I think the Smiths are rubbing off on me! I have had such a creative impulse lately, so I spent the weekend cooking, baking, and making gifts for a few friends’ birthdays. It is no secret that my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and husband (for that matter) are very creative. They are careful, thoughtful, and deliberate in everything they do. I truly never considered myself an imaginative person, and I did not like creating things for most of my life. I remember in elementary school rarely finishing my art projects because they bored me. I would get halfway through and then quit and do something else. I think my cooking opened the doorway to inventiveness for me, and now I see the world in a different way—a much more beautiful way. Food is beautiful because it nourishes the body, mind, and soul; making gifts for others is beautiful because it imparts love and warmth in a way that store-bought items do not; decorating your space in a way that makes you happy is beautiful, as what you surround yourself with influences your mood and thoughts. For example, waking up to fresh flowers never fails to make me feel happy and grounded.
I never used to see the purpose of spending time wrapping a gift. I was always in a hurry and the wrapping just seemed so superfluous: the actual gift was on the inside, right? But actually, I’ve realized that the whole process of making something and finding a creative way to package it (whether a food dish or a gift for someone) is a satisfying meditative process. It might take more time, but the feeling that surrounds it is so much more rewarding—maybe even more so for the giver rather than the receiver! There is a sense of modest pride, accomplishment, and goodwill that infuses said gift and makes it more valuable and unconditional.
I’m planning a few different dinners for friends soon, and I will certainly be making this decadent, warm, sinful brownie pudding for one of them. I am always so thrilled to share my cooking with others, and the planning that goes into having people over for dinner is so much fun. Doing what makes me happy never feels like work!
Rich Chocolate Brownie Pudding
*1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan, soy free butter
1/2 cup refined coconut oil
4 large organic eggs at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup good unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli)
½ cup gluten free flour mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*I’ve made this with all Earth Balance soy-free vegan butter and it was great, but it was a sweet and salty great, as they do not make unsalted vegan butter (that I’ve found). It was so good. The next time I made it with all extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil (light coconut taste and GREAT for you!) and it was awesome as well!! You can’t go wrong with either, but I think I like my 3rd attempt the best: 1/2 refined coconut oil and 1/2 vegan butter…it was perfect!! If dairy doesn’t bother you, you can just use real unsalted butter—2 sticks.
Preheat your oven to 325F. Lightly butter or oil a 2 quart baking dish. Then, melt the butter or coconut oil in a small bowl in the microwave and set aside to cool. In your stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the sugar and eggs and beat on medium-high speed until very thick and pale yellow—about 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together flour and cocoa powder and set aside.
When egg and sugar mixture is done, turn the mixer speed to low and add the vanilla extract and cocoa mixture. Mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides as needed. Slowly pour in the cooled butter or coconut oil and mix until just combined.
Pour into prepared baking dish, and place in a larger roasting pan or baking dish (I’ve found that the smaller, the better. There shouldn’t be a ton of room around your brownie dish. If there is a lot of room, it won’t set as well), and add hot tap water to the larger dish so that the water comes up about halfway on the brownie dish. Bake for 1 hour and then cool slightly before serving. The center should be gooey and seem under baked—this is the way it should be!
Serve it warm with some coconut milk, almond milk, or lactose-free vanilla ice cream. YUM!!
recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten