an experiment gone right: gooey chocolate brownies

March sneaked up on us, hiding behind chilly temperatures and gusts of cold air. I should have known that my simple act of  shipping off my only warm coat to the cleaners last week would open the door for an unwelcome cold front. I have been reassured by the Weather People, however, that the cold weather won’t last long, and that warmth will soon be here for good.

Looking back, the winter was fairly mild here in north Florida, with less than a dozen (less than ten, even?) freezing nights. My children donned their Scientist caps on those days, experimenting with what would freeze outside and what would not. Because we deprived them of their only wish, ever, please — to see snow — they became obsessed with making ice. Mostly they stuck to variations on a theme — water in a vessel of some type.

 gooey chocolate brownies

The kids learned that our back porch is more insulated than our back patio, and if they wanted to make ice, the location of their water cup placement is critical to the process. They learned that water in a plastic cup freezes more slowly than water in a glass. Oliver learned that the addition of a Hot Wheels sports car will impede freezing, and that stirring dirt into the glass of water doesn’t seem to have much effect. Most importantly, the kids had fun with science.

Of coure, they’re still ticked at us for not taking them to see snow. But they’ll get over it.

Sometimes experiments go wrong – like adding a Hot Wheels to water to see it will freeze on a 40 degree night – and we regroup and try again. Other times, more uncommonly,  experiments go wrong and in doing so, something great results. These brownies are an example.

Experience has taught me that baking marshmallows on top of a dessert for more than a few minutes in a hot oven is a bad idea. I learned that lesson some time ago, and I learned it the hard and messy way. But despite having this background knowledge, I experimented again, determined to create a brownie with fluffy marshmallow bits in the center.

I did not achieve what I was aiming for. The brownies didn’t have that rocky-road-but-without-the-nuts thing that I was going for. Instead, these brownies were the result – chocolatey and extra gooey, with occasional craters on the top where a marshmallow had risen to the surface. Bites of those parts were crisp but chewy, in a good way. I was prepared to trash the entire batch, but surprisingly, I liked them. The kids adored them, and they continue to beg me to make the brownies again.

And baking these gooey chocolate brownies sure is easier than taking them to see snow, so why not?

gooey chocolate brownies

Yield: 16 brownies

Gooey Chocolate Brownies

The marshmallows in these brownies up the gooeyness factor. Be sure to mix them in entirely, so that no dry marshmallows are showing, otherwise you risk burning them.


3.5 ounces (100 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips (60% cacao)
1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup (85 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup miniature marshmallows


Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place rack in middle position. Prepare 8 x 8 inch baking pan: butter the pan, then line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan filled with an inch or two of simmering water, melt the chocolate chips with the butter. Stir occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Stir in sugar until completely incorporated. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. Stir into chocolate mixture so that the eggs are fully mixed in. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa. Add to chocolate mixture and stir well until batter is smooth. Fold in marshmallows completely.

Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan, then bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a rack, then lift on the sides of the parchment overhang to remove the brownies, still on the parchment. Cut into 2-inch squares.

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33 Responses to “writer’s block and a recipe: chocolatey chocolate chip cookies”

  1. 1
    Nancy@acommunaltable — September 8, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

    I suppose in view of the pain and suffering you see on a daily basis, writing about cookies or cakes does seem a bit trivial – (but never stupid!!) But I am not so sure that it is -yes, you are writing about cookies but you are really writing about something else.. You are writing about the simple joys of life. I think that is why people enjoy reading your blog – it’s an escape and it reminds them that, despite the craziness, scariness and pain in their own life, there are simple joys as well – like chocolately chocolate chip cookies.

    The healing power of a good, chocolately chocolate chip cookie should never be underestimated!:-)!!

  2. 2
    Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray — September 8, 2011 @ 3:15 pm

    Well, I think you overcame your writer’s block. As always, beautifully written. I know what you mean about your job. I’m a PT in a hospital, so I’m not as close to the sadness and suffering as you, but just being in a hospital so often can have the tendency to bring you down a bit. However, still wouldn’t trade it for any other job. Also, I’m sure your family doesn’t mind that you turn to baking for therapy. 🙂

  3. 3
    Paula — September 8, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    With the shifts you work, in the environment you do and the emotional load that you carry I admire the fact that you do maintain this wonderful site as faithfully as you do. I do understand that it is an outlet from your job as much as it is a way to express your love of writing, food and photography.
    Your honesty in this post, in all your posts, is what jumps off the pages of your blog (not to mention the beautiful photographs) and whether you post daily, weekly, monthly or whatever, we will be here.

  4. 4
    Leah @ LoftyBites — September 8, 2011 @ 3:36 pm

    I was moved by your post… my husband is an orthopaedic surgery intern and although he has just started, he goes through some of the same ups and downs. I also love baking & cooking (just started a food blog myself!) and try to cheer him up through food. It almost always works! It definitely is a good source of therapy. You should ask for foot rubs for your tired feet in exchange for cookies 🙂

  5. 5
    Joanne — September 8, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

    Beautiful post, aren’t we lucky that we have found something like cooking that can be our therapy! Your post was lovely and nothing you write comes across false or contrived, instead, honest. Also, love the cookies, they look awesome!

    Thinking of you (and your tired feet).

  6. 6
    Bob — September 8, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    The malted milk powder…where did you pick that up?

