The Baked Brownie: Guest Post by @wallflourgirl

I have such a treat for you guys today! Remember my funfetti Rice Krispies post, where I sang the praises of my friend Ala, aka Wallflour Girl? Well, she’s guest posting for me today and she really went above and beyond, both with her writing and with her dessert. Brownies are the best (obviously) and I’m in love with her “Wall of Smiles” idea. How this girl has the power to make me laugh and tear up in the same post is beyond me. Don’t know what the heck I’m talking about? Read on, my friends, read on!

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Hello, Gotta Get Baked readers! I’m Ala from Wallflour Girl and I’m so thrilled to be guest posting for Nancy today. I don’t think I’ve felt this excited since folks announced the launch of a new Sailor Moon arc coming out in 2014 after nearly 17 years of silence. Am I showing my age? Sorry, I’ll put it away…

Baked Brownie gif 2

Nance and I met up a few weeks ago when I visited Vancouver and we chatted for hours: about stranger danger (unmarked cars are generally an unadvised way to go), about Canada’s need to figure out what they want to do with their pseudo-metric system (kilograms or pounds, eh? eh?), and even about young NPH as DOOGIE HOWSER (I triple-checked my spelling of that this time, Nance, I swear). She is the most absolutely lovely, articulate, kind person ever. Like, in case you haven’t been hammered over the head by that revelation yet after reading her incredibly smart, spot-on blog!

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Another thing I loved discussing with Nance–and that I still love discussing with her–is the Little Things, which is what I’ll be pontificating upon today while you’re all at my mercy. Muahahaha. But seriously.

I am not talking about teacup pigs or baby Holland Lop bunnies, though these are both very important Little Things. I’m talking about the welcoming smile on your significant other’s face when you stumble home after a long day battling the coffee machine or the smell of the freshly-mown lawn as you step outside before the rest of the world wakes up. You know, all the things that we are–sadly–sometimes only too willing to overlook in the midst of our crazed, overachieving lives.

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When I first started Wallflour Girl almost two years ago, I had just finished my first year of English grad school and was feeling pretty pumped about life. Bright-eyed with an Edward Cullen-worthy sparkle in my eye, I ended up teaching a New Media class that pretty much changed my life: namely, it kickstarted my career as a blogger.

I never imagined it would amount to much more than a personal project; it was simply a thing I did for sits and wiggles so my students could learn about the digital world from someone who at least seemed like she knew what the apricot she was talking about. (Did that sentence make sense to any of you? I hope not.)

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The last two years since then have been a raging freakin’ river, to say the least. In addition to existential crises on a nightly basis and a massive exam that pretty much swamped my entire life for 10 months, I was (and, to some extent, still am) struggling through a lot of anxiety and overstimulation.

How many of you go through your morning routine every day without once pausing to look out the window as you gobble down a quick granola bar and jet out the door, still stuffing your shoes onto the wrong feet? I know I’m guilty of this exact experience most mornings, and today I’m here to encourage you to pause, and think about the Little Things.

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For me, blogging is something that started out as a Little Thing and became a huge outlet for daily life. Baking is another. Writing in general–creatively, reflectively–is a third. But my favorite way to celebrate the Little Things in life is completely different, and something I’ve done since my very first day in grad school. It’s my Wall of Smiles.

Every night for the last 3 years, right before I turn in for the night, and no matter how sleepy or fatigued or utterly despairing I might feel, I write a post-it note to add to my Wall. As you might have already guessed, each sticky note contains one person, event, or thing that made me smile, laugh, or just genuinely happy during the day. I find that this one-minute exercise keeps my mind focused on the bright spots and allows me to end the day knowing that it was a meaningful one.

So for example, on the night I met Nance, I posted a sticky note that says:

Baked Brownie

If creating a Wall of Smiles sounds like a beautiful thing to do, it absolutely is. I can’t tell you how many nights I have wanted to just crawl into bed and sob my heart out about a particularly rough date, and then looked up to see this entire wall of positive post-its beaming down at me in all its benevolent guardianship.

