Whenever I am bored, or craving chocolate, or both, I bake brownies. Tonight was one of those nights. A double batch, because a single batch, one puny pan eight or nine inches square, just looks so damn sad. I nearly always have all the ingredients on hand - powdered chocolate, flour, sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, baking powder, salt, walnuts or pecans. Sift the dry ingredients into one bowl, beat the eggs and melted butter and vanilla in another bowl, stir them all together, mix in the chopped nuts, scrape everything into the pan, slide it into the oven. If I'm feeling particularly Martha-Stewart-y (some might say obsessive-compulsive, or anal-retentive), I mark lines in the batter with a toothpick and center perfect walnut (or pecan) halves in each square. (Needless to say, this doesn't happen often). Gradually, the house fills with the smell of chocolate; the timer beeps. I manage to wait all of five minutes before I dive in, a glass of milk in one hand and a couple of brownies in the other. To ease the guilt, I slice the brownies into little squares - I cut mine so they are about an inch and a half square, perhaps smaller, therefore enabling you to eat more of them. A nine-by-thirteen-inch pyrex baking dish yields about forty wee brownies. Which are rapidly consumed within a day or two by ravenous colleagues.
Brownies were one of the first things I learned how to bake, from a mix. Later I would try different recipes from scratch, with varying results. A few years ago I hit upon the recipe from the side of the Ghirardelli powdered chocolate tin, and it has been my standard brownie recipe since, quick and easy and unfailingly delicious. They are wonderful just on their own with a cold glass of milk, or a mug of hot tea; with ice cream they are absolute heaven. And once my friend flavored a bowl of whipped cream with a considerable amount of rum; dolloped generously on the brownies, they were transcendental. I have fed these to everyone I know, and I have shared the recipe with everyone who has asked (it's not that hard, just look on the side of the tin), and I could probably make these in my sleep. Sometimes I use walnuts, sometimes I use pecans, depending on what I have on hand. The bland fattiness of the nuts cuts the sweetness of the chocolate, and I always use more nuts (chopped in the food processor) than the recipe calls for. It takes all of ten minutes or so to measure ingredients, throw everything together, another half hour or so of baking time, five or ten minutes of waiting for the freshly baked brownies to cool, and then....bliss.