My Darkest Chocolate Brownies

January 18, 2016

There was a time in my life when I spent 20-some hours a week training for Ironman. This time is so far in the past now that I can barely remember what it was like to have to pull myself from bed at 5am every morning just to fit in a couple of training sessions, work, life, cooking dinner, ya know, to pack it all in. The hurt has faded. So too (almost) has the post-run soreness that sometimes would sideline me on the couch all of Saturday so I could feel like a human being again. I do, however, remember weeks just bleeding together because every free moment was spent running, swimming and riding on repeat. I’ve thought of those days more and more as Cape Epic draws closer and closer, the time starts to bleed together and is now running on full speed ahead. But there are lots of differences in these preparations. While there’s intention in this training, I’ve intentionally left out the set structure. Where there was once a lack of joy in monotonous days, now lies a contentment in any opportunity that I have to ride, to play outside for long days with friends, to wake up early when I can, to recover when I can’t and to really listen to what my body is asking for in all of this. And that’s where these brownies come in.

It hasn’t been until this past year, really, when I started to truly understand what it felt to be recovered. To be strong for any physical challenge sent my way. To be whole. To not be chronically fatigued. To be sated. To be well-slept. When I was in it –setting all those big goals, and blowing them apart– I didn’t realize that the nights I spent sleepless were a true detriment. I didn’t understand that the soreness I felt inside was from exhaustion, or depletion, or overtraining. I knew that I was improving with every race. And so I must have been doing something right, right?! 

A little bit of time away from sport, focused on food and nutrition, and just personal well-being has righted my ship, without me really even understanding that the ship had been upturned. Without a training calendar to drive my every workout, I find myself resting when I’m tired. Skipping workouts when it just doesn’t fit, instead of smashing in something subpar. Now that I’m rested, I find myself pushing hard when I want, when I feel the fire. Sometimes this means racing the town sprint, or climbing into the mountains or rolling, slipping and sliding on the snow when the conditions suggest that the couch would be a better option. I’m listening to what my body wants, and needs, and craves – whether its a long ride in the cold, a little sit in the steam room, an extra hour (or three) of sleep on a Sunday morning, a few extra calories in the form of something decadent. And so, when I woke up with the craving for allthethingschocolate after a long week of challenging winter rides, feeling a bit tired and a bit lazy, I called an immediate rest day so I could make these brownies (duh.)

Much like structured training on a calendar, I don’t remember the last time I made brownies from a box mix because they’re SO easy, and you probably already have what you need to make brownies-from-scratch on hand! I have played with quite a few brownie recipes in recent history but this one is probably the oldest recipe I’ve used (and by old, I mean found in an old family recipe book I acquired somewhere on the East Coast at a flea market, and brought back to life,) I love that even in its old age, it keeps decadently sticking with me. These brownies: so dark, and gooey if you want, but more cakey if you don’t (depending on how long you bake them – pull them from the oven just a few minutes early for molten, gooey brownies.) The glaze is necessary, and totally brings this recipe home. Don’t even think about leaving it out because it adds a whole other layer of texture to the chewy brownie, it’s crusty baked top, and the shards of pecans hiding in the middle. (It also serves to stick more pecan goodness to the tops of the brownies, so there’s that.) These are sweet, chewy, thick and luxurious. Don’t be confused; there’s nothing “healthy” about this recipe except that craving a brownie is a completely natural, fantastic response to a body working hard in the winter, and a little bite goes a long way. I made a big old batch, then, once cooled, chopped a couple of good hunks out of the pan to keep for myself and then gave the rest of the batch to friends to share. No one was disappointed and I was satisfied. Win, win, win!

A few notes on preparation. I use DARK chocolate, and love pecans in my brownies. You could use milk chocolate, and you could swap out the nuts but….up to you. Don’t forget that you want to FOLD your brownies to keep the air out of them; air makes brownies non-gooey and less delicious. If you need a few pointers on folding batter, check out this little guide.

Give these a whirl because, this time of year, if you’re not craving a big hunk of something delicious + decadent, I’m gonna go ahead and say that you’re doing something wrong. 😉 Enjoy! – xo L 

My Darkest Chocolate Brownies
Ingredients
  1. Brownies
  2. ½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, plus more for pan
  3. 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  4. 1½ cups chopped pecans (optional)
  5. 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  8. 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 72% cacao)
  9. 1½ cups sugar
  10. 3 large eggs
  11. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  12. Glaze
  13. 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 72% cacao)
  14. 4 tablespoons (½ stick) salted butter
  15. 1 tablespoon dark rum
  16. 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  17. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  18. ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  19. ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
FOR THE BROWNIES
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour an 8x8" baking dish, shaking out excess flour. Toast pecans, if using, on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, just 8–10 minutes. Let cool the nuts cool and increase oven temperature to 375°.
  2. Whisk cocoa, salt, baking powder, and 1 cup flour in a medium bowl to combine making sure to work out any lumps. Warm the chocolate, sugar, and ½ cup butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (bowl should not touch water), OR in your microwave in 30-1 minute increments, stirring constantly, until smooth the chocolate and butter have completely melted. The mixture will be uniform and a little bit grainy from the sugar. Remove from heat and add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend after each addition. (Don't use a whisk to do this - you don't want any air in your gooey, decadent brownies!) Mix in vanilla, then fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in reserved walnuts (do not overmix).
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30–40 minutes. Let cool.
FOR THE GLAZE
  1. Heat chocolate, butter, rum, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering (water bowl should not touch water) or again in 30 second increments in the microwave stirring constantly, until smooth.
  2. Pour glaze over brownies and top with walnuts, if using. Chill until glaze is set, at least 1 hour. Slice into 12 brownies.
  3. Do Ahead: Brownies can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
LentineAlexis http://LentineAlexis.com/

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