Holy Chocolate! Brownies
See the melted chocolate oozing out of those brownies? That’s good stuff right there, people.
Last week a colleague shamelessly hinted that her birthday was coming up and flat-out asked if someone would bake something. Shamelessness when it comes to baked goods is something I can appreciate, and I’m always looking for a reason/excuse to try a new recipe. Plus, it was her birthday. And birthdays, my friends, deserve to be celebrated. If it’ll make someone’s day just a little better to know that someone went to the trouble of making something sweet and yummy (and preferably chocolatey), why not do it? Plus, who doesn’t love brownies?
My friend Ian makes the best brownies. He’s one of those people who doesn’t even need a recipe– he just throws stuff together and chewy, chocolatey greatness emerges from the oven. Do I wish I possessed such capabilities? Wait-let-me-think-hell-yes. I stumbled upon the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for brownies and knew I had to try it (hoping it would bring my futile attempts to replicate Ian’s Brownies one step closer to success).
The last time I had Ian’s Brownies there were chunks of chocolate, a subtle coffee flavor, a touch of cinnamon and just a teeny tiny hint of cayenne. I adapted the Cook’s Illustrated recipe a little by adding some chocolate chunks, cayenne, and cinnamon in an attempt to replicate Ian’s Brownies. They boyf said the final product was interesting because “they taste so good, but then they punish you a little” and he dubbed them The Burning Brownies. He was just being melodramatic (sort of– they were a bit spicy) and when I told them that if they’re too spicy then he doesn’t have to eat any, he quickly rescinded his words.
I don’t think over-baking brownies is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but it should be. Keeping that in mind, I tend to err on the side of under-baking my brownies. The mushier the better.
But can we talk for a minute about the whole “325F for 30 to 35 minutes” thing? I baked mine for 30 and they were still soupy, not even close to done. I bumped up the heat to 375, baked for them another 15 minutes and, by some standards, they are a touch under-done. I’d bake them at 350F for 25 minutes, check them, and proceed from there next time.
I read that coating chocolate chunks in flour keeps them from sinking to the bottom when they bake and, surprise (!), it’s true. I’m a fan of big chocolate chunks because it’s like a chocolate explosion when you bite into one. Everybody loved The Burning Brownies (which seemed less spicy on Day 2) and praised the genius idea of adding cinnamon and cayenne. Did The Burning Brownies bring me one step closer to Ian’s Brownies? Why, yes, I believe they did. I’m just glad I have colleagues to pawn them off on….
(Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it), the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy; if overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.
|1||cup pecans or walnuts (4 ounces), chopped medium (optional)|
|1 1/4||cups plain cake flour (5 ounces)|
|1/2||teaspoon table salt|
|3/4||teaspoon baking powder|
|6||ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped fine|
|12||tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into six 1-inch pieces|
|2 1/4||cups sugar (15 3/4 ounces)|
|1||tablespoon vanilla extract|
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped and lightly coated with flour
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13- by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder (and cinnamon and cayenne, if using) in medium bowl; set aside.
Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost–simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs one at time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous. If adding in chocolate chunks, stir them in until evenly dispersed.
Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)