Awesome Brownies


It’s been so long since I last posted, that I forgot how to start…Um…So I just flew in from New York and boy are my arms tired..Thank you! I’ll be here all week…and remember to tip your waitress.

How was that? It was weird, I know…sorry.

Anyway, to make up for it I present you with these here mighty fine brownies. Brownie recipes are like a dime a dozen, every cook book has at least one, and yet for some reason most people would rather reach for a boxed mix. Why is that? I think it’s partly because most people get lazy in the kitchen, and looks for shortcuts, but I gotta be honest with you, there’s something about the texture of boxed brownies. They’re soft, mushy, and somewhere in between fudge and cake, it’s something magical. So why am I here trying to convince you to make your own home-made brownies? Well, for one, I’m a firm believer that no matter what, it’s always better to make it yourself. I feel that part of what’s wrong with the way we eat, is that “home-made” is more the exception than the rule, but I digress. However, I think the main reason why you should make these is because they taste so much better than the boxed stuff. They’re flavor is so much more complex, they’re chocolaty-er, and plain old tastier than the other stuff, I promise. I dare you to make these, and tell me that they are not better than duncan hines…go on, I dare you.

Ok, now that you’re on board, let’s go.

I got this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, and one of the things that make this recipe unique is the type of fat used. Fats can pretty much be either saturated or unsaturated. You can imagine a fat molecule like a row in a parking lot, and instead of cars, we’re dealing with hydrogen atoms. When a fat is saturated, every slot is taken, and there are no openings, when a fat is un-saturated, there are open slots for the taking. These open slots in the molecule, causes the molecule to bend in certain ways, and when the molecules line up on top of each other, they don’t really fit well, and therefore they become a liquid. As opposed to saturated fats, when these molecules line up on top of each other, they fit perfectly together, and therefore are solid. So back to our brownies – basically, traditional recipes call for making brownies with more saturated fats (like butter) than unsaturated, but by switching that ratio up, and using more unsaturated fats, the end result is a fudgier, mushier, splendid-er brownie, and let’s be honest, isn’t that what you came here for??

Truth be told, there’s a lot more to talk about in the subject of fats, like the difference between mono and poly unsaturated fats, or the whole trans fat thing, but I can tell you’re thinking to yourself, I’ve been reading this for like 20 minutes already, and we haven’t even started making anything yet?! Get on with it!

All right, start by melting some margarine, and set aside (the original recipe called for butter, but I wanted to keep this parve). In a large mixing bowl, combine dutch process cocoa powder, and instant coffee powder, and pour boiling water over it, and mix to combine.


While the water is still hot, add the chopped up unsweetened chocolate, and whisk until melted.


Then add in the melted margarine, and oil and mix it together. Then add in your eggs, yolks, vanilla, and stir until homogenous, and then add in your sugar, and mix until fully incorporated.


Then add your flour, salt, and bittersweet chocolate, and fold with a rubber spatula, until it just comes together, making sure not to over mix it.


One thing, you know the whole mise en place thing? Having all your ingredients prepared before you start working? Well I never have my act together enough to do that, but in this case I recommend it, especially for the part where we poured the hot water over the cocoa, and then added the chocolate chunks, it will make your life that much less miserable.

Mise en place 

Pour it into a 9 x 13 pan, and bake at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool for at least an hour, embrace your inner fat guy, and shove the brownie into your face by the shovel-full.


For those who were keeping count, there are three different types of chocolates. We have our dutched processed, our unsweetened, and our bittersweet chunks that are like little surprise chocolate bombs hidden throughout the brownie, you won’t find that in those boring boxed mixes, and really this whole thing doesn’t take that long to put together. 

Now because you were good today, and you kept up with my ramblings, and you stuck by my side while I went awol the past few weeks, I’m going to leave you with the best part:



Awesome Brownies

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen


  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate , finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine (or butter), melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate , cut into 1/2-inch pieces


  1. Preheat oven to 350, and prepare your 9×13 pan.
  2. Whisk cocoa, instant coffee and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth.
  3. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.
  4. Whisk in melted margarine and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.)
  5. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous.
  6. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.
  7. Add flour and salt and fold with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
  8. Pour batter into prepared 9×13 pan, and bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool for an hour, and enjoy.

Bagels (Chemistry 101)


If there’s one thing I’ve been wanting to make for some time now, it’s bagels. The problem is, I couldn’t just look up a recipe, and make it, I had to understand what I was doing.

You see, my passion addiction for cooking really hit full throttle when I picked up Harold McGee’s book On food and Cooking. This behemoth of a book (which I’m already on round 2 by the way) is incredible, and un paralleled in food science. There’s like a billion pages, and it’s full of really useful information, which you’d probably think is more boring than watching paint dry, and that’s where I come in. I do the reading so you don’t have to, and you can go back to watching Toddlers and Tiaras! Your welcome. I’m such an altruist.

