When we first moved to California there were all sorts of activities: finding an apartment, getting lost, furnishing said apartment, unpacking, all that good stuff. Once we settled in it was time for me to concentrate on finding a job. That was about six months ago.
With just a few projects going on, I am definitely underemployed. We moved at a challenging time to find work in my chosen field, and (if you hadn’t heard) the overall job market has been a little soft lately. What started as a challenge became tiring, and eventually just plain depressing. If I got a response at all (rare), it was thanks but not right now. A few months of sitting at home being rejected wasn’t helping me feel great about myself or my prospects.
The shine had even started to wear off stress baking as I had no one with whom to share the goods. My husband was taking treats to work multiple times a week. He was (and still is) working plenty. But no job for me. And with no job, I didn’t have anywhere to go, and I wasn’t meeting many people at home with the cats. As far as pity parties go, it was well-catered, but poorly attended.
I was starting to annoy myself — especially rough since I’m home alone most of the time. Something needed to change.
So I put an ad on Craigslist. I know, the internet is full of psychos and axe murderers. You are all probably criminals and crazies reading this right now. A few replies arrived, we emailed back and forth, I added them as friends on Facebook to see how crazy they really were, and arranged a few meetings in public places during daylight hours. It harder to carry an axe in public that way. My expectations were fairly low: I didn’t have to find a BFF4eva, just someone I could at least call up for lunch! My ad gave some basic information (married, new to town, likes cooking, my CSA, and the zoo) and ended with an invitation to grab coffee, sushi, or eat some baked goods.
I wasn’t kidding.
I have now packed several picnics, had a few dinner parties, and baked some desserts for (and even with) my “axe murderer” friends. Not only is it nice to leave my apartment and talk to other (friendly!) human beings, I also really like feeding people. A lot.
Yes, it’s nice when people like your cooking, I won’t pretend I mind praise, but there’s a larger satisfaction in feeding people good homemade food. My husband has been working mostly evenings and is rarely home for dinner now and I’ve gotten oddly accustomed to eating alone most days. Food tastes better when it’s served with good company.
Now I have people to lure over for fancy dinners or desserts so I can
use them as guinea pigs for new recipes enjoy their charming company and witty conversation. It’s easier to convince people to stop by when you have a pan of brownies that you can’t eat by yourself.
Well, I could, but I shouldn’t. These are good brownies. A box mix still requires adding eggs and measuring out oil. If you have a kitchen scale these take just about the same amount of time, if not maybe an extra five minutes. You don’t even have to take butter out to soften as they start by melting the butter to yield that classic shiny top. Though I give the stove top directions below, you could also melt the butter in the microwave. Make a friend, then make them these brownies. I recommend both.
Classic Fudgy Brownies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Cookie Companion
Makes one 9×13-inch pan (half the recipe makes one 8×8-inch pan)
These are dense, fudge-like brownies. If I had any ice cream, I might have made a decadent sundae. Just a suggestion.
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks, 6 ounces) unsalted butter
2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (3 ounces) Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s and it was fine)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup (4.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips (optional)
1.) Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch pan.
2.) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and stir until combined. Heat until shiny and hot (110-120F) but not bubbling.
3.) Add cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and vanilla, and stir well. Add eggs and whisk until smooth, then add the flour and mix well. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips if desired. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top.
4.) Bake for 29-32 minutes at 325F until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.