strength, comfort and a little bit of wisdom

Before I get into my own deep stuff (this post gets a little personal). I want to take a minute to say thank you. Today is Veteran's Day. A day I feel so proud of my family and friends and complete strangers who have fought for our freedoms. Who have given up so much for all of us. Thank you for your service. Thank you for being braver than I ever could.

Let’s talk about comfort foods. Because Winter. And Elections. And sometimes that little voice in your head that tells you mean things.

I haven’t been posting as much the past 2 years for a few reasons. 1. was just my crazy work schedule which in the last 4 months I’ve found more balance. but reason 2. goes a lot deeper and is an even bigger reason why. 

I’ve been struggling. With my place in this food blogging world, with my high standards for great photography and interesting recipes, with not liking the design of my site, my storytelling/writing abilities and with so many other things. The little voice inside my head tells me that my photos aren’t good enough, that I’m not being healthy enough, that there are so many amazingly talented food bloggers out there and that I don’t even compare. Basically why are you wasting your time?

But here’s something I’ve realized the past few months… While my photos might not be as perfect as I’d like, and I’m by no means a professional recipe developer, I still have this crazy passion for eating and cooking and bringing people together through food. I might not post as frequently as I like. And my content might not be as beautiful as I’d like it to be. But every recipe I share is from my heart and that’s something - I think it is at least. 

So I promise that I’m going to try and keep that little voice inside my head at bay. To share more of my heart with you, even if it’s not perfect. And I’m going to keep striving for better. Better photos, better recipes and bettering myself.

Because I believe in good food. That there’s a time and a place for every kind of food. That means shitty fast food all the way to fancy pre-fix meals. Greasy burgers, a great bowl of pasta AND green smoothies. I love all of it, especially comfort food. It just has this way of making everything feel like it’s going to be all right in the moment. It’s like a hug on a plate or a bowl or straight outta the pan.

And a post like this. A post where I bare my soul and and admit my vulnerability calls for some serious comfort food. I’m talking ooey gooey, deeply chocolatey brownies. 

For me, the perfect brownie isn’t cakey and it isn’t fudgy. If I wanted cake I’d eat cake and same thing with fudge. For me, the perfect brownie is dense, rich, moist, chewy and most importantly, over the top chocolatey. This recipe is exactly that. They're the best brownies you'll ever eat which is a bold, but true statement.

I’m shaking a little bit as I sit here writing this but I believe that vulnerability makes us stronger if we don’t let it consume us. So if you’re ever feeling not _____ enough, know that you’re not alone. And that a batch of these brownies might just make it better. It did for me.

comfort brownies aka a hug on a platter
yields 24 brownies

20 oz dark chocolate chips - 12 oz melted, 8 oz regular
½ c. butter, cubed
6 large eggs
2 ½ c. sugar
½ tsp salt
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 tsp espresso powder
4 TBSP dark cocoa powder
2 c. + 4 TBSP flour
1 TBSP flaky sea salt (I like Maldon)

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F. 

In a double boiler, melt 12 oz dark chocolate chips with ½ c. cubed butter until smooth and combined, being careful not to scorch the chocolate. If you don't have a double boiler, you can put a glass bowl on top of a sauce pan (just make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl) OR you can just put it in the microwave and do it in 20 - 30 second increments. Just be careful if you do that!!! Nothing worse than burnt chocolate. Once chocolate and butter are melted, set aside and let cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl or your stand mixer, mix eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, espresso powder and cocoa powder together until incorporated. Slowly add in the cooled chocolate mixture. If it's not cooled, you'll make scrambled eggs and no one wants that. Once mixture is combined, add in your flour, mixing on the lowest speed to avoid a cloud of flour. Don't over mix, you just want everything to come together. Mix in ½ of the remaining chocolate chips (4 oz) by hand.

Butter a large, 13x9" rectangular pan and line with parchment paper. Pour batter into pan and top with remaining 4 oz chocolate chips. Sprinkle the top with sea salt and bake in the oven for 50 - 60 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. You don't want to over bake them because it will dry out your brownies. Check them around 40 minutes. They will be set, your toothpick will have moisture but not wet batter stuck to it.

Let cool to room temperature before you cut and devour the brownies. 

improv style:
these brownies are a perfect base for whatever your comfort foods may be. need a little peanut butter with your chocolate? add in some chocolate pb cups or peanut butter chips and top it with roasted peanuts -whoa.

not a fan of dark chocolate? use milk! or white chocolate chips. or butterscotch chips. or caramel chunks. or candy pieces.

add nuts - almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans… 

get fancy and add cacao nibs or candied ginger or orange peel.

add mint extract, almond extract or your favorite chocolate fruit combo extract would be great. 

i truly believe you can make any recipe brownie better by adding 1 bag of chocolate chips to the mix (yes, even boxed brownies) and some flakey sea salt on top. if you're in a pinch, just do that and you're golden.

use #improvkitchen and tag @improvkitchen so i can see how you make this dish your own. i hope these brownies give you all the comfort and happiness.