Sometimes cooking is all about planning – selecting a recipe, writing a shopping list, procuring all the ingredients, and finally, the actual preparation and clean-up. But sometimes, it’s just about satisfying a sudden craving on a Saturday night — no pre-planning required. And that’s just what happened last weekend when @gregorytlee and I made Mocha Brownies with Toasted Pecans and Sea Salt.
It was approaching 8:30 but my yen for chocolate didn’t care the time of day. So I thought about a quick one-bowl recipe, grabbing my laptop for a speedy google search. One of the recipes that popped up was from the blog Smitten Kitchen — I noticed that she can prepare these brownies while her little one takes a very short nap which sounded like a perfect timetable for 8:30 in the evening.
I did a quick scan of my baking drawer and determined that we were in business. @gregorytlee jumped on the baking train with me and in less than 15 minutes the brownie batter was in the oven and we were cleaning up, anticipating a hot, chewy, chocolaty reward 30 minutes later.
Here’s how they came together. We started by following Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to a tee but ended up changing it along the way – deciding to toast some pecans and add them to the top along with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt. At the last moment we brewed a shot of espresso, adding in a half shot and balanced out the extra liquid with a bit of extra flour.
These brownies are light rather than dense and the extra flavor from the espresso, pecans, and salt made them the perfect foil for my Saturday night chocolate craving. I think you could increase the chocolate from 3 ozs to 4 or 5 for an even richer chocolate flavor. But my kids and their friends who taste-tested saw no reason to change a thing. They know I like honest feedback when I cook something, and they were quite certain these were fine just the way they came out. Thanks Smitten Kitchen for the inspiration and thanks @gregorytlee for the wonderful sous chef skills!
What’s your favorite way to satisfy a sudden and quite urgent chocolate craving? (an important question to ponder right before Valentine’s Day!)
- 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 1¼ cups of granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla (I doubled her amount - @gregorytlee is a vanilla lover)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt) + large pinch for topping
- ½ shot of espresso = ⅛ cup (I used decaffeinated)
- ⅔ cup + ¼ of all-purpose flour (extra ¼ cup if using espresso)
- ¼ cup of toasted chopped pecans
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8 X 8 baking pan either with parchment paper overhanging on opposite sides or tin foil sprayed with baking spray or rubbed with softened butter.
- In a medium microwaveable bowl, place the chocolate and stick of butter and microwave either on a melt function or on full power in 30 second bursts, mixing after each burst. (You can also do this in a traditional chocolate boiler putting a bowl over a pot of boiling water but I am too lazy to do this and use my microwave). When the butter and chocolate are combined into a smooth glossy texture, you're ready for the next step.
- To that bowl of yummy looking chocolate, add the sugar and whisk it in until completely combined. Then whisk in the 2 eggs, 2 tsp of vanilla, kosher or sea salt, and espresso.
- Lastly, switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the flour until fully combined.
- Now pour the batter into your prepared baking pan. Then top with the nuts and a sprinkling of sea salt to your taste.
- Bake for 25 - 30 minutes (mine took 30) or until a toothpick comes out clean when tested.