The Only Brownie Recipe

Hello all,

It is August, the Sunday of months. A time when you’re meant to be relaxing, but you’re excruciatingly aware of everything that’s coming up soon (school starting, people coming back from vacation, Things Having to Get Done, etc).

(January’s Monday (obviously), and February’s Tuesday, because it’s not Monday but you can’t believe it’s somehow this early in the week/year still (Tuesdays are bullshit.) Saturday is the only real day of rest in my book, and it’s both the week between Christmas and New Year’s when time doesn’t exist, and also July. But we’re getting into the weeds here.)

My big point is, I’m taking August off. (I know it’s already August. Scheduling is my passion. Shut up.)

I’m taking August off like that weird French stereotype in the second new Muppets movie, which I never understood because the joke seems to be that he… takes too much vacation? As though that’s not aspirational in the extreme?

This is an extremely tiny image of a joke whose punchline seems to be that French people enjoy taking long vacations with their families, which is… bad? I have never understood this.

I’ll see you guys in September, on the other side of a mid-pandemic cross-oceanic apartment transfer, which isn’t listed as an Olympic event but, in my opinion, should be. Have you guys been watching? There’s a kid from Doncaster who can taekwondo his foot into the back of another guy’s head while facing him. The human body is a miracle.

Until then, please enjoy these perfect brownies.

These are the only brownies I will ever make or be making in the future. These are the only brownies I have ever made that don’t have the word “cheesecake” in them somewhere. These are the only brownies I am interested in making.

These are the brownies that make me shake my head whenever the Bake-Off contestants make some kind of unholy Cherry Bakewell Brownie disaster (with FROSTING on it, for some ungodly reason.) These brownies are so damn easy, even APART from being developed by a true Hero and Inspiration.

Ain’t she something

They might have been the first thing I learned to make that wasn’t mac and cheese from a box, or maybe fairy cakes.

I made a double recipe of these in a 10-inch square cake pan and overcooked them slightly, which is why they’re, uh, together in the photos. Usually, these have a crackly candied lid under which is basically a chocolate lava duvet studded with walnuts that you pick apart with your hands like a little raccoon.

The fact that these have “sliced” into “shapes” is the exception, not the rule. These are usually Brownie Rubble (Barney’s wacky cousin who owns a bakery), and that’s just fine with me. Make yourself a pan and dig in.

See you in a month!

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

Adapted from the woman herself, via PBS


·  2 squares (2 oz.) unsweetened baker’s chocolate. You can substitute ½ cup cocoa, but melted chocolate works MUCH better. Cocoa powder is a paltry substitute when you can use actual melted chocolate.

·  1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter. Yes.

·  1 cup sugar – These can err on the side of sweet, so if you don’t have baker’s chocolate and use bittersweet, do half the sugar and taste as you go because you don’t want them too sweet. Also, if you’re doubling the recipe, take the sugar down a smidge.

·  2 eggs

·  1/4 cup flour

·  1 teaspoon vanilla

·  Pinch of salt

·  1 cup roughly chopped walnuts or pecans. I always say that nuts are optional, but they’re not here (Sorry Caroline). They contribute a beautiful contrast to the fudginess that takes these into Legendary territory.


Melt butter with the cocoa or chocolate together in a heavy saucepan over medium low, whisking constantly till blended.

Remove from heat and stir in the sugar.

Whisk in the eggs and vanilla.

Stir in flour, salt and walnuts.

Mix well.

Pour into a well-buttered and floured 8-inch square baking pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely and cut into squares. These brownies are very fudgy and may be somewhat difficult to slice cleanly; use a sharp knife and a spatula to help them loosen from the baking dish. (Put the pan on your lap, put a spoon in the pan, put the spoon in your mouth.)


This week it’s a billion degrees in the UK, but luckily this is a recipe that requires almost nothing from you. This is truly a dessert for people who don’t cook – it requires no heat, and nary an egg gets cracked. If you can whip cream and dunk cookies, you can make tiramisu.

