It’s the season for baking sweet delights. Enter the chocolate brownie, which can be rich, often including nuts and chocolate chips. These bars are versatile, decadent wonders that can be paired with vanilla ice cream or topped with chocolate frosting or powdered sugar. But warm, dark chocolate brownies can be special with white flakes of coconut, too, especially in fall after the first snowfall at Tahoe.
Speaking of sweets, many years ago, I fell for the guy next door. It was an on-and-off bittersweet relationship that was on one autumn. The crisp air outdoors and fireplace warmth indoors, paired with dangling conversations made this like connection memorable. As a city girl, I related to the easy-going city boy. One night before a National Geographic TV interview, he acted neighborly and helped me clean cobwebs on the high ceilings in my cabin; and let me borrow an impressive tea set. After, he helped me chill before the next day when I was to be grilled about my new earthquake prediction book.
Back then, I lacked culinary confidence and creativity. I didn’t feel confident making brownies from scratch or semi-homemade brownies. So I cheated. I purchased store-bought brownies and winged it. I was wary about the water and coffee portions in my rusty coffee maker. The crew drank the coffee but to this day I’m sure it was for the caffeine, not the flavor. One of the men did eat a brownie but I sensed it wasn’t the dessert of his dreams.
Today, if I had an in-home interview, I’d use the coffee grinder, do the math for the right coffee-water portions, and have exotic brownies baking in the oven to offer a homey, feel-good experience. I’d be pleased to flaunt the presentation and taste of chocolate squares served with awesome flavored java from one of my favorite coffee roasters. So, here’s the fail-proof brownie recipe I’ll keep for a snowy day and/or visitors.
Chocolate Coconut Brownies
1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
1⁄4 cup water
2 organic brown eggs
1 package store-bought dark chocolate brownie mix
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour (at high altitude)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup almonds, sliced
1 cup sweetened coconut, shredded
In a large bowl, combine oil, beaten eggs, and water. Add brownie mix and flour, stir till smooth. Fold in chips and nuts. Lightly grease (with canola or extra virgin olive oil) an 8-inch-by-8-inch glass square dish, pour and spread brownie mixture. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes. While warm from the oven, sprinkle top with coconut. Makes about 12 brownies.
These brownies contain no trans fat (the stuff that isn’t heart healthy) from the brownie mix. Both olive oil and coconut oil boast good for you monounsaturated fats. Also, dark chocolate and nuts are good fatty foods, too, in moderation. The flavor and texture of coconut, creaminess of chocolate chips, and crunch of nuts make these chewy, cake-like brownies a sweet memory shared with a special person or solo. It works.
Motto: Once in a while you’ve got to seize the moment and say, “what the heck” and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
— Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. The Healing Powers of Coffee is featured by the Good Cook Book Club, and the series is sold at Walmart stores nationwide. Currently, she’s writing the Olive Oil second edition. Her website is www.calorey.com.