Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mental Health Day

Brownies: The official food of Mental Health Day.
I don't take "days off" very often. Most of the time, my days consist of unequal parts work and play. I do what I need to do, but it's spread out over 12 hours or so and dispersed with short breaks for Facebook, cooking, blogging, and catching up on How I Met Your Mother or The Office.

But today, I basically took the day off. I slept in. I went grocery shopping and took my time. I came home and ran in the misty rain (halfway through Week 4 of training!). I made myself a nice lunch with fresh ingredients. I sang in the shower. I baked a pan of brownies from scratch. I went out to a bar with friends for dinner, drinks, and some very impressive readings by very talented people.

Even though I spent only about two hours today on schoolwork, I still feel like I've accomplished a lot. Sometimes a Mental Health Day can be justified.

Ah, but the brownies, you say? Very well. Let us explore the culinary creation that is the official food of Mental Health Day.

I kept running across this recipe online, and finally decided to give it a whirl. According to multiple recipe databases, magazines, and bloggers, this is supposed to be Katharine Hepburn's brownie recipe.

I can neither confirm nor deny those rumors; I can, however, tell you that these brownies aren't just popular because of Katharine. They are moist and fudgy, with a crispy sugary top, and so simple that you may never want to buy a brownie mix again. But, be forewarned: if you prefer cake-like brownies, these are not for you.

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies (modified)

Makes one 8x8 inch pan
What you're looking at: Butter in the saucepan, cocoa, oil,
a cup of sugar in the middle, eggs and vanilla in the mug,
flour and salt in the bowl.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt


1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour an 8-by-8 inch brownie pan. (Tip: Butter the pan with the wrapper from the stick of butter!)

2. In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the oil and cocoa powder and stir until combined.
It'll look something like this.

3.  Remove the pan from the heat. Add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla and mix well. Add the flour and salt and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
It won't be a lot of batter--you may need to push it into the corners.
4.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool, slice, and serve.

(Tip: The best way to cut brownies is with a serrated plastic knife. Really. Trust me on this.)

Let them cool for about ten minutes before cutting!
What I Changed
  • The original recipe actually calls for two squares (two ounces) of unsweetened Baker's chocolate and no oil. I didn't have any Baker's chocolate on hand, but luckily my fellow internet cooks discovered a "hack" for cocoa. The dry cocoa combined with the oil gives you the chocolate flavor with a consistency similar to melted chocolate.
  • The original recipe also lists a baking time of 40 minutes. Now, I am cooking with an old gas oven which is pretty touchy about temperature, and tends to burn everything anyway. 20 minutes was plenty of time for my brownies, but it may not be for yours.
  • I also left out the optional nuts. If you want them, mix one cup of chopped walnuts, pecans, etc. into the batter with the flour and salt before baking. You could also add chocolate chips, M&Ms, or whatever other mix-ins you like in your brownies.
The brownies are going to be thin, even in a small pan, but they are rich and delicious. The perfect comfort food for a day off.

How do you celebrate your own Mental Health Days?

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