Cooking with… Regina

Final product!
Final product!

I’m a super judgmental person.

I figured this out when I met Regina for the first time. Regina was a new colleague who joined the adjacent department a couple of months ago.

I met her and decided:
1) She was too hot to be nice.
2) Her heels were too high and she laughed too much which meant she was silly.
3) She was too hot to be nice.

And then.

Despite me being a judgmental ahem and a little cold, Regina didn’t care. She didn’t let it affect the way she treated me. She was unflappably friendly, optimistic and so kind – when I needed it most (I was going through my bimonthly existential crisis) and I was forced to admit I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

We got closer and I discovered that in addition to being hot and able to balance (and DANCE TANGO) in crazy high heels, girlfriend can cook. Which is really the only thing that matters.

SO fast forward to many months and many laughs later, I decided to invite her over to be a part of this whole Cooking with DiniBlini series (I need more volunteers – can you cook? Are you photogenic?)

So Regina, in addition to being generally awesome, has generally awesome genes. Basically she can eat anything and still be skinny. Yes, you can resent her secretly. I won’t tell.

She wanted to make a chocolate tart which morphed into a salted caramel chocolate tart which morphed into salted caramel brownies (too lazy to make the crust) and then finally we settled for salted caramel peanut butter brownies.

Sugar and water
Sugar and water
This recipe… had many steps. We had to make the caramel sauce from scratch and I was like “Nooooo Regina I don’t want to do thisssss.”

Brown sugar and water
Brown sugar and water
But she didn’t let my whining phase her nor the steps. Regina comes from the school of eternal optimism, as in, “It’s ok! Just wing it! It will be fine! Don’t use measuring cups! It will be fine!”

Peanut butterrrrrr
Peanut butterrrrrr
And it was fine. We made our own peanut butter salted caramel sauce which turned out to be easy.

Brownie batter!
Brownie batter!
We melted chocolate over a makeshift double broiler.

ME!
ME!
Me – confidently trying not to burn my hands.

Batter
Batter
Chocolate in
Chocolate in

So in
So in
We mixed in the melted chocolate, post flour addition – which was wrong, wrong, WRONG. If I was alone I would have been on the verge of a meltdown BUT Regina calmed me down and told me it would be fine. It was.

Close up
Close up
All ok?

The glamorous Regina - in the flesh
The glamorous Regina – in the flesh
And then we had a conveyor belt system where Regina very efficiently scooped batter into these waxed cupcake liners and I clumsily tried to put a dollop of peanut butter salted caramel sauce in the middle of it… and… she didn’t say anything.

She decided my knives were too blunt (they still are)
She decided my knives were too blunt (they still are)
While we waited for the brownies to bake. Regina sharpened my knives and told me stories about all the things she’s done. Ok I can’t remember what we actually talked about, but Regina tells lots of stories because she’s been there and done that. And it used to irritate me when I first met her but then I realized that she shares, because she cares. It’s about spreading knowledge and information and experiences so that I, or anyone else she meets, can learn from it.

If you make desert for me I will force feed you salad
If you make desert for me I will force feed you salad
And that’s important because learning is important. I might be a risk averse cook but I can learn to be more laid back in the kitchen. Regina might be averse to eating green things but she can “learn” to eat a salad. Especially when I gave her no other choice.

Taste test
Taste test
Ultimately the brownies were a hit (remember to underbake and if you’re baking them in individual cups like we did, cut the baking time anywhere from 12-15 minutes).

We added marshmallows because Regina wanted them. She also wanted to add alcohol. And peanut butter chips. So we had three versions.

We taste tested them all and they were delicious. So, clearly, in cooking/baking and life you can wing it and in the end, it will all be fine.

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Cocoa Brownies

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This week was a bit of fail week in the DiniBlini kitchen.

I tried to make carrot cake and it looked amazing.

 

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It tasted? Not so amazing. Think too cheesy frosting, like BAD cheesy.

Then there was this lemon-blackberry cake which was awesome in theory, but exploded and had a faint aftertaste of oil. TASTY.

I needed a win.

These brownies made it happen.

10 Tbsps / 1 1/4 sticks / 140 gms unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 165C/325F.

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil and butter.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide pan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined.

Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. Stir in espresso powder and vanilla.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.

When the batter well blended add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer. At this point the original recipe tells you to beat it 40 times. So you know. Do that.

Spread in the lined pan.

Bake until a skewer plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 30 minutes. But honestly just watch these brownies. Original recipe said 5 minutes less.

Let cool completely before cutting.

*Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Best Cocoa Brownies on Food52.
** Photography for this blog post was courtesy of my very talented friend Hoi Yee – you can see more of her work on Instagram.