Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Homemade brownie mix

Q&A with Myself
Q: What's one of the fastest desserts you can throw together that is almost universally loved?
A: The brownie.
Q: Where do most people get their brownies?
A: From a packaged mix.
Q: Why?
A: It's fast and the brownies are actually quite good.
Q: But you still have to add the oil and the eggs and mix the batter and bake them, right?
A: Yes, but you don't have to measure all the dry ingredients. That's a big pain...and it's messy.
Q: So why don't you make your own brownie mix and keep it on hand for when you're in the mood for brownies?
A: I don't have a comeback for that. It's a good idea.
The upside is you'll have something just as convenient as a store-bought brownie mix but without any additives. And when you finally bake the brownies, you'll actually be baking from scratch.

P.S. While you're at it, mix up multiple batches to make all that messy measuring worth the effort. Or get together with friends and treat the event like a cookie exchange. Chip in together to buy the main ingredients in bulk, then let each person come up with some interesting additions to personalize his/her brownie mix (espresso powder, cinnamon, chopped peanuts, white chocolate chips, diced dried pineapple, toasted pine nuts, etc.). Then swap containers so you go home with a bunch of different brownie possibilities.

Brownie Mix
I made the mix in a 1-quart deli container. I threw all the ingredients in and then just shook it up to mix them. It worked great. Just be sure to label the container so you know what mix-ins you put in (if any). And stick a little note inside to remind yourself of the other ingredients you'll need for the batter (oil, eggs, and vanilla), as well as the oven temperature and baking time.

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder or nonfat milk powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup add-ins, such as chopped nuts or dried fruit (optional)

In a medium bowl (or deli container), combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, buttermilk powder, baking powder, salt, and whisk (or shake) to blend. Stir in the chocolate chips and add-ins (if using). Store airtight.

To make fudgy brownies
Brownie Mix (above)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

To make cakey brownies
Brownie Mix (above)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.
2. Dump the Brownie Mix into a bowl. Add the oil, water, vanilla, and egg(s), and stir just to blend.
3. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.
Makes 16 brownies

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eye Candy

Eye Candy is a food blog written by Jojo Krang, a blogger living in Switzerland. The 3-month-old blog is a compendium of Krang's food projects, which are incredibly artistic and curious and cool. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. I already love the homemade spiral ravioli made with black and white pasta dough, and the "recipe" for making natural blue food dye from red cabbage.

But my current favorite is a story called "15 Ways to Naturally Colour & Flavour White Chocolate." All 15 flavors/colors are in the photo above and include cinnamon, kinako (toasted soybean powder), beet, turmeric, chili powder, orange zest, green tea, black sesame seeds, cornflowers, and poppy seeds.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Salad servers

The mild weather in New York is putting me in an ohmigod-summer-is-not-faraway mood, which is very similar to my time-for-big-salads-again mood. This cute salad set from Fred & Friends (the masters of the whimsical everyday object) is made of brushed stainless steel and is 11 inches long. InSet sells for $15 from Perpetual Kid--another monument to whimsy.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Buddha bowls

I've got a little bit of a bowl fetish. I like them in all shapes, sizes, and materials. I like itty-bitty silicone prep bowls and giant British stoneware gripstand bowls, and everything in between: cereal bowls, soup bowls, pasta bowls, ice cream bowls....There is something extremely satisfying about eating food out of a bowl. (And key to the satisfaction is matching the bowl size and shape to the food you are about to eat. There are no rules for matching: You just look at your bowls and pick the one that feels right. You'll know it when you see it. It's a personal journey.)

So although I have more bowls than I know what to do with, it doesn't keep me from lusting after new bowls, like these Buddha bowls designed by California artist Elan McPherson. The Buddha bowl holds a respectable 18 ounces and looks like the love child of a bowl and a coffee cup. Use it as a bowl for soup or cereal, or pick it up and use it as the French would for chocolat chaud or cafĂ© au lait.

The bowls sell for $30-ish at Uncommon Goods.