I know, I know, enough already with these summerize your home blogs. Once was cute, two okay, but three–get over it already right? But I just can’t. Not after reading the Design and Decorating feature in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal: “What’s Hot, What’s Not, This Summer”.
Evidently they, she actually, Sarah Karnasiewicz, asked hundreds (my italics) of design pros for the latest trends in al fresco living. Ironically everything in their forecast was the complete, utter, total, whole shebang opposite of what I think. Sigh.
But let’s give it a quick run through and see what you think. We’ll start with stools.
The classic garden stool, the iconic Chinese porcelain standby that used to come in only blue and white but has been updated in any color you desire, the one that is exactly the right height for a drink or a foot or as an extra perch is now sigh, rocking “an everyman look” that you can buy at any big box store. Instead of saying hurray, finally I can find something I like at Lowes, the word is passe and this is what’s in:
Yuk. Give me the classic garden stool any day.
Next up. Blah upholstery. “According to the experts, conservative colors like white, tan and navy are on the way out.” In: next generation performance fabrics in rainbow hues and a variety of textures.
That’s why I have a garden. I like my lawn furniture, low impact and low key.
Next up is resort style umbrellas, the more scalloped, fringed and layered evidently the better. Maybe in the south of France but my 1930’s Tutor would be overwhelmed by all that frou frou.
The good news is, there is no right or wrong way to decorate but I’m going to stick with my classic, traditional garden furniture and accessories and let my surroundings: the sky, shrubs, flowers and trees do the heavy lifting to make the space interesting and attractive.
Now it’s almost time to join Bentley on the couch for a nap. But first I needed to make some Brownies. In another recent Wall Street Journal article the author makes a convincing case for not using a brownie mix–but then supplies a recipe that looks intriguing–but exhausting. While I try to avoid dessert my sister was coming to visit and I thought she might like some of our mother’s brownies–I know I would.
Sue Beaton’s Brownies
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 4 tablespoons butter, more for greasing pan–melt together and add to eggs and sugar
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
350 degrees 15-25 minutes
I must have made these Brownies dozens of times, a long time ago though, and I felt I could have used a little more direction, but in the end just used common sense and it worked out fine.
I microwaved the butter with the chocolate until it was melted. (Those double boiler days are happily a thing of the past). While that cooled I whisked the eggs with the sugar, then added the cooled chocolate mixture, then the flour and baking powder.
My mom always used to butter (okay margerine) then flour the pan but I liked the parchment idea from the WSJ recipe so I went with that. And she always used Baker’s Chocolate but I happened to see Scharffen Berger Baking Chocolate when I was picking up eggs at Sickles and went for the upgrade. It was packaged in grams, not ounces, so I may have used four ounces not the three the recipe calls for and probably would if I make these again.
I’m not sure why the cooking time says 15 to 25 minutes. My batch needed the whole 25. And the good news–the result was a very tasty, very chewy, very moist brownie–just like I remembered. Whew.
Meanwhile here’s the Wall Street Journal recipe:
- Cooking or baking spray
- 12 ounces high-quality dark chocolate, such as Guittard or Valrhona, 60-72% cacao
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch slices
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or ½ teaspoon table salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 5 large eggs
- ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1¼ cups all purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle position. Line a 9-by-13-inch metal baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang so the brownies can be easily lifted from the pan. Spray lightly with cooking or baking spray.
- If using dark chocolate bars (as opposed to baking wafers or chocolate chips), chop ⅔ of the chocolate (8 ounces) finely using a serrated knife and place in a large, heatproof bowl. Chop remaining ⅓ (4 ounces) into ½-inch chunks. Set chocolate chunks aside in a small bowl.
- Add butter to chocolate in heatproof bowl. To melt chocolate using a double boiler: Add 2 inches of water to a pot and bring it to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low and place heatproof bowl on top. (Make sure bottom of bowl doesn’t touch simmering water; otherwise the chocolate might “burn” and the texture will become grainy instead of melting into a smooth emulsion.) Stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until melted. Alternatively, to melt chocolate in a microwave: Place heatproof bowl in microwave and microwave at 30-second intervals. Once chocolate starts to melt on bottom and sides of bowl, use a rubber spatula to mix it. When mostly melted, stop microwaving and stir to melt completely. Once chocolate is melted, stir in salt and vanilla.
- In a large bowl, combine eggs and both sugars. Whisk vigorously until homogenous. While whisking, drizzle in melted chocolate, and continue whisking until combined. Sift in flour, and whisk until just combined. Stir in reserved chocolate pieces.
- Pour brownie batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, save for some melted chocolate, about 35 minutes.
- Remove brownies from oven and place on a cooling rack until cool enough to handle, at least 15 minutes. Lift brownies out of pan with parchment paper and cut into squares before serving.