It’s also my grandpa’s favorite (along with pecan pie.) My grandpa is a man who wants at all times to be driving a gigantic 50’s-era Cadillac, chewing on an expensive cigar, on his way to a swingin’ jazz gig, or maybe the theater. The three-martini lunch was invented for this man, so it makes sense that the Grown Uppest dessert is his favorite one.  

I used to hate it as a kid, and I suspect I’m not alone. It looks like a big sweet cream cake (and it is), but it’s got all of these grown-up flavors: coffee and booze and NON-sweet chocolate? What the heck is the point of non-sweet chocolate?

Well, once you grow up and get indoctrinated into the cult of enjoying booze and coffee, you find out.

Continue reading “Tiramisu”

Easy Mother’s Day Desserts You Can Make on the Fly

This week, we’re getting Mom something she actually wants: Some Goddamn Dessert. THREE Cook Instead recipes for the price of one, only at Shondaland. Go check it out!

Molly’s Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

So listen – I have called these muffins, and that is a lie. But it’s a lie we all agree on, right? Most muffins are cake, and these are no different. You won’t find me complaining – I’d be very into it if more things that were cake pretended not to be so we could eat them more often. Muffins are a top-notch disguise. Long live muffins, and by that I mean long live cake that we all agree we can eat for breakfast.

Most banana stuff, while delicious, is pretty dense. My favorite banana-themed baked goods are tremendously good, but also pretty heavy and mostly flavored with chocolate and/or peanut butter. And listen, there’s nothing at all wrong with that. Like, at all. I love you, chocolate and peanut butter flavored stuff. Never change.

But these little cakes, invented by Molly in a desperate bid to save some near-zombie bananas, are like no other banana cake I have ever had. Light as a feather, almost bouncy, due to some weird baking powder math that ended up working out, (and then getting simplified to just using self-raising flour), with enough chocolate chips to feel special but not quite full-on DECADANZA. The kind of little muffin you can happily eat 3 of and not feel like you’ve ruined your next meal.

Continue reading “Molly’s Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins”

Ghosties (Chocolate Chip Meringues with Toasted Walnuts)

At its best, cooking is a magic trick. Clearly you can make something amazing with a beautiful, organic, lovingly massaged pork butt, but using fancy raw materials means everyone expects mind-blowing results. It’s so much more satisfying when you start with something unprepossessing. If you’re a magician making a tiger jump through a flaming hoop, it’s way better if you know that tiger started life as two raw, jelloid egg whites in a metal bowl.

Luckily for all of us, two egg whites and half a cup of sugar will net you almost two dozen startlingly chic little pure-white light-as-air cookies with all of the natural architectural sophistication of the majestic iceberg. You don’t even have to pipe anything.

Continue reading “Ghosties (Chocolate Chip Meringues with Toasted Walnuts)”

Easy One-Bowl Chocolate Cake with Boozy Chocolate Frosting

Were you ever kind of jealous of the boy in Matilda who had to eat an entire chocolate cake with his hands in front of the whole school as a punishment? I know I was.

I used to take every chocolate option at the sundae bar – ice cream, sauce, M&Ms, even chocolate sprinkles. Chocolate sprinkles: what sadist thought those up? You’re just gonna make these things brown and pretend it’s chocolate? Are you kidding me?

Making Stuff Brown and Pretending it’s Chocolate: The Story of All Chocolate Cake Everywhere. You can’t stop me now, I’m already up on my soapbox.

