As I pierce my fork into the not-quite-baked brownie, the center oozes and the steam gently lifts the chocolate smell to my nose hovering an inch above. By my estimation, this is my 20th two-minute mug brownie.
An hour earlier, I’d resolved that I didn’t need one tonight, that my evening was complete without that hot, chocolate goodness that I’d come to expect around 9:00pm. I’d told myself to focus instead on the book I was reading, reminded myself it’s hard to read and eat a brownie at the same time, dismissed my inner craving because I’d ruin what was a healthy day and perfectly good night. I’d resolved to just leave the brownie alone. Besides, it’s not like I needed the brownie. It’s not even a real brownie. It’s a Pinterest fake out that barely satisfied my craving for something, anything. I didn’t need the damn brownie. I was not addicted to this ridiculous excuse for a brownie.
But here I am, taking that first perfect bite from my 20th two-minute mug brownie.
The beauty of this recipe is that these little guys cook up different every time. The distribution of heat within the compact container makes it so that in one bite I could have half of a third degree burn and half of a barely warmed caked sponge. This first bite in particular has a ratio of about 1:3 hot-lava to overdone cake.
I hold it above the cup for a moment, blowing a bit on the hottest part waiting for it to reach negligible-burn territory, before sliding it off the fork with my teeth and sucking in a few quick breaths to make the manual mixing of desperate temperatures slightly easier.
Three nights ago I tried that Cosmo diet trick of brushing your teeth right after dinner. I was solid until 10:17. The toothpaste just made the first few bites of my brownie a kind of minty flavor.
Another night last week I tried to substitute my brownie with wine. But that just turned into three glasses of wine and a brownie.
Once I even tried making a half portion of the brownie but I couldn’t get the microwave time quite right. That just turned into burning one half brownie and making another whole one.
I am uncomfortable with my reliance on these brownies. I know this routine is not one I should keep up. It says something about my fortitude, my drive, my grip on adulthood. I should be able to go to bed without a belly bloated from a sub-par coca powder mess. But something about these brownies…
To make them, you need a mug, a measuring cup (or spoon and a quick Google of tablespoon to 1/4 cup ratio), and a fork. Each night around the same time, I walk through my empty house and turn on the dimmest light over the kitchen sink. No one else is home to judge me. My cat has never cared. My dog knows by now that these antics are of no consequence to her. It’s just me and my mug.
I typically choose to make the brownie in one of the four mugs that came in a Corelle dish set. I like the way the brownie looks in the all white cup. I think if I had the right camera I could put a picture of my mug brownie on Pinterest next to the original. But tonight, all the white mugs are in the dishwasher crusted with days old brownie. I grab the teal one handmade from thick clay. I like to think the lady in Santa Fe who sold it to me would approve of my use.
With the same silent care I take with placing the mug on the counter, I pluck the cocoa, the sugar, the flour and the oil from their places in the cabinet. I’ve changed their places to accommodate this ritual. They all sit together on the shelf above the stove right in front, not out of reach like the balsamic vinegar or powdered sugar.
I always start the process with the brown sugar. I like to mash the clumps up on the side of the mug with my fork first. From my experience, I’m sure this makes the texture and consistency better. I feel like it’s a kind of bakers technique. I imagine myself explaining this process to an invisible audience on some morning talk show.
It’s really this step, Hoda, that can make or break your brownie.
Next I add the flour and the cocoa. They seem to have about the same lightness and risk of pouf out, so I gently fold them into the now even brown sugar. I always complete this step over the sink. I’ve learned my lesson enough times. No one wants to clean of a little cloud of cocoa after they spent half an hour cleaning the same counter. This time of night, my counter is spotless.
Finally, the dry ingredients are ready to turn into batter. I add the oil first then hold the cup under the faucet for the briefest second, making sure there is enough moisture to make the mug last through the microwave. If I have it, I may substitute this step for a splash of milk. But, of course, if I have milk, I’ll probably pour a glass to accompany this rich chocolate heaven in a mug, adding about 150 calories to the whole ordeal.
With my fork, I beat the ingredients until it looks like a thick mud. I don’t try to even anything out or make it look nice. Each mug-brownie is different and delicious in its own way, and after the 45 seconds in the microwave, it is like a freshly minted piece of paradise.
Some have dunes that hold un-done goodness. Some have smooth surfaces for reasons still unknown to me. Some crack in the microwave like a desert floor. These run the risk of being too dry.
The one tonight is perfect in its own way. It has more undone goo than some (a positive for anyone who’s not a monster). It’s got the right ratio of sugar to liquid to cocoa. It is just enough to satisfy my craving.
Most importantly, it is all over quickly.
I put my dish in the sink, fill it with water, and go back to reading my book. I feel slightly less confident in my self-control but completely content.
Maybe tonight’s brownie will be my last. Maybe I’ll feel the error in my ways in my stomach instead of just my mind. Maybe I’ll run a few miles to justify such an indulgence.
Maybe I’ll just make my 21st two-minute mug brownie tomorrow.
(Want to make your own? Here’s the recipe. Proceed at your own risk.)