Cooking in the UAE is a bit of a challenge for me. Read thru this blog, and it is not hard to find out why. Recipes like Bourbon Caramel Cheesecake, Chocolate Cake with Rum Buttercream, or Boozed Up Banana Bread, well they are fine, and really really good, but they are not necessarily the kind of thing I could make here and bring to someone’s home, unless of course I knew for sure that I would not offend. You might ask why? Why would it matter? Alcohol. That is why it matters. It is against Islam to consume alcohol, and that means that even using extracts – vanilla, almond, etc – are a no go in baking. This, and the fact that until recently I could not for the life of me bake anything correctly in our oven, really left me with no desire to bake. I love the smell of taste of vanilla extract. I just pour it in – and stop just before it is too much to make the flavors turn a little bitter. But I cannot add in this ingredient to any baked good (or anything else I cook) and give it to our new friends in good faith. Sure, the alcohol will cook off, but that is not the point. It is just wrong to knowingly offer someone something that they are unable to consume.
This new challenge has forced me to become a bit creative, especially because we have been invited to a brunch on Friday (Friday and Saturday is the weekend). While we were told we did not need to bring anything, the idea of being invited into someone’s home and arriving empty handed did not sit right. So I thought back to a wonderful brownie recipe from Bon Appetit. Easy to make, and even easier to eat. I would sort out the vanilla situation, and move on from there.
When I first saw the images of the Brown Butter Brownies on the cover of Bon Appetit last February I was interested. Interested enough to turn to page in the magazine and read the recipe. I read it a few times and on the third read decided that it was really not that complicated as it could all be made in a single pot over the stove. Eggs, butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and flour. Really, one could not go wrong with these basic ingredients. What makes this recipe go from basic to extraordinary is the amount of certain ingredients and how the ingredients come together. Again, the vanilla would have to sit on the shelf for another time, but I happened to have a jar of vanilla sugar and several vanilla bean pods – things were looking up!
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 1/4 cups sugar (1/4 of this should be vanilla sugar)
- 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
- 2 large eggs, chilled
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 cup walnut pieces