Sometimes it’s fun to share other things than just a recipe. As a food writer, I receive many books to review, from cookbooks to food-related memoirs to novels. When this food-lovers romantic, suspenseful comedy landed on my desk, I took the afternoon off to indulge in some fun reading. Without a doubt, “Three Blonde Mice” is the foodie beach read of the summer.
Author Jane Heller knows how to tell a good story, and this one weaves in food, satirically mocks the over-used farm-to-table movement and reminds us what’s so funny about human nature. Milking a cow never was so fun to read about! Picture three friends that go on a cooking excursion with a famous chef, only to discover one of their classmates is very keen on practicing knife technique — not in the kitchen!
During the Cultivate Our Bounty Week at a farm in Connecticut, all the students learn how to cook farm-to-table meals with a renowned TV/restaurant chef named Jason Hill. After milking a cow and making cheese, the narrator stumbles on evidence that one of her fellow agritourists is out to murder the celebrated chef. From there, it is an “anyone’s guess” whodunit. A cast of characters provides plenty of twists and turns, surprising the reader all along the way.
The only recipe in the book is a piece de resistance chocolate marquise with beet cremeux. Translation: chocolate crust with chocolate mousse, beet and raspberry sauce, and pistachio brittle. I’d love to share it with you, but then you’d be in the kitchen for the entire day. So while the following recipe may not be as complex or beautiful as the marquis, it is a keeper that is a hit for any season. These chocolate truffle brownies require only one pot, earning them a spot as one of my favorite seriously simple desserts. These moist chocolate gems come with my promise that you will love them. Enjoy, and don’t forget to see what happens in “Three Blonde Mice.”
■These can be prepared up to two days ahead and kept in an airtight container until serving.
■Use a metal baking pan for even cooking; use a light-colored pan, since dark pans cook faster.
■Make sure that the pan is well greased for ease in releasing the brownies.
■You can melt the butter and chocolate in a medium glass bowl or measuring cup in the microwave; use medium power and stir after every 30 seconds until completely melted.
■The center should be slightly moist when the brownies are done.
■Make sure that the brownies are totally cooled. Use a sharp knife and cut into squares by first cutting in one direction and then the other.
Diane Rossen Worthington is a cookbook author and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host.
Chocolate Truffle Brownies
1 cup unsalted butter
6 ounces best quality unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
Combine the butter and chocolate in the top of a double boiler over medium-low heat and melt slowly, stirring occasionally.
When the butter and chocolate are melted, remove the pot from the heat, add the sugar and whisk vigorously. Add the eggs and vanilla, and whisk until completely incorporated. Add the flour and salt, and blend in, making sure there are no lumps of flour. The mixture should now be a shiny, batter-like consistency.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes or until the top is crisp and dry and a wooden toothpick inserted 1-inch from the center comes out barely moist.
Cool to room temperature before cutting into squares or bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes 32 brownies.
Per serving: 152 calories; 9 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 53 percent calories from fat); 16 g carbohydrates; 13 g sugar; 39 mg cholesterol; 47 mg sodium; 2 g protein; 1 g fiber.