Alternatively, if it sounds like an incredibly dorky thing to do, it absolutely is as well, and to me that’s perfectly okay. People often ask me how in the world (perhaps not always so politely) I have so much energy all. The. Time. The truth is by focusing on the Little Things–and whether that’s a Wall of Smiles or noticing someone who normally seems invisible (like your bus driver or the janitor who has been working a 14-hour day at Disneyland), these things really do make a world of difference. And the best part is, it can make a huge difference to the people around you, too. After all, who knows if you’re going on their Wall of Smiles at the end of a rough day?

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My slow-down time today was in photographing, writing, editing, and reflecting on this post for Nance, whom I really admire and respect as a person, professional, friend, and fellow blogger. I wanted to feature a recipe and photos that would really remind me of all the Little Things that made our meet-up so much crazy fun.

One thing I remembered was our discussion about how we would willingly swap an eternal life without chocolate for a significantly shorter life with chocolate. To crown the conversation, we enjoyed a delicious chocolate pot with chile for dessert, and so when I sat down to craft this post, I thought of Nancy’s blog–Gotta Get Baked–and it hit me.

Chocolate. Baked. Baked brownies!

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These are my absolute favorite brownies, period. And believe me, I have made my fair share of brownies!With that long-sought crackly top, a dense fudgy layer but not too rock-hard fudgy texture, and with a chewiness that would make Chewbacca absolutely jealous (erm, don’t ask me why), this brownie blows the competition out of the water, and I’m so glad to be sharing it with all of you today.

With its simplicity of preparation and absolutely stunning complexity of taste and texture, there is no better way to enjoy the Little Things for a moment than with a perfectly Baked Brownie.

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Regardless of when you make this brownie (and the answer really should be ‘right away’), I hope you all take a moment today, tomorrow, and each day afterwards savoring the Little Things that make your life a wonderful, exciting experience. And don’t forget to share these moments (or perhaps these brownies) with your loved ones, too.

And of course, don’t forget to tell your wonderful host how much you love her work. Thank you, Nancy! ❤

Love,

Ala

The Baked Brownie (adapted from the Baked cookbook)

  • 11 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
  2. Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 15-second intervals, stirring between each interval, until completely melted and smooth. Stir in instant coffee granules.
  3. Beat in both sugars until the mixture is no longer grainy.
  4. Add 3 eggs to chocolate mixture and beat in until combined. Add remaining eggs and vanilla extract; mix in until just combined (do not overmix, otherwise your brownies will become cakey).
  5. Add flour, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Gently and evenly fold into chocolate until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it. Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares and enjoying with a fine slice of life.

 
If desired, slice cooled brownies in half and spread one half with Biscoff filling (recipe below). Replace top half of brownie and enjoy your baked brownie as a Biscoff brownie sandwich.

Biscoff Filling

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese,softened
  • 1/3 cup Biscoff spread, melted
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy milk or regular milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat all ingredients together, adding more powdered sugar or soy milk as needed to reach desired consistency.

 
Ermagawd, Ala, thank you so much! Not only do I want to fill a trough with these brownies and just stick my head right into it, but I choked up a bit reading the post-it you wrote after our dinner together. I emailed you after you sent me the post and I told you that from now on, whenever I’m having a shitty day, I’m going to look back on this post, read your post-it note and all will the right with the world. I totally mean it. You rock, lady!

Make sure you follow Ala on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/wallflourgirl
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wallflourgirl
Instagram: http://instagram.com/wallflourgirl
Google +: https://plus.google.com/u/0/111004193855464305658/posts

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62 thoughts on “The Baked Brownie: Guest Post by @wallflourgirl

  1. Pingback: Baked Brownies: Guest Post at Gotta Get Baked | Wallflour Girl

  2. oh my gawd, this is like the best brownie post ever!!! Ala, the wall of smiles and the creamy biscoff filling?! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! you are such a bright ray of sunshine!

  3. Whoops! That comment may have gotten lost — delete this if it’s a duplicate. Anyway, Ala bakes such terrific stuff! Love her recipes. And I love her gifs — so much fun. Great post — thanks.

  4. I’m so glad you had Ala guest post on your blog. As much as I love reading Nancy’s posts, I also was glad to get to know Ala. I love the way Ala writes, great recipe and fantastic photos. What talented women!

  5. I totally want to start a wall of smiles! It’s amazing how much my perspective changes when I focus on the positive rather than the negative. Gratefulness really does go a long way! And these brownies? HO-ly cow! They look perfect!

