Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Baking Binge

I have embarked upon a baking binge as of late. Once I got over my initial hesitation about using active dry yeast, and made friends with flour, I got more excited about using the oven. The pizza crusts were a feat all their own, and then I was so tickled by my banana bread recipe that I made two of them within three days. Odd Toddler (nee Fat Baby) and I had some free time on Monday, and he just loves to help me in the kitchen, so I started itching to make us a dessert for dinner that night.

I wanted to make Toffee Bars, but we didn't have enough flour (like I said, a lot of baking has been going around here lately). Then I thought about making Cream Cheese Brownies. Alas, we didn't have enough butter (further blame goes to the banana bread). I'm sick and tired of making fudge, and I'd be perfectly happy to never see another Peanut Butter Pie again.

Odd Toddler and I flipped through a stack of clipped recipes, in a nearly vain search to find something with chocolate that didn't require much butter or flour. And Eureka, I came across a recipe for Double Chocolate Brownies that I'd cut out of the August issue of Parenting magazine (truly, I can get recipes from anywhere). I altered the recipe slightly to shorten the prep time.

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 Tbs cocoa powder
  1. Melt butter and chocolate in microwave, and let cool for about 3 minutes.
  2. Use mixer to beat sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add vanilla extract to mixer, and beat for another 10 seconds.
  4. Add chocolate & butter to mixer, and mix well for one minute.
  5. Sift flour and cocoa into batter and gently fold in.
  6. Pour batter into greased 9x13 baking pan, and bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes.

Smashing! This is a new favorite recipe (Odd Toddler can't get enough of these brownies). It is doubtful that I will ever be able to go back to baking brownies from a mix. As a matter of fact, I have found that I no longer even crave packaged desserts now that I am comfortable making these things from scratch. I am convinced I can actually taste the preservatives in packaged cookies, and it takes all the fun out of everything to read strange-sounding chemical-like names from the ingredients list.

I have long read that it is better for health & dietary reasons to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, avoiding the middle aisles because that is where the packaged food is found, along with the majority of the trans-fats. For most of my adult life, I have purchased most of my foods from the perimeter, buying mostly produce and dairy products anyhow. Today though, while grocery shopping and watching Odd Toddler make absurd attempts to drink imaginary milk from a brand-new, empty sippy cup that was still packaged in blister wrap, I paid more close attention to my grocery list than usual, to see just how many inner aisles I even have to go down. With the exception of the following items, I shopped entirely on the perimeter of the store: flour, coffee, bread, canned vegetable broth, and canned diced tomatoes. Now I know what I need to work on. I could have just as easily bought fresh tomatoes, or better yet, grown them myself. This weekend, I will attempt to bake fresh whole-wheat bread for the first time. Next step will be making my own vegetable broth.

Flour and coffee can stay in the middle of the store. I'm not giving them up, but even I recognize that mad ambition has to stop somewhere.

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