Midnight Brownies

When do you bake brownies?

I prefer whenever I feel like it. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone else. Sometimes (quite often really), eating the brownies is a secondary goal (though still an important one!). Sometimes you just need to stir chocolate and butter in a pot. I may have mentioned this before. If not, now you know.
Brownies are also great for anger or stress baking. Almost impossible to really mess up, fairly adaptable to bouts of crazy ideas, and rarely will the end results look perfect anyway. A flawed, delicious mess, full of chocolate and sugar. They might fall out of the pan after sticking to the bottom and half of it crumbles into a mess - It doesn't matter. The crumbly bits are still going to be edible. If the crumbs offend you, put them in or on ice cream. Oddly-sized crumbles and chunks are perfect there. (Or  scoop them on a spoon? Or with your hand and pour them straight into your mouth, to be blissfully chewed, before you remember there are other people in the room whose opinion on your manners no longer matters because you have a mouthful of chewy chocolatey crumbles?) Suddenly, all that rage at stabbing the ends with a spatula, trying to loosen the sides, it's all forgotten. It could just be the chocolate calming you, again, But why argue? Just eat the brownies, however they suggest they would be best consumed. You are not in charge here. Let the brownies tell you what they need.

With so many recipes out there, so many preferences, the "best" really depends on what you want in a brownie. Fudgy, cakey, a little of both. Crusty end bits? Only soft and gooey? But when you find a recipe that suits your tastes, you'll know.
My "secret recipe" is the one you can find in almost every grocery store - check the back of the Bakers Unsweetened Chocolate box. Using butter and halfway decent chocolate, I haven't found one I like better yet. My preference is usually for fudgy, chewy brownies. You are free to disagree and make your brownies your way. That's what makes them so much fun!

 I often end up making brownies in the middle of the night. I find it more peaceful that way. (Doesn't lend itself to photos though!) They can be as simple or complicated as you want (bourbon-butterscotch cheesecake brownies with pecans and espresso chocolate chips? Or just simple smooth fudge bars? Or anything in between.), and in the end, they all involve stirring chocolate and butter. Which is really the reason I make brownies - to watch the butter and chocolate melt, and stir it all together into a perfect shiny liquid.
Then we might as well add sugar, eggs, flour, get another round of delightful stirring in optional add-ins, and pour it all into whatever pan strikes your fancy tonight. 30 minutes later, we have warm fudge treats, if you like them that way. Or you can let them cool and get something that actually holds together when you try to take it out of the pan. Up to you.
Midnight Brownies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 170g) butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups (400g) sugar
3 eggs
1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
Optional: 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, dried fruits, etc.

If using cocoa powder, use:
1 cup (2 sticks, 250g) butter
3/4 cup (85g) cocoa powder

Also fun additions!:
1/2 - 1 tsp espresso powder or instant coffee (instant coffee enhances chocolate flavour, you won't actually end up with mocha brownies! Stir in after the sugar, before adding the eggs)
1/4 tsp kosher salt/sea salt (put this in the batter with the espresso powder) or sprinkle on top right before baking)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
Melt butter in a pot on the stove with the chocolate - or microwave in a medium or large bowl. Heat until the butter is fully melted, then stir til the remaining chocolate is melted.
Stir in sugar.
Add espresso powder, salt, and vanilla, if using.
Stir in the eggs.
Gently stir in the flour, then add and fold in any add-ins you might like.
Pour into a greased and floured or parchment-lined 9x13 inch pan, bake for 30-35 minutes. Take out as soon as a tester comes out clean - a few gooey crumbs are also fine, take it out anyway!
Let cool in pan, cut into squares or shapes of your choosing. Enjoy with tea, ice cream, or a second brownie.

Also: If you add the sugar while the butter/chocolate is still warm, you are more likely to get a shiny top, as I discovered by accident one time when I was too impatient to wait for it to cool as the recipe suggests. If you want a really shiny top, pour at least one of the cups of sugar into your pot after the chocolate melts, and stir it until it looks mostly smooth. You might need to turn the heat on a little for that to happen. If you are microwaving, just put the bowl back in the microwave for a minute or two - depending on how enthusiastic your microwave is.


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