EVENT: Phoebe Leaves the Corporate World
DISH: Cara’s Best Brownies
The recipient of these particular emotionally ridden treats was my friend Stephanie who, up until yesterday, also happened to be my boss. As I celebrated my two-year stay in corporate America and embarked on my junior year in the real world, I decided it was time for a change. Friday, Stephanie sent me on my way with a dozen decadent chocolate-chip cupcakes, topped with her grandmother’s buttercream frosting that I’ve been hearing about and blindly craving for months. She also gave me a set of heart-shaped measuring spoons to help me share the love in my new office, the kitchen.
Stephanie has become one of the most important people in my life, and definitely one of the most important bakers (second to Cara, of course, who has the power to edit out unfavorable sentences). Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of eating the fruits of her labor—chocolate cake, cookies, and campfire pies—in her office while we read the latest Gossip Girl nymag.com recap, recapped our own weekends, and shared any of the latest life gossip outside the office.
Our relationship evolved to include a lot of the latter. I think the turning point was when, last summer, I accompanied Stephanie, her boyfriend of several years, and his coworker on an extra-office blind double date. Apparently, after 5 rounds of different types of liquor, my date and I began holding hands under the table, a small act I am relentlessly teased about to this day. Our time together has included a lot of laughter about this night, my many other first dates, and much advice about the bigger issues of love, all of which went down easily accompanied by a rice crispy treat, or tempered by the taste of a warm chocolate chip cookie.
Though I woke up yesterday a free woman, I figured day one of the rest of my life needed to be acknowledged somehow, if not just for my own peace of mind, then for Stephanie, to whom I owe my employable skill set, confidence, and daily addiction to chocolate. With these rich brownies I hoped to express my love, guilt, and growing cubical separation anxiety. But more importantly, I just wanted to say thank you. It may take more than a tablespoon of love to taste that sentiment, but luckily, unlike her grandmother’s icing, it is not something in short supply.
From my kitchen, where chocolate has taken the place of my Monday morning conference calls, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Cara’s Best Brownies
16 normal-sized brownies
Though it sounds peculiar, underbaking and then immediately freezing the pan of brownies creates an incredible texture—sturdy but luscious.
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup add-ins: chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, heath bar bites, or chopped toasted nuts.
Note: Though I like eating fancy brands of chocolate when someone else is paying, these brownies miraculously use good old Baker’s Unsweetened chocolate squares to great results. If you’re in the mood to splurge, the brownies are obviously also delicious with any of the new and improved unsweetened chocolate bars out there.
Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan. Clear a space in the freezer for the pan, and line the space with a dish towel.
Melt the chocolate with the butter in a saucepan over low heat (this can also be done in the microwave). Remove from the heat and stir in the sugars. Stir in the eggs, vanilla, and optional espresso, and mix until smooth. Add the flour, salt, and nuts/chips/candy and stir until smooth. Pour into the pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is crackly but the brownies are still quite moist. Cool slightly, then put the whole pan in the freezer until thoroughly cool.