Last summer, to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, Tony and I arranged back to back sleepovers for our kids with two different families, and thus managed our first two-night getaway together since Ben was born. We’d each been away longer on our own (or with friends and family), both for work and for pleasure, but never just the two of us. So we drove to Calistoga with a pile of books and magazines and spent our time away sleeping, eating, and reading.
One of the books I read that weekend was Kate Moses’ richly-detailed, quietly moving memoir with recipes, Cakewalk. I read it very slowly, savoring her writing, not wanting it to end, and when it did end, I cried.
Cakewalk was in ways not the happiest choice for my anniversary reading. None of the many marriages she describes in the book are easy, whether she’s writing about her own parents or those of her teenage boyfriend, whose father mutters under his breath to Kate, in his wife’s presence, “Twenty-five years of that woman is enough to choke a horse.” It is in that chapter that Moses offers her brownie recipe, which, with its two versions, is perhaps a good example of how to thrive in a long relationship: stay flexible and always offer options.
One version of the recipe (the one that I prefer) was reprinted in the New York Times and I offer it here; you’ll have to buy the book to get the frosting-covered creamy brownie recipe.
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups walnut halves (optional)
9 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 13-by-9-inch glass baking pan. If using walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and cover pan until chocolate is melted, about 10 minutes. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla just until thick, creamy and beginning to lighten in color.
3. Whisk the butter and chocolate until smooth, then mix into the sugar-egg mixture just until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in the flour, using as few strokes as possible, until it disappears. Fold in the walnuts, if using. Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan.
4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking after 22 minutes to avoid over-baking. When the tip of a knife inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not liquid, remove brownies from the oven. Allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and leave in the pan for several hours or overnight before cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container.