I love treats and baking. I also love feeling slightly less guilty about indulging in said treats by swapping in yogurt for fats such as sour cream and butter. Today, for the next installment of my Summer Kitchen Camp series, I wanted to share my favorite brownie recipe – these brownies are rich, moist, and hold up perfectly well in the face of yogurt substitution and imperfect measurement (say, if your little baking helper spills a bit of flour here and there). I make these brownies frequently (hello housewarming gift, thank you gift, potluck contribution, bake sale donation, etc.) and have become so beloved among my circles that they’ve been dubbed, simply, The Brownies. The original version of this brownie recipe comes from Bon Appétit, and over the years I have tweaked the ingredients and process, which I detail below.
The Brownies are smashing in regular square format, but Laurel and I recently decided to step up the presentation when we brought these for my sister’s wedding rehearsal dinner. We doubled the batch and made brownie hearts and bites. The brownie bites actually got gobbled up first (easy to pop and go apparently!) but the plate was empty long before the party was over.
• 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, split • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the pan • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (plus extra if you make brownie bites) • 1/2 teaspoon salt • 2 cups sugar (plus extra if you make brownie bites) • 6 large eggs • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract • 1/4 cup yogurt (I used Stonyfield plain low fat) • Powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal or glass baking pan. Line pan with waxed paper, extending over the two short sides of the pan. Butter the paper.
2. Stir 1 cup of chocolate chips + butter in a small saucepan over low heat until melted. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
3. Using a whisk or electric mixer, beat 2 cups sugar, eggs, vanilla, and yogurt in a large bowl until well mixed (2-3 minutes). Add chocolate mixture then flour/cocoa/salt mixture; beat just until blended.
4. Pour batter in prepared pan. Bake 35 minutes – until the a toothpick is inserted and comes out with moist crumbs attached and the top has that beautiful crackled crush (make sure you don’t overcook or let the edges burn!). Transfer pan to a rack and cool completely. If making brownie squares, lift the brownies out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares and sift powdered sugar over the top.
5. To make brownie hearts and bites: Use a small heart shaped cookie cutter (ours is 2.5 inches) and cut the brownie sheet into as many hearts as possible (i.e., tightly spaced). Put the brownie scraps in a bowl as you go. If your cookie cutter gets sticky with brownie scraps, wash and dry the cutter; otherwise, your hearts won’t cut cleanly. Arrange heart brownies on a platter.
6. Press the remaining brownie scraps into small balls (about 1 inch). Roll in confectioner sugar, granulated sugar, and/or cocoa powder. Place the balls amidst the hearts on your plate.
How kids can help: Kids can help measure and mix; if they are older and aware of heat safety, they can stir the butter and chocolate until melted (this is actually my 7-year-old’s favorite prep job!). Then the major fun comes with pressing out the heart shapes and brownie bites and rolling in the sugars and cocoa.
Christine Koh is a former music and brain scientist turned writer, editor, designer, consultant, and conversationalist. Her first book, Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less, will hit bookstores Spring 2013. She tweets about it all at @bostonmamas.