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!
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…
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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:
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?
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!
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.
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! ❤
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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- 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.
- Beat in both sugars until the mixture is no longer grainy.
- 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).
- Add flour, salt, and unsweetened cocoa powder. Gently and evenly fold into chocolate until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
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