Monday, April 5, 2010

Brownies for Steve

Ingredients for Brownies

Steve is an assistant at my law firm who sits across the hall from me. Since I was friendly with the previous secretary there and had always left my baking on her ledge, I continued to put out my food when he took over. This delighted him, and he never failed to compliment whatever I brought (or express sadness if I didn't produce anything for the week ^_^).

Being one of those people just bursting with life, Steve was always greeting me cheerfully in the hall and ready to chat about politics, our desperate need for vacations, or whatever else. Thus, his sudden absence starting a few months ago was noticed, even while I was deep in the fog of war my trial (which, by the way, we won!!).

I assumed he'd left for a vacation I'd been too busy to remember. But it was only weeks later that a mutual friend let on that he'd been seriously ill. Fortunately, good news of his successful surgery and speedy recovery came in that same talk. Well, Steve started working again recently and, I'm happy to report, is as spirited as ever! In fact he's even back to bugging me to bake more 8). Of course, I was more than happy to bake something to celebrate his return to good health and the office.

Knowing his love for all things "brownie-like," I made this highly-recommended recipe with an interesting technique of baking at a high temperature for a brief time followed by an ice bath for a rapid cool-down. All this to produce crispy tops and bottoms surrounding fudgy, but NOT undercooked, innards (yes, I love that word). As expected, these were quite tasty. Just somebody please remind me that my metal pan is 9 and NOT 8 inches across (a 17 square inch difference), so my bars stop coming out so thin ;p.


New Classic Brownies [Printable Recipe]
From Alice Medrich via Scharffen Berger
Makes 16 2-inch square bars (8-inch square pan)

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I know the recipe says this below, but please do NOT use a glass pan or it will BREAK during the rapid cooling ice bath step. Shattered glass is no fun, trust me 8). If you have to use a 9-inch square pan, I'd recommend increasing the ingredients by half or at least including nuts or other add-ins so your brownies are thicker.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pecans (optional)
[I wasn't sure if Steve liked nuts so I omitted]
2 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Prepare an 8-inch square metal baking pan. It is important in this recipe to only use metal. Line the pan with either aluminum foil or parchment paper so that it comes up all four sides.

Melt the butter together with the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a bowl placed above simmering (not boiling) water. Stir to smoothly integrated.

With a wooden spoon or heavy spatula, mix in the sugar, vanilla and salt. Add the eggs one at a time. Mix in the flour. Stir the mixture for at least a minute until the batter is smooth and begins to come away from the sides of the bowl.

If you choose to add nuts, we think a light toasting makes a big flavor difference. Mix in the nuts as the last step before putting the batter in the pan.

Bake the brownies at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until the batter begins to come away from the sides of the pan.

While the brownies are baking, prepare an ice bath for cooling. Using a roaster pan or a larger baking pan, fill it with cold water and ice cubes. When you remove the brownies from the oven, cool the pan completely in the ice bath. Be careful to not get water on the brownies. (If you had used a pyrex pan, the glass would break at this point and your brownies would be ruined.)

Cut the brownies into 16 squares.


  1. It's always wonderful when you work with someone so full of life. I know a few friends from work who are like that too! I am glad Steve is back and better - I am sure the brownies also helped! :)

  2. Aww, you're so sweet to bake these for him, and I'm glad he's doing better. I think I know who you are talking about! The brownies are gorgeous! I am visiting DC in a couple of weeks and planning on stopping by C&B. I'll give you a heads up!

  3. Oh yum! I've made an Alice Medrich brownie recipe before and it quickly turned into my favorite so I'll have to try this method out! I'm glad to hear that Steve's doing well and wanting baked goods. That's always a sign of health :)

  4. Steve is lucky to have someone like you to bake for him! These look delicious.

    I'm glad to hear that his surgery went well! Baked goods are the best cure.

  5. That's a really interesting technique for baking the brownies. I've never encountered that before.

    Isn't it great to have someone around who is ALWAYS excited to try your baked goods, no matter what you've made? I am glad to hear your friend Steve is back in the saddle and on the road to health. The world needs as many Steves as it can get!

    :) Jane

  6. I thought my grandmother had the best recipe. I will try this one it looks great!

  7. Trissa - I'm so grateful to have coworkers like Steve, and I think he enjoyed the brownies :).

    Carmen - You'd never know he was ill at all. I hope to catch you while you're in town!

    smalltownoven - I'd heard awesome things about Ms. Medrich's recipes including this one and it seems like they were well deserved. Now I need to try more.

    Joanne - Yes, they are a cure-all indeed. I'm waiting for you to prove it with your med skillz =p!

    Veggie Belly - Haha I was thinking the same thing at the end of the day when I went back to the ledge, but they were all gone!

