Can you trust a skinny baker? Rachel Zoe’s chocolate dream brownies, road-tested

If you know who stylist-to-the-stars Rachel Zoe is, you probably have a hard time picturing her in the kitchen. Besides her feud with Nicole Richie (they’ve since patched things up, *whew*), she’s infamous for being the size of a lamppost. In all fairness, after watching her Bravo show it seems her emaciation has a lot to do with the fact that she’s always in hyperactive go-go-go mode. She’s put on weight recently during her pregnancy, but considering her lack of quality time with food in the past, you can understand why I was skeptical about her brownie recipe. And this clip doesn’t inspire confidence in her abilities in the kitchen.

This is how she dresses while preparing a turkey.

Were my concerns well-founded? Yes and no. The recipe could have used more details that would have helped in the execution. For example:

  • Can I cream the sugar and butter together in the mixer, or does everything need to be hand-stirred?
  • How much additional sugar do I add if I don’t have sweetened cocoa powder? (I added ¼ cup extra sugar, which turned out to be unnecessary, and stuck with ¾ cup cocoa powder, Dutch process.)
  • How do I get the batter smooth as directed in the recipe, without over-stirring?

Because it’s been freezing cold here in DC, the “room-temperature” butter had to undergo some zapping in the microwave, yet it still wasn’t soft enough. So I ended up throwing the egg-sugar concoction into the mixer on low to help smooth it out, then slowly incorporated the cocoa powder-flour part. At this point I was seriously doubting my decision, as the batter had turned into concrete. After all, DO NOT OVER STIR, warns the recipe.

When I spread the batter in the pan–no simple task, given its uncooperativeness–there were still small lumps throughout (I did sift the dry ingredients per the instructions, so it was probably the butter). At this point, my frustration level was such that I wanted to tell RZ to take her QVC faux-fur vests and shove it.

Sure, Rachel Zoe knows fashion. But can she bake?

To add to my dismay, after the max recommended baking time, the brownies looked almost unchanged from their batter state. However, a poke with a fork showed that they had cake-ified.

All was not lost. Despite a few small lumps here and there, the brownies were delicious. And rich as all heck. Amazingly they did NOT turn out rock hard, despite the goopiness of the batter. Straight from the oven, these had a great crunch on the edges and top, giving way to a gooey texture underneath.

If you’ve got the time, patience, and elbow grease, try these. But if you’re in a pinch, I find that Ghiradelli brownie batter (<$3 at Target) is a pretty close second flavor-wise, with much easier cleanup.

Having had mixed success with this recipe, I’m going to have to pass on trying her shortening-based (?!) ba-na-na bread. No matter how ba-na-nas it is.


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