Books and Brownie Cookies

When I first started this blog, someone on Facebook asked me if I was trying to be the next “Julie.”  For those of you who aren’t sure, she was referring to Julie Powell of Julie & Julia fame.  Since I love food so much, naturally I’ve been wanting to see this movie, but since I also love to read, and I found out that there was a book, I opted to read the book first.  Of course, snob that I am (but really just not wanting to give away the fact that I’m reading the book because of the movie and wanting to seem like I knew about this waaay before the movie even came out), I had the minions at Barnes and Noble fetch me the copy without the movie tie-in on the cover.  Ok, where was I going with this?  Oh yeah…

No, I’m actually not trying to be the next Julie Powell.  Though I was inspired by her, I am not attempting to bake my way through a book full of baking recipes.  I think I’d drive myself crazy…she nearly did (her Julie/Julia Project blog is here)!  I actually wanted to blog about my baking because I found myself talking to myself a lot while baking, muttering how I’d improve the recipe next time, or wanting to document the thoughts in general that were streaming through my mind during the process — from the feeling of how what I was doing reminded me of my mother and my childhood, to the complaints I had about certain recipes being a pain in the arse because they were so tedious.  Oh, I only wish I had been blogging when I experimented with fondant.  I had a lot to say then!

I’m almost finished with the book.  I will say that my experiences with baking are a lot more relaxed than her experiences with Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She was on some kind of a mission, and I am not particularly on any kind of mission, though I realized yesterday that the psychology behind my doing this involves some kind of comfort in the scientific nature of baking — from measuring out ingredients to tweaking the proportions, to getting to the techniques and improving on them.  It’s predictability with just a bit of unknown, the unknown being the end result of your efforts.  I am a bakeologist and my tiny, humble kitchen is my lab.

I have a bunch of other books in my library queue that are about food.  I’ve become a fan of Ruth Reichl’s (former New York Times food critic) writing ever since I read Garlic and Sapphires a few years ago.  It was because of this book that I even learned famous names from the culinary world and whose restaurants were the most “coveted” as far as dining experience.  And of course it helps that I watch a lot of Top Chef.  I picked up Reichl’s Comfort Me With Apples today.  I’ll probably get to that next.

Anyway, tonight’s baking project is not a new recipe to me.  In fact, I’ve made this several times already and I consider it one of my two top cookie recipes.  I had a craving for brownie cookies one evening, and so I searched for a recipe.  I swear by the Food Network as a source, and I am going to have to refer you to this site again, because this is where I found the recipe.

Brownie cookies.

These little suckers are going to my friend in Chicago, so I unfortunately can’t eat a whole bunch of them — just whatever I can’t fit into the container.  There’s a part two to this care package, but it may have to wait until tomorrow.
No particular comments about this recipe except that making them is fun if you have a child who likes to get his or her hands dirty.  Or if you like to get your hands dirty.  Making the dough into balls gets quite messy — you will get chocolate covered hands as the chocolate melts from the warmth of your palms.  I also find that the better quality of chocolate you use, the better it comes out.  The first time I made these I used three bars of Perugina bittersweet chocolate, the second time I used Ghirardelli, and both were a success.  I tried using Hershey’s chocolate once and I wasn’t too thrilled with the results.  I once actually accidentally used Hershey’s chocolate with pomegranate seeds (I didn’t read the label carefully when placing them into the cart at the grocery store) — I found out too late, when I was already at the stage of melting the chocolate, and so I used a strainer to get the seeds out.  The resulting cookies had a fruity flavor, which weren’t bad if you enjoy fruit-infused chocolate.  So it was somewhat of a “good” accident.
This is somewhat of a “play around” kind of recipe for me.  I always adjust the sugar to the amount of chocolate used.  Sometimes 2 1/2 bars is enough, depending how chocolatey and how sweet you want these things to be.  My favorite part is always melting the chocolate — I love seeing the silky, shiny texture and just watching it ribbon down back into the bowl when I lift the spatula and hold it in midair after stirring.  This time I used 1 1/2 bars of Perugina that I had leftover and 2 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate.  I worried a little about the semi-sweet, as the recipe calls for bittersweet, but hey, chocolate is chocolate and it still turned out well in the end.
With chocolate, there is no such thing as an unhappy ending…

Recipes in this post:
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