Today I baked Brownies. Not from a box. A personal first.

The witness to this historic event was Sparkle —  a Beta that watches all of my baking from his aquarium on my kitchen counter. (Betas are very personable fish and, unlike standard poodles, don’t appear to be motivated by food in their interest in my kitchen activity. The poodles were shut out of the kitchen for the Brownie action, since chocolate is Very Bad For Dogs. It’s probably not good for fish, either, but there was no chance of Sparkle, or his compadre, Pip, nosing over to the counter and swiping any of the Ghirardelli. But I digress.)

I went with the Brownies recipe from the Bitten blog in the New York Times, since I’ve had such good experience with Mark Bittman’s recommended non-baking recipes in the past. In a word, yum.

These Brownies use very little flour (half a cup) and no baking powder or other “leavening agent,” (which would lighten or lift them – I had to look that up). This made them, at least in my kitchen, Very Chocolately, Very Dense, Very Rich, and what I would call Grownup Brownies – although my 11-year-old loved them. Along with that half cup of flour, they had a stick of butter, a cup of sugar, two eggs, salt and vanilla.

They probably took a little longer than a box of Brownie mix would. But melting that chocolate and the butter in the pan felt very baker-like, so the fun was really on during that part. And the taste? Just perfect. I wish I was having a tea party so I could put these babies out. Not that I’m a show-off or anything. But these are worthy of being set on the good china.

I can’t imagine ever going back to the boxed stuff again. What a revelation. I don’t want to get too deep here, but what a perfect thing to make you feel like you know what you’re doing. A stick of butter, a cup of sugar, a few ounces of good chocolate (which, by the way, tastes Really Bad before you do anything with it) a few other ingredients and no special skill and you’ve made some truly wonderful Brownies. Why was I afraid of baking? I may learn that soon when I take on pie crust…

Meanwhile, you don’t need a tea party to enjoy these Brownies. I felt quite indulgent eating one with a smooche of creme fraiche and a latte. (Actually, that is pretty indulgent!) Some day soon I will bake for the poodles. The fish are out of luck.


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