    Jane - Yes, I only wish more people were like him. As for the technique, it's not the common way to make brownies but it really makes sense if you think about it. Hope you try it for yourself :).

    Chef Thomas Minchella - I'm sure your grandmother's recipe is amazing and even more tasty for all its history. But it never hurts to have more great recipes up your sleeve, so please do give this a shot.

  8. I'm glad your friend recovered quickly!

    These sound fantastic, and it's such an interesting method! I'd love to try it!

  9. They may be thin but they still look super!
    And what a nice way to celebrate wonderful news

  10. How nice to have someone so positive in your work environment! I'm glad to hear he's doing well! I'm sure these brownies will ensure his recovery. Chocolate always works for me!

  11. Lucky Steve! They look so great, I'd like to have one right now!

  12. whisk-kid - I'd love to hear what you think of this method if you ever try it :).

    Chanel11 - It was a nice way to start the week too. Thanks!

    Danielle - Hehe, there have been various news of chocolate's health benefits lately. Too bad that doesn't justify daily brownies ;p.

    Pam - I wish I could send some to you, but other than the ice bath this recipe is super quick/easy thankfully.

  13. I'm glad your colleague is all right. What a great treat these brownies are!

  14. Glad your co-worker is on the mend. Bet these brownies helped him on the road to recovery. : ) They look great. I've never used a water bath for brownies before so I'm intrigued by your recipe.

  15. I know it has nothing to do with your post what I am about to say.
    I "know" you from flickr (I am Bollero4). You have a very lovely blog, I have one too which is also called Bitter and Sweet, but in Hungarian (Édes és Keserű) :)

  16. Steve is certainly one lucky fellow! Skinny or not they look perfect. I'm glad to learn about this technique and adore the top photo you took! I'll be working on your tips this weekend so hopefully I can get something to look half as good as yours. CHEERS!

  17. So glad to hear Steve is recovering; I think it's definitely cause for a brownie celebration. As usual, I am in awe of your gorgeous photography :)

    And yes, Pyrex will break from temperature shock. Ask my sister's boyfriend about the exploding Pyrex pork roast incident...

  18. What a lucky guy! I love these moist chocolate brownies!

  19. Congrats on winning your trial! Good to hear Steve is on the mend. Brownies are surely helping the recovery ! :D

  20. These are absolutely gorgeous brownies...and d perfect for someone like Steve ...congrats on winning the Trial....and for Steve's recovery too....

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    and all u need to do is hop at the link below and leave her a birthday message and link any or all of ur deliciousness u wanna bring to the party.....looking foward to u the party and CHaya going to love having u over .......
    ANd if possible please send this message atleast to 5 of ur bloggin buddys , we so wanna make her day dont we....

    come to the party ....ur presence n love will make the difference.....

    to bring the joy of the gorgeously stunning Springtime right here

  21. These look like the perfect brownie, and soo nice of you to give your wonderful baking to Steve!

  22. Congrats on your trial! And these brownies too yummm. I've never heard of this method of making them... most intriguing. Sadly I've experienced breaking a glass dish by adding cold water to a hot dish. :(

  23. What a gorgeous story! It's so lovely when people appreciate and like gestures like this. I'm glad to hear that he's better too (and well done for winning the case)! :D

  24. noobcook - thanks for stopping by!

    Michelle - appreciate the well wishes. he still looks to be doing great! please do try this technique. it's pretty easy as long as you've got a metal pan ^_^.

    Édes és Keserű - I just reread this and noticed the comment about your blog title. how lovely. I stopped by and your site and photos are gorgeous. thanks for coming here and the kind words!

    Laura - thx! i suppose it does help portion control for me too hehe.

    Danielle - aw thanks, hun! your food always looks fantastic.

    Dorothy - gracias! and yes, I've had my own glass-breaking funtime but with a pie plate. I just set it on a counter that happened to be slightly wet and it split in 3! your sister's story sounds way more exciting though ;p.

    Angie - we loved them too! glad you came by.

    Y - i appreciate the congrats -- it's been such a relief finally :).

    ♥Sugar♥Plum♥Fairy♥ - thx for visiting and letting me know about your post!

    Koko - I think making these has motivated me to begin a brownie quest!I have a feeling I love them too much to pick a fav though 8).

    eatme_delicious - don't worry I have too haha.

    Lorraine - i'm glad about all that as well. appreciate your support!

  25. I'm glad your workmate is recovered and doing well. Brownies always out a smile on everyone's face.

  26. I'm so HAPPY I found this BLOG! I LOVE me some brownies and these sound amazing! And the technique is crazy. Oh, I'm in heaven reading through all these recipes and stories. So inspiring! I'm working on my own blog. Turning it from just pictures of cakes to more baking and recipes. I'm even more inspired now. Thank you SO much for this blog!


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