Chocolate: A Swiss Remedy
Living in Switzerland for 10 years gave me a certain perspective on chocolate as sustenance. In this special country, chocolate is considered a staple and a panacea for all that is fraught in the world. It’s found in every lunch box, ski-pack and pantry. It’s not considered a dessert, but really it’s own food group that transcends all nutritional categories and is arguably a national symbol, right up there with banks, cows and the Matterhorn. In a manner of efficiency (as only the Swiss can do) chocolate is the multi-tasking equivalent of a power bar, a balanced diet, a healthy psyche and an aspirin. How can you not love a country for this?
When I lived in Crassier, near the French border about 15 miles outside of Geneva, I crossed the border regularly to shop in the French supermarkets. When I returned to Switzerland, the Swiss border guards would often stop me and question my purchases. (There were strict restrictions on quantities of wine, cheese, and meat that could be purchased abroad.) One day when I was still new to the country, I returned with some French chocolate. When I informed the Swiss guards that I had chocolate in my shopping bags they gaped at me in disbelief. Forget the case of Burgundy wine, the kilos of runny unpasteurized French cheese, or the side of beef in my backseat - Mon Dieu! – they were aghast and appalled that I had the gall and obvious lack of taste to purchase French chocolate instead of Swiss. I had committed an act of treachery in their minds, and diminished my already lowly foreign status. The next time I crossed the border, I would have to wear a paper bag over my head.
I learned my lesson. Clearly, integrating meant more than learning the local language and paying taxes. It also meant buying Swiss chocolate. (Like I said, how can you not love a country for this?) Now, many years and several countries later, I continue to buy Swiss chocolate – a.k.a. the Swiss remedy for everything. And these days when life is throwing lots of curve-balls our way, a little chocolate medicine is a comforting and restaurative pleasure. Straight-up and dark is my preferred manner of consumption, but when a little extra TLC is needed, there is nothing like a gooey, decadent, home-baked brownie.
This brownie recipe is one of those no-fail, crowd-pleasing brownies. It’s dense and fudgey, chocolate-y enough to please the adults and sweet enough to appeal to kids. I use Lindt 70% dark chocolate, bien sûr.
Makes 32 small squares
1 cup unsalted butter
12 ounces good quality dark chocolate (70%), coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper. Butter paper.
Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a large bowl until the mixture lightens in color. Add chocolate to the eggs and stir to combine well. Add flour to the chocolate batter, stirring with a wooden spoon, until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes, or until top is set and sides begin to pull away from pan. Brownies will be fudgey and a wooden pick will not come out clean. Cool completely on rack. For best results, refrigerate brownies covered overnight in pan. To cut, remove brownies from pan by lifting paper at sides. Cut in small squares.
Tip: These brownies are very rich and soft. Keep them stored in the refrigerator, and they will last for up to one week.