“The true measure of passion is the ability to follow your dreams
without encouragement from anyone else.” Jomo Morris
Science was never one of my favorite subjects in school. I had no time for formulas, physics, or complicated mathematic equations. Within our rigid “British styled” school system, it was ludicrous to equate science with anything happening in the real world.
The preferred method of teaching in our Jamaican school system was for students to memorize and accurately regurgitate whatever was written in our textbooks. Teachers were encouraged to use the strap, and they were quite adept at using this as a motivational tool.
Fear helped me commit to memory the collective works of Einstein, Hahn and Newton. Much to the delight of my teacher, I had become a human Xerox machine and could repeat verbatim “Einstein’s conversion of mass to energy” or Newton’s “law of gravitation.” I made it through high school with a foolproof recipe for success: binge study, pass the exam, and promptly forget everything. It’s no wonder I decided to pursue a career as a cook; in my kitchen there wasn’t a textbook in sight. Line cooks didn’t need to study: my hours were spent chopping, peeling, and prepping ingredients for service. I was content with this routine, until I saw my chef making chocolate. My executive chef likes to make chocolate. Call it his passion: some people paint, some sing, some write; he processes chocolate from raw cocoa beans. I never knew the cocoa bean had such a rich history. It took centuries for the bean to make its way from the jungles of South America to the imperial courts of European aristocracy and ultimately into the hands of artisans, who transformed chocolate into the decadent treat I know and love today. This was a rare opportunity to witness a centuries-old process, and I was determined to soak it in like a sponge. At first, I was afraid. A line cook’s sole purpose is to prep hard – focus up and head down – but I was intrigued. It took time, but over the ensuing months I’d strategically position myself whenever the smell of roasting cocoa beans filled the kitchen. The rich earthiness of the roasted bean, a kind of edible perfume for cooks, conjures images of distant rain forests and faraway lands. Gradually, as my chef went through each stage of the chocolate making process, I was able to follow along. I discerned that prying the sweet essence from the cocoa bean required diligence, technical expertise and a delicate touch. Chef had spent years perfecting his recipe. Surely I would have paid more attention in high school chemistry if I’d known the results could be this delicious!
I’d never dare attempt making artisanal chocolate in my tiny apartment; instead I’ll share my favorite recipe for chocolate brownies. There’s not a hint of baking chocolate in this recipe – which may surprise chocolate aficionados – but trust me, this is the best brownie you’ll ever have. It was given to me by the pastry chef at work and I was surprised that it was so simple. In this recipe, cocoa powder stands in for chocolate and the entire mixture can easily be made by hand.
Chucks’ Chocolate Brownies
2 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a pat of butter and heavily grease the sides and bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking tray. Combine the sugar, salt and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl.
Melt the butter and pour the melted butter into the sugar, salt and cocoa powder mixture. Use a rubber spatula to stir the mixture until it resembles a thick chocolate paste. The mixture will be thick and grainy.
Whisk in the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously. Sift the all-purpose flour and use the rubber spatula to incorporate into the chocolate mixture by thirds. Make sure to mix one third of the flour in completely before adding another. The mixture will be extremely thick, like chocolate paste
. Spread evenly into the baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes. It is done when a toothpick in the center emerges slightly moist with batter. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. For presentation purposes ,the best way to cut a brownie is to freeze them for a bit before removing them from the pan.