December 15, 2011

when in doubt, brownies

All I can say about my life right now is Christmas playlists, family time, mulled wine, and our fireplace. The end.  

OK, not really the end. I just don't have much to say tonight, except for this: brownies.


Recently, Mark informed me that he had volunteered us to bring dessert to a dinner party. Being low on time and having no prior knowledge about the host's preferences, the only thing to do was brownies. Brownies may not be exciting or pretty, but the great thing about brownies is that you only need one bowl. One bowl. One bowl. One bowl! ONE BOWL. And since I use a scale, only ONE SPOON. One spoon!

Ahem, sorry. I just find that so great, which tells you a lot about the kinds of desserts we normally turn out in this house, I guess. The other thing I like about brownies is that they're Old Reliable. This is a big deal, for someone who still messes up chocolate chip cookies sometimes. Finally, unlike pie or cake, it looks nicer to cut them before you bring them to your friend's house, which means the baker gets a pre-dinner treat if he/she is so inclined (yes). 

As a member of the chewy brownie tribe, I usually turn to Alice Medrich's cocoa brownie recipe. They are chewy, yes, but they also have great chocolate flavor, despite being made from plain old Ghirardelli cocoa powder. Cakey-brownie people, look elsewhere. Fudgy brownie people, maybe we could talk about underbaking, but I haven't explored that venue thoroughly. And chewy brownie people? You guys pull up a chair. Or rather, pull out a bowl.

Cocoa brownies
adapted from Alice Medrich

Alice Medrich instructs to complete the second step in a double boiler on the stove, but a microwave does the job in a fraction of the time. Since I used a fruitier/milder cocoa powder, I decided to add espresso powder, but if you have good cocoa powder, you probably won't need it. Finally, I find that the longer you bake the brownies, the chewier they'll be (up to a certain point, anyway). If you like fudgy interiors, you might try underbaking a bit, but I really recommend baking them all the way. 

141 grams (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
280 grams (1 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
82 grams unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
optional: 1/8 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
66 grams all purpose flour (1/2 cup)

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang (you'll be using the parchment paper to lift the brownies out of the pan later).

2. In a large, microwave-proof bowl, melt the butter by zapping in the microwave for 30 second intervals until completely melted, about 1 1/2 minutes total. Add cocoa powder and stir to combine, then add the sugar, espresso powder if using, and salt. The sugar won't dissolve completely, so the mixture should look gritty and sludgy at this point.

3. Stir in the vanilla. Next, add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks shiny and well-blended, add the flour. Stir well to incorporate all the flour. When you can't see any more flour, beat the batter vigorously for 40 strokes. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. Medrich suggests 20-25 minutes but mine took 35 minutes, so you'll want to check occasionally. See discussion above about chewiness.

5. Let cool completely on a rack. If you rush the cooling part, it will be impossible to cut them in straight lines, so be patient.  When cooled, transfer the brownies to a cutting board and cut into squares.


Amy said...

I'm a fudgy brownie girl, myself. If you ever decide to change allegieances, my faaavorite brownies are Nick Malgieri's supernatural brownies. So good!

Max said...

I have some Valhrona cocoa powder sitting in my pantry. What do you think about using it here? I like the sound of these brownies, but Valrhona seems almost too fancy.

Kim said...

Amy - thanks for the tip.

Max - Valhrona cocoa powder is excellent, as you know. It would make your brownies darker in color and more complex in flavor than the Ghirardelli I used. So, fancy, but in a good way!

FYI, Valrhona's cocoa powder is Dutch-process, so you can't just use it in any recipe calling for cocoa powder. It would definitely work in this one, though.

Liz in DC said...

My two cents: I've never regretted using "fancy" cocoa powder (I like Scharffen Berger) in any baked good! I also know exactly how you feel about one-bowl desserts. The best.

Max said...

Made them. Awesome. Thanks.