The Brownies Abide

I love a good tradition.

Traditions work wonderfully as mileposts, measuring the distance you’ve traveled; acknowledging changes as life speeds along, while providing assurance that you have something constant amid the chaos to look forward to.

Whether it is glass pumpkins from MIT in September or lobster buoys from the Cape in June, certain objects and events help me punctuate the months and seasons. And in August, I get a little help from “the dude.”

For the past four years, I’ve attended The Big Lebowski movie screening and pre-show bowling party extravaganza at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline. (I thought long and hard about whether I should even admit any of this.) Like most traditions, it’s a little odd and perhaps a little sad, as occasionally you lose attendees along the way.

This year was no exception on both accounts. Sometimes you lose a rug that really tied the room together. Sometimes you lose a million dollar ringer. Sometimes you lose a friend. And if you can’t learn to accept this, you are entering a world of pain.

Luckily, where there is tragedy there is often chocolate. And so yesterday we ate brownies from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. We drank white Russians. We honored the dude. We lived. And for a moment, we believed in nothing; it was exhausting.

As was making the brownies; I had to use every ounce in me not to deviate from the recipe. It is simply not in my nature to follow a recipe. But these brownies had to be baked. And baking is much different than cooking. As our good friend Walter Sobchak would say, this is not ‘nam. This is baking. There are rules. And so when Thomas Keller called for 61-64% cacao chocolate I did not question why; I simply abided.

Per usual, Thomas Keller can do no wrong. The brownies were amazing: thick and chocolaty and rich. Having them with white Russians was a grown up milk and cookie experience.

In the end, a tradition—be it brownie or bowling based—is a great way to stop, look around, and reflect on where you've come from: and where you are going. And if you’re really lucky, life may even throw you a new brownie recipe to help get you to the next milepost.

Ad Hoc Brownies
Adapted from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc At Home

3/4 cup flour
1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
3/4 pound butter
1 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 ounces 61-64% cacao chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a glass baking dish. Sift together flour and cocoa powder; add salt. Melt half the butter in a sauce pan and then pour heated butter into a bowl with the remaining butter; stir to melt. There should be small bits of butter remaining.

In another bowl, or bowl of a kitchen aid, mix the eggs and sugar on medium until very thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Mix in vanilla. On low speed, add about 1/3 of your flour mixture and then 1/3 of your butter and continue to alternate until both flour mixture and butter are fully combined. Stir in chocolate. Pour into floured baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let cool until room temperature.

Makes 12


I used 2 bars of 62% semi-sweet Scharffen Berger chocolate. It's hard to find exactly 6 ounces of chocolate with 61-64% but Scharffen Berger has it. And thank goodness. Lord knows, I don't need extra chocolate hanging around.

Mr. Keller used 1/2 tsp vanilla paste instead of vanilla extract. I'm sure it's delicious, but I didn't have it. I figured the paste was probably more concentrated so I used more vanilla extract. Also, I just like vanilla. So okay, there was a tiny bit of recipe shenanigans.

If you like Thomas Keller, you should check out French Press Memos. Andra has a great food blog with bunch of Thomas Keller recipes to work your way through.

You can also order Ad Hoc at Home from the comfort of, well, your home from a variety of traditional online stores.


  1. This brownie recipe looks divine! I'm a lot like you and probably don't bake nearly as much because I have a hard time really sticking to a recipe. I should definitely do it more often :-)

  2. it's hard for me to follow a recipe exactly as written as well--i'm rebellious like that. :) lovely post--you have a fine flair for writing!

  3. Looks great! I borrowed that book from the library...wish I could find it for less than $50 because I couldn't wait to try some of the recipes!

  4. Yummie, the brownies look amazing :-)

  5. Thanks all! I have to say this brownie recipe is perfection. It's worth trying very--and I stress VERY (if you are at all like me)--hard to follow the directions. ;)

    Though I must confess I am already thinking of all the things I could do to tinker with it ... add orange peel ... prunes ... walnuts ... best I stop now.

  6. Wait one minute...I on the other hand like to follow a recipe. I'm sure it's the baker in me, but what about the chocolate? Are you adding them in at the end right before baking or getting melted with the butter? I need help! I can't be left alone like this. :)

  7. Ha, yes I suppose you do have to add the chocolate. You stir it in right before you bake the brownies. See what I mean? Baking is just not in my nature. I almost have panic attacks reading through recipes start to finish. Hopefully a chocolate crisis has been averted. Now, feel free to proceed. :) Thanks so much for commenting ... and good luck!

  8. Those brownies look as heavy as bowling balls! That's my favorite kind.

  9. brownies brownies brownies
    i like them better then cake but not as much as cookies

  10. I dont have the 'Ad Hoc' book (only Bouchon) but these look so incredible that I think I've just added Ad Hoc to my wish list. They look so luscious and perfect...

  11. Thanks for the comment on my popsicle post. I think they are still perfect any time of year. I've been known to pull out the ice cream maker in the dead of winter. These brownies also look absolutely fab. I've been smitten since I ate at Ad Hoc a couple of years ago and now should really make these. Thank you for the reminder.

    As a sidebar, I'm a finalist in a recipe contest! I'd love your support. To vote, see my video here: http://bit.ly/bXKr5j and then click that you "like it." (Note that you will have to log into your youtube account to vote and if you don't have one, you'll have to create one. I promise it only takes a minute!) If nothing else you get to see me look awkward on video. :-S