“Savita, will you bake something for Justin’s birthday?”
Whenever I am presented with an opportunity to bake for people, my brain goes into overdrive. I scour my mind for recipes – that pie I saw in Bon Appétit years ago, a blog post that caught my eye earlier this week, the bakery visit where I tried something and thought, “I have to make this.”
I am an avid a collector of recipes I have never made. My kitchen is full of magazines, cook books, or recipe cut outs. My phone has snapshots of recipe cards and notes with lists of ingredients. The “Recipes” folder on my browser is incredibly full of favorited pages – all kept for moments like this! Moments where someone says, “Savita, will you bake something for Justin’s birthday?”
Even with my arsenal of recipes, I often spend hours looking and searching, becoming increasingly more distraught that I will never find the perfect dish. When this happens, I am usually thinking too hard. I try to take a step back and assess the situation. Here’s what I knew:
- is my coworker and we would be celebrating at work. This meant whatever I decided on had to be easily transportable and not too messy.
- doesn’t eat cookies. (Normally this would make me question someone’s character, but Justin has his reasons.)
- loves other sweet things. Like eats a kit-kat at 9am and/or a slice of cake at lunch kind of love.
- is a really awesome person and deserves to be celebrated in a tasty way.
After this exercise, I realized I was getting caught up in the hype of pleasing people by trying to do my newest, fanciest, best work at all times. I try at these moments to remind myself that good doesn’t always mean new, or expensive, or time-consuming. Sometimes good is just good. And with that, the answer was pretty simple– we were going to have a brownie party.
I made thee pans. My first two were almost identical versions of Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies that I mistakenly thought were different recipes. One came from a Bon Appétit (where they graced the February 2011 issue’s cover) and the other from Food52. The only differences were a slight measurement change and different number of “strokes around the pan” to make them glossy.
I kept the Food52 version plain and added walnuts to the Bon Appétit ones. I don’t know enough about the science of baking to know what difference a tablespoon of flour or 20 extra strokes made, but I ended up liking the Food52 version better. (Though I could have just been in the mood for a straight chocolate brownie).
For my last pan, I made Smitten Kitchen’s “my favorite brownies” with added snickers as a nod to Justin’s love of candy. I chopped up a package of mini snickers, laid them out on a layer of batter and then topped them with more batter. Later realized I could have increased the candy power by a lot. Regardless, these brownies were a big winner the next day. I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to make some change-you-life-brownies is to sink a chocolate bar of almost any kind into the middle.
I am of the mindset that you can make a party out of almost any situation (midday dance parties are a frequent occurrence). For Justin’s birthday we learned that three pans of rich, chocolaty brownies in combination with ice cream, sprinkles, and a wonderfully awkward rendition of happy birthday sung by great coworkers makes for a pretty wonderful celebration.
Cheers to getting over brain overload, embracing simplicity, and eating various forms of chocolate with the people in our lives! If you didn’t catch the links above:
- my favorite brownies
- Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts
- Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies
wishing you the best in your food adventures,