Our peripatetic Backstage Baker has returned to the city! After enjoying a few days of downtime after “The Master Builder” closed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, James then drove eight hours north to stage manage “The Romeo and Juliet Project” for the Chautauqua Theater Company. (I hear it had a cast of 90 and used over 14 rehearsal spaces!) Now, he’s back in town and already in pre-production for his next Broadway show, “A Time to Kill“. It starts previews on September 28, so fingers crossed that James will have time for some rehearsal baking . . .
In the meantime, a friend of James’ is working on “The Laramie Project” at Ford’s Theatre. As part of their Lincoln Legacy Project, Ford’s is presenting an exhibit called “Not Alone: The Power of Response” that recreates the 10,000+ pieces of mail that were received by the Shepard Family after Matthew’s murder. James had been given a bunch of blank envelopes and needed people to help address them (they wanted as many different handwriting styles as possible.)
It’s a heavy, emotional project. What better time for a “Write, Wine and Unwind” gathering?
James served summery peach Bellinis and a good red wine along with homemade brownies: “Because of a busy weekend schedule I needed to make something simple. One cookbook I could never live without is Mark Bittman’s HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING. It is a book that every home baker and chef should have. I opted for his brownie recipe. It is so easy and so delicious. (Note that the melting chocolate technique is not from the recipe but the way I like to do it.)”
And folks dropped by all afternoon to enjoy the brownies and address envelopes to the Family of Matthew Shepard.
Mark Bittman’s Brownie Recipe
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, for dusting (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a square baking pan with butter or line it by overlapping 2 pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil crosswise and grease the lining.
2. Combine the stick of butter and the chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave them on medium for 10-second intervals, stirring after each interval. When the chocolate is just about melted, remove the bowl from the microwave and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.
3. Stir in the sugar. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Gently stir in the flour, salt, then the chocolate chips and cherries (if you’re using them.)
4. Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until just barely set in the middle. Cool on a rack until set. If you used parchment, lift it out to remove the brownies. If not, cut them in squares right in the pan. I then dusted the cooled brownies with powdered sugar.
Store, covered, at room temperature, for no more than a day.