe was slightly less terrifying than C feared. In fact, the trickiest part came from prepping the pan with parchment paper. As much as we wish we could tell you to skip that annoying step, it really did improve the taste of the brownies, and made it way easier to actually get the brownies out of the pan. Everyone’s had that time they’ve slightly over-cooked the brownies and had to chisel them out of the pan, right? Well, Commandant Stewart has a way to avoid that. And, it actually WORKS.
These may be some of the best “standard” brownies ever. Seriously, if you’ve only ever had brownies from a box, you need to make these. This instant. The result is well worth the battle.
Speaking of which, Commandant, can I please be in your army now?
Adapted from this Martha Stewart Recipe (link)
Makes one 9-by-13-inch brownie
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan
1 and 1/3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips (or 9 oz of chopped semisweet chocolate)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, brought to room temperature
1 TABLESPOON pure vanilla extract
½ cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
Also optional: Helmet, shield, barricade, barbed wire. You know, standard battle supplies.
1. Gird your loins and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Attack the pan. By this, I mean, butter the 9-by-13-inch cake pan. Then, cut your parchment paper to a piece about three inches too big on each side. Now, start fighting with that paper to get it to lie flat. I found one of the best way of keeping it down to press all along the long sides of the pan first, and then the short sides. Still, my results weren’t too pretty.
Once you’re done fighting with the pan, make sure to butter the parchment paper too. Because butter makes everything better.
3. Next, Martha recommends placing the butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a double boiler and stirring until butter and chocolate have melted. Let cool slightly.
C used a microwave. It made a bigger mess than the double boiler would have, but we pride ourselves on not needing a fancy double boiler, and also, this blog isn’t called Our Kitchen’s CHAOS for nothing. So, if you want to follow our messy footsteps, first melt the chocolate chips for about thirty seconds on low and then add in the butter. Microwave again, on low, for thirty seconds and stir. Repeat until mostly melted, then stir in the cocoa powder and finish melting in the microwave.
4. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. (ha. See! A simple step)
5. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until light in color and smooth, about 4 minutes. Make sure you use a full TABLESPOON of vanilla, not a teaspoon.
6. Stir in chocolate mixture. Reduce speed to low, and mix for about a minute or until incorporated. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. If using chocolate chips, mix those in too.
3. Spread batter evenly into the pan. This can be a bit of a challenge. We recommend using a long handled large serving spoon to drop dollops of batter everywhere, and then using a butter knife to smooth the top. Now, breathe a sigh of relief. The tricky part is over.
4. Bake until a fork inserted into center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes. (Ours was ready at 32 minutes, but ovens may vary. We recommend checking at about thirty minutes)
Now, be patient and let cool in dish 30 minutes. Then, carefully holding the paper lift it out, and let cool completely on wire rack. Lining the pan gives each brownie a perfectly firm crust on the bottom, while still keeping the middle very fudgey. All these different textures makes the brownies a very addictive treat. You will not be able to eat just one of these, we promise.
These brownies are so smooth, and rich. They taste like what box-mix brownies dream of being. They have a velvety interior, and a perfectly flaky crust. At least this time, C cedes to Commandant Stewart’s mastery of the kitchen. Now, go out and make these, fellow baker-soldiers!
C’s rating: 5/5. Perfect. Couldn’t ask for a better brownie.
Do you also want to join the M. Stewart army? Are you already a member? Do you have a better brownie recipe? Let us know in the comments!