Phoning It In: Pumpkin Swirl Brownies


Last weekend I travelled to North Carolina to cook for visit my bestie’s newborn daughter. My husband and college buddy made two of the Food Lab’s amazing spinach lasagnas (the army-base carnivores went back for seconds), 30 burritos (green chili chicken and stewed beef), and a truly enormous triple-batch of Flour’s banana bread (also baked in a giant lasagna pan). All of this made its way into my friends’ chest freezer for the next month of eat/sleep/nurse sustenance, as it pleases their tiny adorable dictator. There was a lot of kitchen time in my week. A LOT. Which is why I’m not surprised that sci-fi night rolled around without any baking or even baking plans. I had meant to do the baking on one of my wide-open days with no meetings or tutoring appointments. Oh well.

This morning I pawed through my list of “bake this at some point” recipes searching for any recipe that didn’t require me to go to a grocery store. I needed an “I can cook this from what’s in my house” recipe. I cheated a little. I went to the bodega across the street for overpriced unsalted butter. All the other ingredients were in the house. My fridge usually has 3 pounds of butter in the door. I don’t know what happened.

Next month, I promise, there will be apples and gingerbread and pears and cream cheese frosting. Just not today, because those things aren’t in my house.

As we currently find ourselves in peak-pumpkin nonsense season (pumpkin spice motor oil! pumpkin spice couch slipcovers!), I give you: Pumpkin Brownies.

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Adapted ham-handedly from Smitten Kitchen (ultimately, from Martha Stewart)
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanila
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp solid pack pumpkin
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350. Prep a loaf pan. I use silicone loaf pans, so buttering and parchmenting them is overkill.

In a microwave safe bowl, nuke butter and chocolate in 30 second intervals with 1 minute rest in between until you can beat the two into a liquidy mixture with a fork.

In another small bowl, mix vegetable oil, pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you use the oil first, the pumpkin tends to stick less to the measuring cups and bowl 😉

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla for 3-5 minutes on high (but not so high that the eggs try to jump out of the bowl). They get ivory-colored and fluffy when you’re there.

Dump in the flour mixture and let the mixer incorporate until just combined into a sticky batter. 10 or so turns of the beater on low.

Release the mixer bowl, clean off the beater with a silicone spatula, then fold batter a few times with the spatula to make homogenous.

In your now-vacated flour bowl, dump a little over half the batter plus the chocolate mixture. Fold and stir until the chocolate batter reaches a uniform color.

Here’s the part where it’s helpful to have a second silicone spatula. Into your mixer bowl with half the batter left, dump the pumpkin mixture and stir/fold until the pumpkin batter is a uniform color.

Grab your loaf pan. Put half of the chocolate batter in the bottom and spread it out with the spatula. Put half the pumpkin batter on top of this, and spread it out with the other spatula. Repeat with the last of the chocolate. Repeat with the last of the pumpkin batter. Take a butter knife and “swirl” in S shapes until you lose you nerve and start to worry that you’re just mixing the two batters together after you worked so hard to make them separately.

Bake 30-40 minutes or until a knife poked into the center comes out without obviously raw/creamy batter. No judgement if you like to underbake your brownies.