The dominant cultural narrative is that chocolate cake is the best, the richest, the most decadent. Restaurants are selling huge slabs of Seven-Layer Death By Chocolate Devil’s Food Indulgence cake, with ganache filling the approximate taste and texture of brown shoe polish. I have seen grown adults take dry little square nubs of brownie from the spread in the breakroom, just to feel something during an all-day meeting, even if that “something” is disappointment. (It was me, I took the Sadness Brownie.) Red velvet cake was a trend: that only happens in a culture deeply divorced from what actual chocolate should taste like.*

Think about the chocolate cakes that you like best. Answers on the board, please, Family Feud style:

  1. Flourless chocolate cake
  2. Chocolate lava cake
  3. Some kind of cream cheese brownie situation?

Flourless chocolate cake is just a mousse on steroids, and I’m not mad at that, but it doesn’t count. My grandad makes a chocolate whiskey gateau that’s essentially a large creamy slab of alcoholic truffle filling, with ladies’ fingers stuck on the outside for modesty’s sake. Is it perfect? Yes. Is it cake? Uhhhh…

Chocolate lava cakes – or fondant cakes as they’re called here – only work because you get the tender comfort of cake wrapped around the gooey richness of a chocolate fudge sauce. They’re hot, they’re tasty, and they’re disqualified: you can’t defend chocolate cake when your favorite kind is 70% sauce.

Cream cheese brownies are amazing, but 1. Brownies aren’t cake and 2. They’re good because of the contrast (we’ll be coming back to that).

It makes sense! The essence of chocolate, which is rich, luxurious intensity, is diluted by the essence of cake, which is light, tender delicacy. This relationship is just doomed to fail. These two love each other too hard and their child… sucks. There’s a reason the best brownie recipe in the world only calls for ¼ cup of flour.

But why were we promised a perfect chocolate cake that just doesn’t exist?  Where does that leave us? Where is the rich, dark, soil-damp chocolate cake of our Augustus Gloop dreams?

Continue reading “Easy One-Bowl Chocolate Cake with Boozy Chocolate Frosting”

Chocolate Babka

Well. Are we having fun yet? This week I feel, more than usual, like a bug smashed on the windshield of world events.

Usually the cure for stress is to take a bath or read a book on the couch. But sometimes all you want to do is whip your phone at the wall like a dodgeball, which is when you have to get up and take a walk.

Kierkegaard says there’s no bad mood a long walk can’t cure, and I also say this. Some weeks, though, you can’t go anywhere. Some weeks you get bee-booped by the government on your COVID app and you have to self-isolate for 14 days (I’m fine, we’re fine, everything’s fine.)

So you find yourself wearing an apron over a nightgown over a hoodie over a different nightgown and thinking, “Yeah! This is what people wear! Let’s make some brioche.”

the top nightgown is technically an oversized sweater-dress – I call her the slanket and she is precious to me

Welcome to Babka Club.

Continue reading “Chocolate Babka”

Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache

I got this recipe from a dear family friend who I think might be trying to kill us. This pie is a towering monument to peanut butter in its most decadent form: rich, fluffy mousse dotted with chopped roasted peanuts and topped with a dark, intense chocolate ganache. The original recipe was written, presumably, by demons:

“Lies” is because you put 1/4c peanut butter in the crust and 3/4c in the pie, but SOME of us measured out a whole cup all together and are still mad about it. The green arrow is because how do you whip cream before you measure it. Tell me how.

This is an all-killer no-filler situation. There are no eggs or flour, no fig leaf of pretense that this is anything other than a full whipped-cream fantasy tethered just barely to this plane of reality by cream cheese and a prayer. This dream team of creams came here to make your tastebuds an offer they can’t refuse, when you were just trying to have a peaceful, relaxing afternoon in the steam room/at the bocce courts/wherever old mob guys hang out nowadays.

This recipe creates a substance whose ideal unit of consumption is the finger-swipe, and I’m giving you three ways to make it because most of us are not strong enough to absorb it in larger quantities, as its original form dictates. If you dive straight into what would usually be a normal slice of pie it’ll melt your face right off like the Ark of the Covenant. But, I don’t know, maybe some of you are into that.

Continue reading “Peanut Butter Pie with Chocolate Ganache”