There's something about Chicago weather. It has meteorological attitude problems. It misbehaves.
For those of you who have never been here, this is not simply because it gets really cold and really windy. No, it's because it conspires to trick you like no other place I have ever been. Only in Chicago could you be caught unawares in a heavy snow in no more than a sweatshirt, or be more layered than an Inuit for what turns out to be a sweltering day. Only in Chicago could you expect to experience a 30 degree temperature jump from one day to the next. Only here, on the banks of Lake Michigan, would you find yourself in a place that has been colder than Alaska, Moscow, or even the North Pole. Or hotter than... well, we haven't conducted that experiment yet. We only researched other temperatures around the world this winter. (So no, I'm wasn't kidding.)
Take this week as an example. After several days of clear skies and brilliant sunshine, I couldn't help but feel that, at long last, we were inexorably crawling towards spring. The Chicago Weather demons must have sensed the joy in my thoughts, and decided it was a fit time to anoint us with that delightful precipitation that is somewhere between rain, freezing rain, hail, snow, and sleet. I think the NOAA has taken to calling it a Wintry Mix. Five days of it.
In Chicago, one does not walk. One trudges.
[Insert rant about how Neen & Do are living the Bay Area, the Land of Neverending Spring. Grr.]
How in the world, you might ask, does any of this relate to food? Very simple: the "comfort" variety. And what can possibly be more comfortable than chocolate? Long and short of it: brownies. Brownies make life better.
HISTORICAL ASIDE: My obsession is geographically appropriate, because brownies were invented in Chicago. Seriously. In the Palmer House Hilton, in the Loop (downtown). Mrs. Palmer assigned her chef to create a new dessert for the ladies at the 1893 World Fair -- something with chocolate, preferably that could be handheld, but similar to a cake. Et voila: brownie.
Now, like Neen, I usually rely on the New York Times' old Supernatural Brownie recipe. As a matter of fact, I think it was this recipe that convinced my roommates that I was a chocolate fiend. There is unanimous agreement in my apartment that when I am in the kitchen, I provoking the slow and delicious deaths of all around me. Mwahaha!
Recently, however, I've uncovered a new way of making them. It lightens up ever so slightly on the butter and chocolate, allowing you to have more control over whether you end up with more cakey or more fudgy brownies depending on your cooking time. Furthermore, with the different proportions, they lose nothing of their luxuriousness while nevertheless not making you feel like you'll die if you have more than one or two. Or three. Or-- yeah, actually, I recommend you make multiple batches. In my experience, they disappear in about as many days.
These are "Classic Brownies," I believe originally clipped from the Joy of Cooking.
-1,1/4 cups cake flour (regular flour is fine)
-1/2 tsp salt
-3/4 tsp baking powder
-6 oz unsweetened chocolate (chopped fine)
-12 Tbs (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
-2,1/4 cups sugar
-4 large eggs
-1 Tbs vanilla
Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 13*9 baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Combine flour, salt, and baking powder by whisking them together in a medium-sized bowl.
Melt together the chocolate and butter, stirring until it's smooth. Once smooth, whisk in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time until they are thoroughly combined. Whisk in the vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients in three additions, folding in with a rubber spatula until the batter is completely smooth. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake 30-35min, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. I recommend sprinkling the top with some powdered sugar, just for decoration.
Supposedly, you should to let it cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before cutting and serving. Yeah, right. As if I could wait that long.
Suddenly, facing the outdoors isn't so bad anymore.