  6. GIRL, thanks so much for having me over here on your fantastic blog!! Guess who’s making it on my Wall of Smiles (again) tonight? 🙂 My friends actually compete to see who can make it and count their tallies every time they come to visit, haha. In lieu of some witty or super memorable reply, though, I’ll leave you with this really necessary link of dogs that want desperately to become friends with cats (haha I thought of Abby and how sweet she must be!): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/dogs-who-desperately-want-to-be-friends-with-cats-video_n_5169514.html

    • Lol girl, how’d you know I love dog videos?! That’s so freaking adorable. Yaaaay me for getting on the wall again *fist pump* That’s hilarious about your friends being competitive about your wall. I’d love it if I, a total stranger, beat their tallies <– I'm a very competitive woman.

    • I hope Ala won’t mind me answering this question! Hi Lori, I don’t think leaving out the coffee granules will make a difference. The brownies will likely be fine without them. If you’re worried about the flavour, you usually can’t taste the coffee. It’s added to enhance the chocolate flavour. If you don’t want the caffeine, then absolutely leave it out. I hope that helps! Let us know if you try the recipe!

  7. I overly LOVED this post. I am looking forward to starting a Wall Of Smiles today! And you will be on the firs sticky Note;) Thank you for sharing this amazing post & recipe!

    • That’s SO sweet–made me smile big time, too. Thanks so much for your kind words, Ambar, I hope you keep me updated about how your Wall of Smiles is going 🙂 have a wonderful day.

  8. I love your wall Ala. That is awesome. I used to right in a Happy Book every day. Just a journal where every day I list 5 things that made me happy. I need to bust it out again, because you’re right, that one minute of positivity makes a huge difference.

    • Karen, I used to write down 5 things in a happy book too! Like, years ‘n years ‘n years ago, when Oprah first talked about it on her show. I kept it up for a few weeks and then stopped. I really need to start again. I’m such a Negative Nancy – I need more positivity in my life! Ala’s post and her wall of smiles are really inspiring.

  9. The brownies do look decadent and divine ;=)

    Bravo to the wall of smiles…Incredibly smart on so many levels ❤

    P.s. Thank you, too, for the reminder to cherish those little things which make up the big beautiful thing called life ❤

  10. What an absolutely wonderful post! I can’t wait to bake these brownies. It’s a shame the way my job constantly interferes with my baking! I couldn’t agree more about the little things. Years ago after my husband died, I taught myself to get into the habit of appreciating the lovely things and occurrences around me, especially at the beginning of each day. That helped me move on and to this day I start each day by taking a long look outside (since I’m in south Florida it’s usually beautiful and sunny) or sit on the patio with my coffee for a few minutes before work, just appreciating what I’m blessed to have. Anywho, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Ala! (Us serious bakers could never have too many fab brownie recipes!)

    • Vicki, thank you so much for the wonderful, insightful comment! I totally agree “It’s a shame the way my job constantly interferes with my baking” <– I don't think I could put it any better! And I'm always looking at the negatives in life. I get home from work and I'm all riled up from the commute and thinking about making dinner and doing chores. I put myself in a foul mood every day and it's not pleasant for anyone, nor is it fair to myself. I need to start carving out small moments in the day to enjoy life and appreciate what I have. A huge thanks to the fabulous Ala for the reminder!

      • Nancy, I’m rather new to the world of baking blogs (within the past year or so) and boy am I enjoying it! I find it so inspirational to learn from other women who are eager to share their stories and lives, plus the fab recipes! And yes, I know there are some men among us as well…..so thanks again and happy baking!

    • Just wanted to jump on Nancy’s comment and say…you’re an inspiration! I’m so glad you’ve made your own little space of time for yourself each and every day. It’s so easy to forget how blessed every moment of our lives really can be if we just stop to appreciate it. The pleasure’s all mine to meet you and post here for the inestimable Nancy. I’m so glad we’re part of this awesome baking community!

  11. This is the best thing I’ve read in ages. It’s been a couple hard months for me with balancing school, life and blogging. I really enjoy blogging but the unnecessary expectations that I set for myself and my inability to consider myself fail at anything means I’ve had absolutely no time to enjoy life at all. It’s only the past few weeks that I’ve realized I have to let go of some things and actually start living. Stop focusing so much on the negative things and doing as much as I can to be happy. This wall of smiles is a wonderful idea I’m very very excited to try!! Even if it’s not the exact same thing but just the concept of writing down one thing that made me smile that day before the end in a journal, post it or notepad. You and Nancy are incredible ladies and I am so happy I ran into your paths!!

