Everyone keeps using the phrase, “The new normal.” Or talking about how they’re trying to “find some normalcy” with a routine or by putting on pants or whatever it is people are doing to try to just “feel normal.”
I’m embracing the fact that this is not normal. Nothing about our current situation is normal. I’m not trying to fight it. I’m leaning into the abnormal.
Matt asked me the other morning if we could have biscuits for breakfast. Immediately I launched into, “Biscuits for breakfast? It’s a weekday! No we can’t –”
I cut myself off. Why can’t we have biscuits for breakfast on a weekday right now? I don’t have a commute, I don’t have to put on pants or mascara or even brush my hair. So if my husband wants biscuits for breakfast, well, maybe I should just make him biscuits for breakfast on a Tuesday. These days there are so few things we can do for each other that feel special, how can I deny this request?
I’ve made dessert at least three times a week for the last five weeks. That’s not normal. It’s probably not great for my waistline. But it gives me joy, and it gives the six adults living in this house some joy. So why not? Why should I forego a brownie in favor of a rigid routine that doesn’t apply to our lives at all right now?
In that spirit, I present two weeknight decadent chocolate desserts. They are both easy and fast enough that you could actually make them on a real “school night,” but at some point when we get back to those days, perhaps you won’t indulge in this way. So make them tomorrow, or over the weekend, or heck, right now!
Amateur Gourmet calls these “The Best Brownies of Your Life.” I have to agree with him. I think next time I’ll use the microwave rather than the faux double boiler. My girl Deb (not really my girl, I just pretend we are close personal friends) changed my life when she taught me the microwave was just as good as the ol’ pot-over-boiling water technique. Just zap the chocolate together with the butter, sugar and cocoa powder in short 30 second bursts and stirring in between until I achieve that paste-like consistency. But the double boiler is easy if you have a heat-proof glass pan and a good pasta pot.
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (Trader Joe’s has an excellent cocoa powder that’s way better than the stuff you can find at Safeway and way cheaper than the fancier stuff a lot of recipes call for)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cold large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- About ¾ cup of chopped pecans or your favorite nut
Preheat the oven to 325. Spray an 8 X 8 baking pan with cooking spray and line the pan with parchment or tin foil (parchment will work best, but if you don’t have it, tin foil will work too).
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl and fit that on top of a pot of simmering water. Stir as the butter melts, melting until you have a thick paste and all the butter is melted.. If you’re using the microwave, melt the butter in 30-second bursts, stirring in between each.
Let the batter cool a smidge, just so you know you won’t cook your eggs as you add them! You should be able to put your finger in for a taste without burning it.
Stir in the vanilla. Then, stir the eggs in one at a time, combining thoroughly after each egg.
Add in the flour, beating until it’s really well mixed. Amateur Gourmet specifically tells you to stir vigorously 40 times. I take him at his word, because these were perfect. So, stir 40 times.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Mine took closer to 28 minutes. The oven in Gwendom is as finicky as everything (and everyone) else.
When you’re ready to eat (which will be approximately zero seconds after you take them out of the oven), lift the parchment out of the pan and cut into pieces. Six of us devoured the pan in one sitting.
If I were making these for work, back when you could, you know, bake things for people besides your family and consume things in places besides your home, I’d have cut them into 16 smaller pieces because they are really quite rich.
The other weeknight recipe to make immediately for your sanity, if not your normalcy, is pudding. Not the Jell-O stuff, the real stuff. I followed Deb’s recipe on Smitten Kitchen almost to the letter, except I used 2 percent milk rather than whole milk.
Is anyone else buying a lot of milk in quarantine, and then panic-using it the day before its sell-by date? That second gallon of milk has given me permission to make this pudding, a sausage gravy, a really sinfully cheesy mac and cheese pasta (starting with a roux). I will continue to buy the second gallon of milk, even if our cereal and milk-in-coffee consumption doesn’t quite justify it.
Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.