Brownies & Best Friends

For the past half-hour, I have been sitting at my computer, re-writing, deleting & re-writing this opening paragraph. Since I’ve started allanabytes a few months ago, I’ve rarely had trouble with writers block. Usually, my mind boggles with ideas and I start scribbling down phrases or the like, on post its, or the palm of my hands. I dream about the food I want to make and the story I want to tell along with it, mental photographs flying through my head all night. But today, I am stuck. And I think I know why.

I knew I wanted my next blog post to be about the brown butter brownies I stumbled upon in Bon Appetit magazine a number of months ago. I’ve probably made the brownies 5-6 times since finding the recipe, but have yet to blog about them. The first time I made them was for my family.

I found this on the kitchen table one morning, along with an empty tin of the brownies.

Next, I made them for a friend in NYC, who left me a voicemail that started, “You know when you first bite into something and it is simply so delicious that ….”. Point stated. Finally, I made them for a brownie “competition” at work, and they won. So again, point really stated. Yet after all that, I never found the inspiration or the story that could go along with, what my friends call, the “crack brownies.” That is, until last night.

To start off, let me explain by telling all of you how much I hate goodbyes. Saying goodbye to people I care about truly makes me ill. I suck so bad at saying goodbye, I tend to employ the phrase (while laughing nervously and ever so awkwardly), “Guys, it’s not goodbye – it’s see ya later.”

So, last night I had to say goodbye to a near and dear best friend of mine, Allison you know who you are, as she packed up her life and moved to North Carolina for a year. Along with another friend, the three of us sat in an ice cream shop and talked, trying to savor those last moments. Fern told the story of when her wallet was stolen and Allison basically saw the entire thing happen (and didn’t stop the crazies) and I told the story of how I accidentally forgot to add the last ‘a’ to my name in my purchase of a plane ticket, prompting forever and ever, the nickname of Allan. We roared loudly, unknowingly and obliviously disrupting the conversation around us, as we usually do when we’re all together.

Typical us.

As I drove home later that night, I was reminded of a story Allison told us earlier. While we sat slurping the remainder of our ice cream, we gently poked fun at another friend of ours, who had written Allison a goodbye note, seemingly as if she were to never see Al again. “She’s acting like we’re all never going to hang out again!” Allison said, laughing. While I agreed with what Al said (it’s only a year, right?) my friend who wrote the note was right – and suddenly, I was onto something.

The lightbulb went off in my head and suddenly, I was a mess of emotion. Then, the new One Republic song came on the radio, “Good Life,” and the tears slowly began. (Side note:  I don’t really cry, especially over pop songs overplayed on the radio). But, the words spoke to me as they seemed to fit this situation perfectly. Al – am I happy you left us? Not really. But I can justify that with the realization you are about to embark on a wonderful new adventure and I know you’re going to have a ‘good life, ‘especially in the next year (but most especially when we all come visit you in August).

So, the brownies. I had made the delectable batter a few days ago but somehow lost the time & energy to bake them off. So, as I’m driving home, listening to this depressing song, it hit me that I obviously had to bake them when I got home (11:30 pm) and then blog about them. I was roaring to go – the story was perfect and I was sure the brownies would be too. Again, I got home and lost the energy and all I wanted to do was lay in bed, wallow in sadness and download that “good life” song. But, twelve hours of sleep later and I was wide-awake and brownie hungry.

Crack brownies.

Every other time I’ve made these brownies, I’ve never put powdered sugar on top. Why now? The story must tie in here somehow, right? All during high school, for dances, parties, slumber parties, etc, Allison would always bring her mom’s homemade brownies with loads of powdered sugar on top. They were her staple – and they were heaven. So, this is my homage to you Allison (and Kath), just a little twist on a fantastic brownie recipe.

Cocoa Brown Butter Brownies w/ Walnuts (Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine) – Makes 16 brownies.

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup walnut pieces (optional)

Position rack in bottom third of oven, preheat to 325 degrees f. Line 8 x 8 x 2 inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides, leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at the bottom of the pan, stirring often, about five minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon generous salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes, mixture will still be hot. Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts and transfer batter to prepared pan.

There is a reason these brownies gained the nickname “crack brownies.” They are addictive and you cannot have just one – and if you do, well, I take my hat off to you, because not only do I eat two or three at a time, I also eat a spoonful of the batter. Their nutty from the browned butter, they’re fudgy, rich and buttery. Crisp crust on top and chewy on the inside. Perfect brownie, if you ask me.

It’s taken me a long time to find a brownie recipe I really love. It’s also taken me a long time to find and forge the great friendships I’ve been blessed with. So, Al, this blog post is for you. Hopefully you’re reading this on your computer in your new apartment, crying hysterically because you can’t figure out how to put your new couch together by yourself. We all love you, lady and miss you so much. See ya in August!

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