Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Store-bought from Scratch

Happy Fourth of July!!

Our town has fireworks the third, and the neighboring towns do it the we get double!! Everyone's got their favorite ones: I love the ones that branch and the ones that trickle down like weeping willows, other people flip for the ones that change colors or the smiley faces or the hearts. Either way, fireworks are special because you don't get to see them most of the year.

So few things are rare anymore, given the internet. You could watch someone's youtube video of fireworks, I guess. Knock yourself out. But it's not the same! You don't get the whole perspective of their huge-ness.

And it's pretty rare, as families get older and children move across the country, to see each other.

In person. Not skype or facetime or google hangout.

Celebrate the rare moments of life!

A bench scraper makes cutting brownies super easy!
For our Independence day gathering, I made homemade brownies and homemade ranch dressing.
Two things that yes you can get from a box/bottle, but that's not rare! That's what happens in real, everyday life. Today, you have time to throw some ingredients in a bowl and have it taste miles better than a corporate chemical concoction (which, by the way, is darn good).
Both of these are one bowl, one whisk commitments.

So don't be shy! They won't bite.

From ingredients you most likely have in your pantry, these come together in a snap.

For the ranch, sub in what you like! I tried to use yogurt in place of sour cream (which was fine) and mayo (since I don't like mayo but without it the dressing was too tart and watery, for my taste), but then decided to add a bit of mayo. Experiment, taste with some carrots as you go, and don't sweat it.

P.S. If we had had some cream cheese open, I'd have been all over putting some in the ranch. I think it would have been great! Alas, we didn't, but you might!

See that crackly coating?
Chewy Brownies


1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional but delicious)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water (boil, then measure)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) sugar
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (or 6 ounces chocolate chips--that's 1 cup!)


  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Make sling by folding 2 sheets of parchment paper so that they are as wide as 13 by 9-inch baking pan (one 13-inch sheet and one 9-inch sheet). Lay sheets in pan perpendicular to one another, with extra hanging over edges. Push parchment into corners and up sides of pan, smoothing flush to pan (it doesn't have to be perfect!) Spray with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, if using, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in oil and melted butter. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour, salt and chocolate pieces, and mix into batter with rubber spatula until combined. 
  3. Transfer batter to prepared pan spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of brownies comes our with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 1½ hours. If your pan is glass, take the sling out of the pan after 10 minutes of cooling, so the heat-retaining glass doesn't overcook them!
  4. Remove sling from pan (if you haven't already), peel sides of sling down, cut and serve. A bench scraper cuts the brownies nicely, just press down, don't drag it through the brownies. Store in airtight container at room temp for 3 days, if they last that long.

Recipe from Cook's Illustrated.

Ranch Dip
Yield about 1 1/2 cups dip

1 cup greek yogurt (or combo of mayo and sour cream)
Buttermilk (or milk) to desired consistency
about 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (my favorite thing in the world)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley (use fresh if possible)
1/2 teaspoon dried chives (ditto)
1/4 teaspoon dried dill (double ditto and a lot of alliteration)


Mix together the yogurt, buttermilk, and mayo first to the desired consistency, then add the rest of ingredients. Stir, taste, adjust, using what you have on hand!
Keep refrigerated and enjoy with everything!

Based off recipe from Serious Eats.

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