Ok so bagels, what can be so complicated about it right? Well if you ever ask someone about bagels and where they originated, or where the best place to get one is, they would probably answer you the best bagels are from New York, and because the “water is different there.” Has anyone stopped for a second and thought about that? Well let’s go through it together (I hope you brought your thinking hats on today).

First, what makes a bagel a bagel – Bagels are rounds of dough, that generally shaped in the shape of a …bagel (really? you’re not sure what shape it is?), they are then boiled in water for a short period of time, and then baked in the oven. Ok, so maybe the “water being different” makes a difference.

Now here’s the part where we take a detour into chemistry land for a bit. I’m sure you’ve all heard of acids and bases, but for all of those who never took chemistry, here’s a quick run-down.

Disclaimer – I’m a firm believer of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle, so worry not.

Acids are those things that donate a positive charge (a proton, H+), and bases are those things that accept positive charges (-OH). Simple enough right? Ok if you look at water, which we all know is H20, it’s amazingly compromised of one H+ part and another OH- part (that’s the base part). Now whenever people talk of pH we’re measuring acidity (it’s a measure of the “H+”, hence the pH and yeah, there’s something called a pOH also, which would measure the basicness). This is why pure water is neither acidic nor basic, it’s neutral (which on the pH scale is a 7).

Do you remember the Maillard reaction? We actually spoke about it a loooong time ago, and quick review – the Maillard reaction for all intents and purposes is responsible for any browning that goes on in the kitchen.

Yeah, it’s thanks to that guy.

Searing meat? Boom – Maillard.

Making Toast? Kapow – Maillard.

Baking bread? Shazimzam – Senor Chieftain Maillard once again.

(FYI – This isn’t the same as caramelizing, like we do with onions. That’s exclusively a sugar reaction, as if you were making caramel with sugar and water (hence the name). The Maillard reaction includes proteins, which break down into it’s building blocks (amino acids) and react with sugar, and voila you got some tasty morsels. But more on this another time.)

Ok where am I going with this? And why were you talking about acidity? Well for reasons outside of the scope of this blog (read – I have no idea), the Maillard reaction happens faster in a basic environment.

So we’re trying to make bread, and specifically bagels, which are traditionally dark and hard on the outside, so it would make sense to somehow incorporate a basic substance in it so it browns better. Awesome…ok wait, what exactly is a basic material?

Well happens to be we really don’t cook a lot with bases. The only readily available base in your kitchen is baking soda. Which happens to not be such a strong base. In fact traditional bagels and pretzels are made with a compound called lye (NaOH), which is a very strong base, and has to be handled with gloves, because it is corrosive.

Baking Soda is Sodium BiCarbonate, which in chemistary-ese is – Na-HCO3. With out getting too much into it, it looks something like this:

Side point – this is me keeping it simple…yeah I have a problem

Aaaaaaaaanyway – remember how we said that bases accept positive charges? Well as we know, charges that are alike will repel each other, so the only place a positive charge can go to, is a negative spot. Now if you look at the above picture, forget the Na+, and you’ll see there are three Os (which have negative charges), but one has an H on it already. So just trust me on this one, that means, that only the other 2 Os can accept positive charges.

Now as I said baking soda is not really a strong base, but the alternative to making good bagels at home is using lye, which as I said before is very caustic, and you’d have to order it online. However, what if we can get rid of that stupid pesky H that’s clinging for dear life to that O? It would open up another spot to accept that positive charge, and make it a stronger base (It still won’t be as strong as lye, but it’s a start). Well it turns out you can do that, and pretty easily. Just take the baking soda and bake it.

I saw this in an article by Harold McGee, where he discusses how to make pretzels at home, and I figured I’d give it a try for bagels as well.

Anyway, all you have to do is take the baking soda and spread it on an even layer on a baking sheet, and bake for an hour at about 250 degrees. It’s not as strong as lye, but it is somewhat of an irritant, so I wouldn’t handle with bare hands, but you can just pour the baked baking soda directly into the simmering water.IMG_4294

In answer to the question we said above about water being different. The only thing I can come up with is, when people say that the water is different, they mean the water is “harder.” Hard water is water that has more dissolved minerals in it, specifically calcium and magnesium, which readily make calcium carbonate scales (hence the build up that comes with hard water), and that “carbonate” part is very similar to the “bi-carbonate” part of our sodium bicarbonate.

So it’s possible that in harder waters, it’s more basic, and therefore bagels boiled in that water, would then take a faster ride on the Maillard roller coaster, and give us bagels that are browned really nice.

Just a hypothesis.

Ok so now that we have a stronger base, we can go on to making our bagels…but it’ll have to wait. Considering the length of this post, I’m gonna stop here and continue with the actual making and baking of the bagels, hopefully tomorrow.