    I approach double and triple chocolate chip cookies with skepticism. IMHO, once chocolate (the most wondrous of foods) gets baked into flour and transformed into a cookie, the chocolatey goodness sorta disappears. I’d much rather have a chocolate chip cookie with a 60:40 flour:chip ratio.

    But, this recipe has a much higher ratio of chocolate and butter to flour…more like a brownie.

    It is a beautiful looking cookie.

  7. 7
    Barbara — September 8, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

    I cannot believe how hard my oncologist works. I have access to him 24/7 . If I have a question or problem I can page him and he gets back to me immediately. Maybe because I bake him Greek cookies.

  8. 8
    Brian @ A Thought For Food — September 9, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    You certainly have been incredibly busy recently, MJ. I just hope that you get to take some time for yourself one of these days. I guess sitting down with a plate of chocolate chip cookies isn’t a bad start.

  9. 9
    Julie Blanner — September 9, 2011 @ 9:15 am

    I love anything with malted milk powder and these do not look like an exception! I cannot wait to try them!

  10. 10
    Dmarie — September 9, 2011 @ 10:15 am

    oh, my, two weeks without a break…no wonder you’re feeling a bit of burnout and lack the energy to write. those delicious-looking cookies should be just the thing to tide you over ’til you get a needed break, needed no matter how rewarding the work. hopped over from foodgawker–thanks for sharing!

  11. 11
    claire — September 11, 2011 @ 8:04 am

    these cookies look so yummy 🙂

  12. 12
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — September 12, 2011 @ 7:34 pm

    Mj – you never cease to amaze me. Not only are you an incredible wife and mum but a fabulous life-saving oncologist. And then you tell me you have writer’s block and I think there will be a post with like, no words. But instead there is a thoughtful, quiet post with a fab recipe. You rock.

  13. 13
    Cheryl Arkison — September 13, 2011 @ 9:26 am

    Two weeks on call? Brutal. Hang in there.
    I’m definitely adding these cookies to the list for my next baking date with my Evil Genius.

  14. 14
    Erin — September 13, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    These cookies look fantastic. Baking (especially with chocolate I think) can definitely be therapeutic.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — September 13th, 2011 @ 7:51 pm

      Very, very true.

  15. 15
    Diane {Created by Diane} — September 14, 2011 @ 2:34 am

    I hope you feel a bit of relief soon, I can only imagine the stress. Baking for me is a huge stress reliever it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who bakes off stress! These cookies look rich and delicious!

  16. 16
    Season with Reason (Rebecca) — September 16, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

    I’m no doctor, but I’ve always seen writer’s block as the body’s way of forcing a day (or a week) off! And what better way to celebrate a “vacation” than with some chocolatey chocolate?

  17. 17
    pickyin @ Life is Great — September 16, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

    It is common for us to face some extent of a writer’s block at certain points of our blogs. There are many days when I have a recipe lined up but just didn’t feel like writing a word of it. Thus I wait it out to get into that zone where I remember why I love my blog and then the words would come.

    On another note, you’re lucky to be doing what you love and having a job that’s not just one. It’s very important in life to have that, just like chocolate.

  18. 18
    Carroll — September 17, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

    Baking/Cooking can reduce all mind clutter and worries…. and the cookies…well they just look divine!

  19. 19
    Nutmeg Nanny — September 17, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

    It sounds like you have overcome your writers block. I can see how working that much could cloud your mind. I guess it’s a good thing you love your work. So many people do not truly understand the love of a job.

    I hope things calm down soon and you have time to rest. Perhaps that is all your mind really needs. And maybe one of these cookies too 🙂

  20. 20
    doctorbobster — September 17, 2011 @ 9:22 pm

    I turned out a batch today…an outstanding cookie…well worth the effort. I made six and put the rest of the batter in the ‘fridge for later.

    thanks for sharing this great recipe.

  21. 21
    Robbie — September 18, 2011 @ 1:39 am

    These look lovely!!! I really want to try them. Definitelly going to try them 🙂 Thanks for sharing the recipe!
    Awesome blog btw x

  22. 22
    Gail — September 18, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    I’m sorry. I didn’t read a word of this post. I was hypnotized by that chocolate cookie seductively dripping milk into the glass. Especially when I read the words “malted milk powder”.

  23. 23
    Gail — September 18, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

    Just trying to make you smile.
    Even in ‘blockage’ you’ve send a powerful message.

  24. 24
    Karriann Graf — September 18, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

    Oh these look amazing, happy Baking!

  25. 25
    Lucy — September 20, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

    I totally get the writer’s block problem. Sometimes I know I need to write something but the words or the inspiration is just not there. But I think you pulled it off just by writing about not writing. And the cookies…well, those cookies…divine.

    Thanks for doing what you do and for caring about it–I am positive it makes a real difference in the lives of your patients.

  26. 26
    Susie — September 21, 2011 @ 8:50 am

    These look fantastic. Chocolate cures all – I’m convinced! Thanks for sharing!!

  27. 27
    johnnewman — November 28, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

    These recipes get me excited for holiday baking. Right now I’m teaching my kids to ‘play’ with food, cooking with Rice Krispies 🙂 They been loving these

  28. 28
    Dr. Bob — July 22, 2012 @ 11:17 am

    Your name was mentioned with praise (again) as my son turned out another batch of these amazing cookies. For the 12 ounces of chocolate chips called for at the end, we substitute the chocolate mocha beans from Koppers.

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