Posted June 17, 2014 03:55 pm - Updated June 18, 2014 10:13 am
Finding the perfect brownie
What is your idea of the perfect brownie? Maybe you’ve already found it, and maybe you’re still looking. Perhaps, one of these will end your search. Cookbook authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, of Brooklyn’s famed Baked Bakery, believe that brownies should not be “cakey,” but slightly fudgy – and never frosted. Bev Shaffer, author of “Brownies to die for: The Complete Guide for Brownie Lovers,” writes “I want deep, dense chocolate brownies – slightly underbaked so they melt on the tongue, and you can close your eyes when you eat them.” And, Renée Behnke, author of Memorable Recipes to Share with Family and Friends,” wrote of cream cheese-laden “Black and White Cocoa Bars,” “I loved them because they were light compared to so many brownies and bar cookies, so I could always eat two.” Whether you are looking to bake a small batch of brownies in an eight-inch square pan, or enough to feed a crowd from a recipe designed for a jellyroll pan, none of these brownies will disappoint. Before you get started, here are two brownie-baking tips to keep in mind. First, when measuring flour, if a recipe doesn’t specify otherwise, be sure to measure your flour by spooning it into a dry measuring cup, leveling the flour with the flat end of a knife. And, secondly, watch your brownies carefully near the end of the shortest bake time called for in the recipe. Brownies should never be overbaked.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com.
Deep Dark Brownies
¾ cup all-purpose flour*
1 tablespoon best-quality cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
¾ teaspoon instant espresso powder
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup (4½ ounces) semisweet chocolate chips, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper and butter parchment. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder and salt; set aside
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine butter and espresso. Place over low heat and stir until butter has melted.
Add chocolate, and stir constantly until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in both sugars until well combined. Add eggs and vanilla and continue stirring until well incorporated and mixture no longer appears grainy. Sift flour mixture over batter, and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, if using.
Pour batter into prepared baking pan; smooth top with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 28 to 30 minutes. Be sure not to over bake. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Cut into 9 brownies.
Black and White Cocoa Bars
Recipe courtesy "Memorable Recipes to Share with Family and Friends," by Renee Behnke with Cynthia Nims; cookbook cover design by Gretchen Scoble, photography by Angie Norwood Brown/Andrews McMeel Publishing, www.andrewsmcmeel.com.
“When I was a teenager, a friend of my mother made a version of these cookie bars. I loved them because they were light compared to so many brownies and bar cookies, so I could always eat two. You can use any type of nuts, such as walnuts or hazelnuts, in place of the pecans I use here. The neighbor who inspired this recipe had a huge walnut tree in the yard, so all the cookies made in their house had walnuts.” – Renée Behnke
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chilled
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup chopped, toasted pecans
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar, butter and cocoa powder in a food processor and pulse until the mixture has the texture of coarse crumbly sand. Scoop 2 cups into a medium bowl and set aside.
Press the remaining flour/cocoa mixture evenly across the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Keep the oven set at 350 degrees. Beat the cream cheese in a standing electric mixer with the paddle attachment until fluffy. Working at medium-low speed, gradually beat in the condensed milk until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour into the cooled crust. Add the nuts and chocolate chips to the reserved flour/cocoa mixture, and stir to evenly mix.
Sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture and press it gently into the cream cheese (or I sometimes swirl it in gently with a small spoon). Bake for about 30 minutes, until firm to the touch and lightly browned around the edges. Let cool before cutting into squares.
Do-Ahead Tips: These can be made 1 to 2 days in advance. Because of the cream cheese, they should be refrigerated if made more than a couple hours in advance. The flavor will be best if allowed to come to room temperature before serving Makes 16 to 20 bars.
Recipe source: "Brownies to die for! The Complete Guide for Brownie Lovers, by Bev Shaffer; Pelican Publishing Company, www.pelicanpub.com.
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1¾ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (Measure flour by stirring flour in the bag or container to lighten it, then gently spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level it off with straight –edged utensil)
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups large pecan pieces, toasted*
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 15½ x 10½ jellyroll pan.
For the brownie base: Combine the chocolates in a double boiler set over simmering water. Stir often, over low heat, until mixture is melted and smooth. Remove top of double boiler from heat, and carefully wipe bottom (so none of the moisture steams up into the chocolate mixture). Whisk in butter, sugar and eggs until blended. Blend in flour, vanilla and salt. Stir in pecan pieces. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool pan completely on a wire rack. Cut into colossal size pieces. Makes about 1 dozen.