At times of high stress, sometimes the only solution is chocolate. The fastest way for a fix - other than buying a bar or a block - is the brownie. One bowl, no need for softening of butter or room temperature anything, just melt, stir, pour, bake, slice and serve. This Smitten Kitchen recipe doesn't even require you to have dark chocolate in the house - it uses cocoa instead - and so can be whipped up from pantry staples. My friend Joanna had recently made these with orange zest - to great acclaim - and I further freewheeled by substituting walnuts for cranberries. I used dried, but fresh or frozen would work just as well for that pop of sour among all the sweet. Serve warm, at room temperature, refrigerated or straight from the freezer. It all works.
Cranberry orange brownies
Adapted from a recipe by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen
I have ziplock bags of various citrus zest in the freezer as I'm unable to let an orange or a lemon or a grapefruit be juiced without first harvesting all that amazing flavour found in its skin. This is the sort of recipe where that foresight comes in handy. If you've got this sort of situation yourself, feel free to up the amount of zest - or at least, don't be worried about estimating exact quantities. More is more here, I don't think you could overdo it, and if you don't put enough in it will get lost among the other big flavours.
140g unsalted butter
65g cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt (or a heaping 1/4 tsp flaky salt like Maldon)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
75g cranberries (dried/fresh/frozen)
zest of one orange
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with baking paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl atop a saucepan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't get wet. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Set the bowl aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. Don't be alarmed if it looks gritty at this point. Stir in the vanilla and orange zest with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and once it's incorporated, beat vigorously for thirty seconds with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the cranberries. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the centre emerges slightly moist with batter, about 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack then lift up the ends of the baking paper, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.