    • Zainab! Hearing you say these things makes me sad because you are so amazing. If we lived in the same city, I know that we’d be fabulous friends and that way, I could give you a big hug, a giant plate of cookies and we could talk out all of our insecurities and crappy, negative feelings. Women as smart ‘n wonderful as us shouldn’t have to feel this way. I’ll send you virtual hugs and virtual cookies until the day we meet!

    • Zainab–first off, I know we met like 2 seconds ago (okay, maybe a little longer than that?) but we should so totally talk…you’re so not alone in the school/life/hardworking struggle, and I am definitely in the same boat every single day. It’s so much easier to say that we’ll do this or that so we can start to enjoy life for what it is again, but at the end of the day I find myself too often bogged down in my work, plowing through because my success and my notion of self-worth depend so much on the work I produce. Trust me, it’s not a pretty cycle, and I totally agree with Nance that we need to be fabulous friends who give lots of hugs and recognize the amazing qualities we do possess. I’m so blessed to have met you through Nancy’s blog–you are both superstars, and I’m so looking forward to keeping up with your awesome work!

    • Thanks for the pin, Averie–and don’t pass these brownies up, because I just got in a couple of huge orders for them today, folks won’t stop raving at me about them!

  12. What spectacular brownies!!! I want to shovel them right into my drooling mouth!!! I love your wall of smiles almost as much as these brownies. And you’ve described Nancy just perfectly…she’s a gem. I have a feeling you are, too!

    • AW, Liz, you’re going up on the Wall tonight, y’know–though I almost can’t decide, y’all are just such lovely folks here at Nancy’s blog, I’m floored. Thank you for that awesome welcome!

  13. Even five days of these brownies would not be enough to keep me happy 😀
    Delicious looking recipe, thanks for sharing it! AWESOME guest post!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  14. The problem with cutting them into heart shapes is that I would stuff all the extra bits into my big fat drooling mouth and would end up eating half the brownies that way and be oh so happy doing it. What an amazing post!!

    • Lol, Tara, I read this first thing in the morning and it made me laugh. Thanks for starting my Friday on such a bright note! And seriously, you and me both – I’d be cramming the scraps into my mouth like nobody’s business! Have a fabulous weekend, friend.

  15. There are so many things I love here, I don’t even know where to start!…..Thank you, Nancy, for continually introducing me, through your blog, to such amazing people (I include you in this group), who also happen to be amazing bakers/photographers/bloggers! I am awed by their talent, intelligence, and spirit! Thank you, Ala, for this brownie recipe. After too many comments of, “The Pillsbury box mix is better,” I had given up on homemade brownies that would hit the spot. These look perfect and I can’t wait to try them out on my taste testers! Thank you also for the beautifully written post which started my day with a smile. I am excited to share your Smile Wall idea with my adult daughter, the Post-It Queen. She has so much going on in her life (full time teaching, grad. school, volunteering, fun?) that ending the day with a smile reminder would be just the positive focus she needs! Actually, I could use a Smile Wall too!

    • Wendy, this comment had me grinning like a fool this morning. Thank you so much for your lovely words! Honestly, communicating with awesome readers and bloggers like you is what keeps me blogging. I’m very lucky to meet incredible people who share my world view and I’m more than happy to introduce them to my other friends on the internet. Ala is an amazing lady and I’m proud to know her. As for the “box mix is better” mentality… for the longest time, I thought so too because I could never get that fudgy, moist, dense consistency that I love from the box mixes. But as I’ve started making different recipes and stopped overbaking them, I’ve discovered the magical joy of home made brownies. I hope you give this a try and let us know how it works out! As for the Wall of Smiles, I think we all need something like that in our lives to serve as a reminder that life is never as awful as we sometimes feel it is. Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend, Wendy!

    • Isn’t she amazing?! I’m glad you found a smidgen of inspiration through this post, and hope both you and your daughter get a chance to start your own Wall of Smiles. I’d LOVE to hear about it (so many folks talk about starting one, but I actually have yet to know anyone who’s followed through yet!). It sounds like it’d be perfect for your daughter. And I think you’ll find with this homemade brownie recipe that nobody will talk about boxed mixes anymore 🙂 at least, hopefully not. So glad I found you through Nancy, the wonder-blogger-woman. Have a lovely weekend!

