Friday, May 18, 2007

They're tasty, they're quick, and you bake them in the microwave

Recently, every time I’ve spoken to my parents about what they’ve been “cooking,” I’ve mentally put the word cooking in quotation marks. “Cooking,” because they’re having their kitchen redone, and the only “cooking” they’ve been able to do is in the microwave.

That’s right: the microwave.

But back in Boston, inspiration has been bubbling on the microwave “cooking”—even the microwave “baking”—front ever since some West Coast pals of mine moved into an apartment without an oven.

To read about my radical microwave conversion experience, click here.

Once your mouth is watering, whip up a batch of these brownies. That’s one definite perk of microwave baking: It provides nearly instant gratification.

Microwave Brownies
Adapted from The Quick Recipe
Makes 5 brownie “slices” or 10 small brownie squares

What you’ll need:
Two mixing bowls, plus two smaller bowls
1/4 cup measure
1/2 tsp measure
Whisk or fork
Microwave-safe 8x4 inch loaf pan**

Cooking spray
1 1/2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
4 T (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted (you can do this in one of the small bowls in the microwave on low power) and cooled slightly
3/8 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutched cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Handful of semisweet chocolate chips
Optional: 1/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

Lightly coat loaf pan with cooking spray.

Crack one egg into one of your smaller bowls and whisk as you would to make scrambled eggs. Carefully pour half of whisked egg into large mixing bowl; save the other half for breakfast. Add second egg and sugar, whisking to combine. Whisk in melted butter in a steady stream. In other mixing bowl combine flour, cocoa powder and salt, whisking until flour almost disappears into the cocoa. Using the spatula, stir dry mixture into wet mixture until thoroughly combined, taking care to scrape dry bits off the bottom of the bowl. Add vanilla, chips, and nuts if using. Stir again. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Microwave on high until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean, or with a few crumbs, 5 to 7 minutes. You can tell the brownies need more time in the microwave if, when titled, the brownies slouch to the lower side of the pan. Cool for 10 minutes, cut (do not use a sharp knife for this or you’ll ruin your pan), and serve warm.

My cookbook says that these brownies turn rock hard after they cool completely. But, unwilling to see four whole brownie slices go to waste, I remedied this problem by 1) Storing the leftovers in a Ziploc bag while they were still warm (which created some extra moisture) and 2) The day after, microwaving a brownie (on low power) before consuming it. The verdict? Just as good as on Day One when they were fresh out of the, um, microwave. Of course, none of this would be a problem if you simply ate the brownies—all of them—immediately after baking.

**OK, OK. I know I’ve been on a silicone kick recently, but when it comes to baking, I’m starting to believe there’s no better material. Besides my silicone baking mat and muffin cups, I also have a silicone loaf pan (which works like a dream for this recipe), and a square cake pan. For those of you with larger microwaves, you can double this recipe and use the 9x9 pan instead.

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