Anya von Bremzen's Roasted Halibut
Giada de Laurentiis's Penne with Spinach Sauce

Le Pain Quotidien's Belgian Brownies


Just who, exactly, was I kidding when I thought it was a good idea to go easy on the sugar in the waning days of winter and a most stressful time at work? I have seen the light, my friends, and it comes in the form of individual chocolate brownies that when eaten for breakfast or a midnight snack can easily be substituted for illicit drugs or alcohol as self-medication in dire times.

Not only do the chocolate and butterfat and sugar do wonders in perking up the most depressed of souls, but distributing them at will helps, too. It must have something to do with karma, but if you bake up a batch of these and throw a few at your boyfriend and his mother and your doctor's receptionist and the doorman of your office building and your poor starving coworkers (while saving a couple for yourself, for crying out loud), I guarantee any foul mood will slink wretchedly out the window.

Described as "brownies" by both Le Pain Quotidien and the Los Angeles Times, these little chocolate cakes are soft and creamy on the inside with a thin top crust that shatters under pressure. As far as I'm concerned, "brownies" is a misnomer. These are airy (practically flourless) delights that aren't fudgy or cakey or any of the other characteristics that have people's emotions running high when the virtues of a good brownie come up in conversation. They're rich but still delicate (Ben complained about the structure of them while eating a few hunched over the sink last night) and would be best unmolded on a plate with a huge melting scoop of ice cream creating little vanilla rivulets all around.

I prepared these cakelets while watching Oprah cry as Sidney Poitier walked out on her stage unexpectedly - a deep chocolate aroma filled the air, I snuggled deeper into my couch, and another person's happiness proved to be the best distraction from an overwhelming world.

Belgian Brownies
Makes 14 brownies

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 - 64% cacao)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
5 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
1 1/3 cups superfine sugar
3 tablespoons pastry flour

1. Roughly chop the chocolate into pieces. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl and add the butter. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, until the two ingredients have melted. Mix well and transfer to a large bowl; set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift the sugar and flour together, then stir into the chocolate. Add the eggs and mix well. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. The batter will thicken as it stands.

3. Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. Spoon one-fourth cup batter into each paper-lined cup. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. The brownies will still be moist when done; they will puff up and fall slightly as they cool.