Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I made these brownies today. I used 60% cocoa and had to halve the recipe because I didn't get enough chocolate. They were awesome!

Start by assembling 6 ounces (170 g) 70% cacao content chocolate (could be marked "dark" or "bittersweet"), 6 ounces (170 g) butter, 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour, 1-1/2 cup (300 g) granulated sugar, 3 large eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Butter a 9x13-inch pan. The pan can either be left as is, or dusted with flour or cocoa powder to help the brownies release after baking.

Break the chocolate into chunks. Cut the butter up and place both the chocolate and the butter into a double boiler or a metal bowl set on top of a pot with simmering water. Chocolate melts fairly easily, but can seize and burn when heated too high. Melting it over steam is an easy way to keep the temperature at a moderate level. Be careful not to introduce steam into the chocolate because too much water can also cause the melted chocolate to seize.

Stir gently while the chocolate and the butter melt to help even melting. When all the chocolate and butter have melted, turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the hot water to keep the mixture warm and easy to work with. Stir to completely mix the butter and chocolate together.

Add the sugar to the chocolate and stir in.

Lightly beat the eggs and the vanilla extract together. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the mixture and stir and fold until the eggs are blended into the chocolate. This step takes a little longer than the others because the egg will seem to try its best to stay separate from the chocolate. Using fast strokes to mix in the egg in the center of the bowl followed by a folding action to bring more egg into the center of the bowl works best for me. You also don't have to worry about the eggs curdling because the melted chocolate isn't that hot. Usually, when you introduce eggs to a hot liquid, you want to temper the eggs first (adding a little of the hot liquid to the eggs to help gradually bring the temperature of the eggs up) to prevent getting bits of scrambled eggs in your mix. With melted chocolate, this isn't a problem because the chocolate usually doesn't get hot enough.

Add the flour to the batter and stir until all the flour is integrated. If desired, up to one cup of chopped nuts can be stirred in with the flour.

Pour the batter into the buttered (and floured) baking pan. Using a smaller pan (such as an 8-inch square) will produce thicker and chewier brownies. The baking time may need to be adjusted to achieve the desired texture.

The batter will be fairly thick, so you may need to help spread it with a spatula. Place the baking pan on a rack in the center position of the oven and bake for 35 minutes.

To check if the brownie is done, insert a toothpick into the center of the brownie. It should come with with brownie crumbs on it and no batter. (If your toothpick comes up clean, then you might have over baked it. Remove, cool, cut, and call them Chocolate Brownie Cakes.) Let the brownies cool in the pan before cutting them into 2-inch (5 cm) squares. Because these brownies have a tendency to stick to your knife as you cut, use a little bit of (melted) butter on the blade to keep the brownie from sticking. If any chocolate does start to stick, wash the knife and reapply butter. If you don't, then more and more chocolate will stick to the knife and you'll end up tearing whole chunks of brownie up as you slice.

I also made these which turned out well.

  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cold large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

  • Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan
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Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it's more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

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