  16. 1. I have been wanting to make the Baked brownies for soooo long and these pictures are just making me want to even more!
    2. I officially adore Ala. I love the wall of smiles idea (I agree about limited life with chocolate and-while Prince Eric IS awesome- the Beast is totally my favorite prince. Yes…I realize what this must say about me).

    • LOL Kayle, thank you for those extremely kind words! I love the ellipsis after your comment about liking Beast…I mean, at least he turns out to be a man, right? And Eric fell in love with a mermaid, so I guuuessss inter-species relationships aren’t all that foreign to Disney films after all 😉 I hope you do make these baked brownies, Kayle, you won’t regret it. So glad I got to meet you through the inestimable Nance–I’ll see you around!

  17. This is such a wonderful and inspiring post! The brownies (duh), and the wall of smiles! What a great way to document EVERY DAY in such a positive way. And I love the idea of being on someone else’s wall of smiles. ❤

  18. Goodness. What a beautiful guest post. I loved these brownies…but more importantly, I loved that you shared your heart. I’ve had my share of anxiety and depression, and I love the wall of smiles you created to bring you joy during those darker times. Thank you for sharing!

    • Monet, you are 110% welcome–you’re such a lovely person, you deserve tons of smiles in your life! I hope you can give it a shot for those gloomy-seeming days…you might find they’re not that gloomy after all. ❤

  19. Oh my gosh!!! I love this so much. Still so jealous you guys got to meet up!!!! And I want to start a smile wall of my own right now. And eat these brownies while writing down positive things. What a perfect pick me up during the post-trip mild depression slump. Great job, guys :)))

  20. Wow, I really loved this post. That wall of smile is the BEST idea ever! It is so easy to sink into negativity and forget all the beauty around us. I try to keep a gratitude list on my phone and an achievement list to remind myself that YES I am accomplishing! Also, can’t forget how much I want to dive into these brownies!

    • Jessiker, I love the idea of an achievements list–I’d never thought of that! That must be such a good picker-upper. What sort of awesome things have you achieved this year? Thanks for the thought, so glad we found each other here!

  21. Pingback: Brown Sugar Turtle Cookies for a @Wallflourgirl Guest Post | gotta get baked

  22. This is a beautiful post Ala. I don’t know how I somehow missed stumbling upon your blog prior to now… but I am glad for this wonderful introduction via Nancy! I’ve got to say that I’m another who gets haunted by darker feelings. The wall of smiles sounds like an incredible remedy – focusing on the things to be happy and grateful for is something that all of us need to do more often! As for this brownie post? Amazing. I love that gooey deliciousness… your photos and gifs are stunning xxx

    • Laura, I’m so glad we found each other! Your comment was a wonderful thing to read before the end of the night. If you do find yourself struggling with those feelings, I would totally recommend trying a-note-a-day and seeing after a week or two how you feel. You never know! It’s much easier to keep it up once you’ve got a routine going, and once you do get started, you won’t want to stop 🙂 thanks again for your lovely comment. I’m looking forward to us keeping in touch!

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  24. What an amazing guest post Nancy! Ala sounds like an amazing lady, just like you. By the way I’m super behind on blog post reading, so I’m catching up today! The Wall of Smiles sounds like an incredible idea and such something that I should be doing. Especially lately, I have really been struggling with some things internally. I try to be positive as much as I can, but quite honestly I need more motivation in that area. Some days are wonderful and some days I’m just completely exhausted and overwhelmed by everything going on. But I love this idea and I love these amazing chocolate brownies!!

    • Hello there! I just wanted to say a) thank you so much for reading, and b) I’m sending so many positive (and chocolatey!) vibes your way during those exhausting days. I really hope you’ll be able to do some sort of daily exercise that works for you in bright thinking–I have so many friends who love the idea but never really follow through, and yet they mention it every time they meet as something they “mean to do…eventually.” No time like the present, right? Thank you for your lovely comment, and I’m so glad Nancy’s blog has let us meet. She really is an amazing gal, and you sound like you deserve a bite of chocolate treat-yourself sometimes, too 🙂 cheers!

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