Wednesday, September 08, 2021

There was a Lockdown cooking adventure

During the Lockdown last year, I experimented with cooking a lot of different things I’d never done before. Some went really well, and others… didn’t. Those cooking experiments helped fill the time, and it was kind of fun. This year, things were a little different.

I didn’t do any cooking adventures this Lockdown. That may have been that Lockdown (Alert Level 4) was two weeks and Lockdown Lite (Alert Level 3) was one week, and maybe it wasn’t long enough for me to get bored. In any case, I didn’t cook anything at all unusual until Sunday night’s project: I made chocolate brownies like I used to make in the USA—and never since.

I actually only like American-style chocolate brownies that are cake-like, but denser, and fudge-like, but cake-ier. Sort of a hybrid, I guess. The recipe (I think) originally came from the back of a box of baking chocolate, which was my first problem: The brands of baking chocolate I was used to in the USA aren’t sold in New Zealand, and I wasn’t familiar with the brands that are. However, they don’t seem to be in the same square blocks I’m used to. Moreover, they range from 42% cocoa to 60% cocoa, neither of which is all that “dark” for dark chocolate.

I knew, then, I’d have to find an appropriate substitute, but I just never got around to it. I wanted to make it for Nigel, so he could taste one of the things I often made before moving to New Zealand, but he wasn’t really a fan of chocolate brownies, so it was never a priority. Then I ran out of time.

Still, it’s been on my mind, off and on, for years, and this Lockdown I knew I had a bunch of chocolate in my pantry from to make fudge using the same recipe I used during Lockdown last year. In that same stash I had a block of Whittaker’s Dark Ghana, which is 72% cocoa, and I decided that would be perfect.

The recipe calls for butter or margarine, but I used coconut oil instead (it's reputed to be healthier). Besides, I had some of that, too. I couldn’t easily find my newest baking powder (organising my messy pantry is on my “Someday Projects” list…), and I knew that the one I used was a wee bit elderly, but I’d gone that far, so I decided to just use a bit more than the recipe called for.

The result (photo above) was a little less high than it normally is, but still moist and fudge-like while also cake-like—pretty nearly perfect, in other words, if a bit short. The other difference was that the top was a bit shinier than it usually was. But it tasted perfect (for my taste).

I cut up the brownies into relatively small pieces (the one in the photo was actually among the bigger ones) so that I could have several over the course of a day without actually eating a lot, as I knew I would if I cut them into big pieces.

Most of the cafes I’ve been to in New Zealand that serve this sort of chocolate brownie usually offer yoghurt to go with it, or sometimes whipped cream or maybe thickened cream. They may also have icing sugar (usually called confectioner’s sugar in the USA) sprinkled on top. I’ve never done that, and I don’t serve it with anything because I like it just the way I made it. But I’ve had all the various add-ons on offer, and I think it’s okay, even though none are my preferred thing.

One last thing: Nuts. I’ve never put nuts of any sort in my brownies because I didn’t like it as a kid, and, probably because of that early start, I still don’t. I don’t put nuts in my chocolate fudge, either, for the same reason.

This wasn’t exactly the most earth-shattering culinary adventure I’ve ever had, and it certainly wasn’t the healthiest thing I’ve even made, but I enjoyed it. I’m sure I’ll make it again at some point, but with baking powder that’s still good to go. There won’t be any nuts in any future editions, either, of course. The nut is the one who made the brownies. Guilty as charged, and completely unapologetic—but also not craving chocolate brownies any more.

At least I got in one culinary adventure during this recent Lockdown.

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