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story.lead_photo.caption All-Cocoa Brownies (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

When I organized my pantry back in February and wrote two columns about the dinners I made from the process, I had no idea how relevant those actions would be just a few short weeks later.

As I mentioned in that first column Feb. 12, I have an ample supply of nonperishables. So for the most part, I've avoided going out in public since March 13, save for a routine doctor's appointment and the subsequent trip to the pharmacy/grocery store.

My doctor's office staff changed the way they see patients. Now, instead of everyone in the waiting room chatting together and reading magazines, patients send a text when they arrive and they wait in their cars for a text letting them know it's their turn to come inside. Upon entering, patients are to use hand sanitizer and request a mask if they have a cough. This new protocol has ensured patients do not come in contact with one another and staff interaction with patients is one-on-one.

I found the new procedure reassuring, yet quite lonely.

And while I've heard stories from friends who encountered anxious, uncivil shoppers, that was not my experience. The mood was somber, and everyone was doing their best to maintain social distancing, most even avoiding eye contact. But the ones who weren't — where I expected to see fear, I found kindness. Some even greeted me with a warm smile as if to say, "We'll make it through this."

And we will.

But until then, keep calm and bake something.

All-Cocoa Brownies

10 tablespoons butter

1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

¾ cup PLUS 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, Dutch-process or a blend)

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon espresso powder

2 eggs, chilled

½ cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt. Cook in 30-second increments, stirring between each, until butter melts (it will be grainy).

Whisk in the vanilla and espresso powder. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition. (For shiny, crackly tops, use an electric mixer.) Stir in the flour and mix thoroughly to combine. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until just set in the center. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Use overhanging paper or foil to lift brownies from pan to a cutting board. Cut into squares.

Recipe adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich

Food on 03/25/2020

Print Headline: Turn to baking while social distancing

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