At some point this month, Sass & Veracity will be four years old, and in blog years, that’s an accomplishment of sorts — one that could be classified as seat time, but that’s a matter I’ll continue to work on.
I can’t remember the first time I wrote here, but know it was near mid-March, 2007, about the time I’d decided to call it quits on my career. Quits as in before my retirement date which is not something that is done when one has spent half a lifetime working with children and is within spitting distance of said date. No, most would stick it out a few more months to get an entire 20 years in, but not me. That would be far too logical.
A couple of months at home recovering from surgery gave me the opportunity to think about something other than my work, and I realized what I’d suspected. I couldn’t go back. Ever. It was too remarkable finding out my brain was still capable of thought unrelated to the fine art of educating children or the not so fine art of working with ridiculous government policies and bureaucrats (but you might insert any career here that has overstayed its welcome). I felt like a completely different person once I’d made my decision, and when alone at home during the day felt like I was playing hookey and about to get caught. Bear in mind my husband was supportive of it and me, knowing that unless I wanted to find a different job, we’d be without half of what we normally lived on.
Giving up my food magazine subscriptions was probably not going to cut it.
I rationalized that my youngest needed me, and after raising three boys while spending more time with other people’s children, it felt like a gift to be home with at least one of them. He was still in school and in need of some gentle but focused guidance to see him through high school — i.e., How to Survive The Geometry Teacher and Live to Tell About It — or not.
So how did this all begin? I started another blog first, and because a good friend and I had committed ourselves to getting fit with a specified diet and exercise regime, I realized I’d have more to say about it all than what I wanted to write on one blog, especially if it involved food. I thought writing about the healthy meals I was eating would be a great place to begin along with my never ending opinions about food in general. It made perfect sense to start a second blog at the time.
It was perfect until our quest to lose 50 pounds stagnated at about 15 as did my motivation to write about food. The struggle was more about my avoidance of this blog for the other which allowed me the space and freedom to write whatever I wanted whether anyone wanted to read it or not. As much as I knew I could cook, making whatever I cooked look appetizing in a photo was another matter completely, so I begrudgingly realized I would need to spend more time than I originally thought I’d require to make Sass & Veracity work. “Work” meant something I looked forward to, enjoyed spending time with, learning from…all of that. But I just wasn’t interested in writing here — if I could actually call it writing. It seemed more about the tedious task of recipe recording or revising. Thankfully, the welcomed salvation of photography saved me — something I’d always been interested in, but had much to learn about. There’s nothing quite like having to figure out how to shoot food which isn’t sporting a golden glow that will keep one thinking.
When I think of the blogs I first remember happening on to four years ago, 101 Cookbooks, Lucullian Delights, The Wednesday Chef, and The Traveler’s Lunchbox come to mind with archives going back a year or two from that point. They’d all been at it for a while. With great photography and a clear voice in their writing, I had hope that maybe I would be able to make this a place to write well also. Time went on and so many more food blogs surfaced. I discovered The Daring Bakers when there were fewer than 50 members in the group and soon figured out that if I baked more instead of cooked, the food behaved better in front of my camera. More time passed and Foodbuzz surfaced along the way. Twitter began tweeting. Facebook began its quest to take over the universe. In the meantime, I have met lots of wonderful people who, like me, are interested in food. I lost something along the way trying to write about food, though. Writing for writing’s sake.
I miss that.
I’ve gotten to the point that too many of my thoughts — all of them — are connected to where the next recipe is coming from. Whether the ingredients are local or not. How I’ll shoot the recipe, when I’ll edit the photos, and whether I’ll take the time to submit them to Tastespotting or Foodgawker. It’s endless and the spark has gone from it on most days, but I’m working through some adjustments about where it all should settle into my life, which is so much more than food.
Evil thought, isn’t it?
So I’m here on this almost anniversary of an important time in my life to share something simple — at least in appearance. To hopefully give you a bit of sass (which has been sadly missing for a very long time) with the always pragmatic veracity I’m prone to on whether there’s actually something that remains to be said about a brownie.
Please know that I am not a brownie baker. In fact, it’s probably the only baking phobia I have, except that run-in with Julia Child’s french bread a couple of years ago. My brownie phobia has been well-earned because no matter what I have done, the brownies that have come from my oven resemble cube-like hockey pucks more than fudge flavored treats. The last batch of brownies I ruined came from a box mix sometime when my two older boys were in elementary school, a very long time ago. The brownies that surface in our home have come from the grocery store in bite sized form ready for the snacking.
So today, I bring you brownies. Surely it’s time I learned to make them properly.
The big question is, do you prefer them fudgey, or cakey? With nuts or without? Chocolate chips added? Marshmallows, M&Ms, dulce de leche drizzled over the top? Or maybe plain with a bit of salt and washed down with a tall glass of ice cold milk enjoyed through a good old fashioned paper straw.
Salted Fudge Brownies
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 c. + w T unsweetened cocoa
2 c. sugar
3 lg. eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. flour
1/2 tsp. Maldon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line a 9×9″ baking pan with foil allowing the edges to hang over the sides. Spray the pan and foil lightly with oil.
- In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally until well combined. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the following ingredients individually making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next: cocoa, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and flour.
- Scrape the batter from the pan into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the salt over and swirl in with a knife.
- Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center is removed “with a little of the batter.” Cool at room temp for an hour, then place in the fridge for an additional hour. Remove from the pan and cut into either 9 or 16 pieces depending on preference.
- Insert happy jumping up and down with glee. Or success. Something. Truly, this is the first batch of brownies I haven’t screwed up.
- They’re very fudgey. Very. I was worried about the “with a little of the batter” part because seriously — how much is little? When you’re a failure at brownie baking like I am, I need details. But they worked.
- Dense, chocolatey, and yes, you can taste that salt on the top (which I sprinkled on after the fact because I blew it and added the salt with the flour). We loved that part — especially with coffee in the morning when I’m wondering whether I need two instead of one.
- I did end up cutting the 9ths into 16ths. They’re rich.
- Wait until you see what I made with these. Just wait. Fudge overload coming soon in celebration of my oldest boy’s birthday.
- Almost forgot: This recipe is from Kate Krader as published in Food & Wine and which I followed the recipe almost to the “t.” I figured if I was going to have success, then choosing a recipe that someone has made since she was 10 years old might help. Thanks, Kate!
- When’s the last time you had some ice cold milk with a brownie? It tastes different from a paper straw — just like it did when I was in school. Go figure.
- Are there any other brownie challenged bakers out there like me? Come on. Fess up! And if you’ve found success with a brownie recipe, send it to me at sassandveracity[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll link it here with any comments you’d like me to add. Don’t be shy 🙂 Let the brownie chronicles begin.