Why do we add walnuts, almonds, or pistachios to brownies?
Today I started my afternoon by opening my Sheboygan Community Cookbook. I have had a hankering to make homemade brownies for the longest time. I am not sure why because I have never made them before and I am usually very content with a piece of smooth dark chocolate. While flipping through my cookbook my eyes stopped on “One Bowl Brownies”. There is something about the phrase “one bowl” that makes a recipe seem so much more appealing. Is it the instant reward of doing less dishes? Does the recipe somehow seem more simple and quick? I did find that the first of these is true. Before I made these brownies every single recipe I found seemed to include some required magical wizardry to perfectly melt chocolate into a beautiful flowing ribbon to make the bake that much more successful. However, this recipe called for no such wizardry and we created sweet chocolatey success. A little improvisation was incorporated into this recipe because our pantry is only stocked with “regular” chocolate squares and it called for unsweetened chocolate. Now let’s be honest here. It’s about 35 degrees outside and I’m in my sweatpants. I’m not about to go run to the store to track down unsweetened chocolate because I firmly believe all chocolate can be used in brownies. (Yes if you read carefully above this is the first time I made them so take that with a grain of salt!) Ultimately these turned out to be spiked with a few extra grams of sugar…about the amount of sugar a toddler would add to this recipe. If you need a quick tip on what to do with a semi-failed baking attempt: add it to ice cream. Ice cream always makes everything instantly taste better.
As I was adding my improvisational chocolate “skills” to this recipe it got me thinking about one very important topic about brownies. To add nuts or to not add nuts? This wonderful one bowl recipe did call for nuts, but I chose to leave them out. Not because I still didn’t want to run to the store, but because I prefer the full satisfaction of eating a dessert without the healthy addition of a protein. I don’t think the debate to add nuts or not is as strong as the cat people vs. dog people argument, but is still a valid one. For me the only reason to add a handful of walnuts, or a sprinkle of crushed pistachios would be the health advantages. Maybe it makes us feel less guilty about eating a delicious chocolatey chunky brownie…or there are people who actually just like the addition for flavor and texture. This is the same internal debate I have with pizza. I feel like I should do my best to make my pizza a healthy version. Like making a cauliflower crust with homemade sauce topped with mozzarella, garlic, spinach, & grilled chicken….actually that does sound pretty dang appetizing! However, at heart I am a true pizza classic. I like a thin crust topped with pepperoni. I believe my brownie and pizza preferences fall in the same category of insanely delicious and not so healthy. So go grab yourself a brownie and ponder these life complexities with me. If we can’t make time to think more about the things that make us happy then we are doing something wrong. Cheers & chocolate!