Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Perfect Brownie

I've told you this before but please indulge my senility...chocolate bars, are not my thing. That little candy section by the checkout counter in the grocery store does nothing to me. Doesnt tempt me, doesnt call out to me-- does nothing. BUT soft chewy chocolate chip cookies, moist tender chocolate cake, gooey chocolate hazelnut spread on bread, a hot brownie fudge sundae or heck a plain ol' brownie ummm...magical unity of carbohydrate and chocolate... just the thought makes me want to reach out for the chunk of chocolate heaven thats sitting on the counter (a craving just fulfilled with a big honking slab).
Brownies are my monthly indulgence. I need a slice every 30 days or so and Baltimore sadly has not delivered, yet. I usually avoid baking my own because anything more than an individual serving is not a good thing to have around me-- it will be gone. But everything I've had in this city has been either like fudge or a chewy flourless chocolate cake and once even like a rocksolid, stale, fat chocolate cookie. To me, a perfect brownie should have a crinkly top, a softly yielding and slightly sticky center that finishes off with crumbs from the slightly crispy tops, the perfect marriage of cake and fudge. Theres nothing quite like it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a glass of milk or just by itself. I finally gave up searching and made my own batch yesterday with a Cooks Illustrated recipe. If you're as jaded with store bought brownies as I am, you should definitely give it a try, they are afterall (according to CI, look closely at the picture) designed to please everybody! Now if they would only do that with chocolate chip cookies.

Classic Brownie Recipe
(Adated from Cooks Illustrated)
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate chopped fine
1 1/2 stick butter cut into pieces (12 tbsp)
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract (can be replaced by mint extract for mint brownies)
1 tbsp instant coffee powder (my little twist on anything chocolatey)
1 cup roasted and chopped pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 325F. Foil a 13X9 inch cake pan leaving 2 inch long overhangs to pull out brownie when ready. Grease or spray pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk to combine flour, salt, coffee powder and baking powder in a bowl. In a large microwave proof bowl (make sure you use a large one) place butter and chocolate and melt for 45 seconds and then 35 seconds on high till completely smooth. Gradually whisk in sugar and then the eggs, adding them one at a time. Next add the vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions till completely incorporated. If you're using nuts or chocolate chips fold them in now. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for 35 mins or till a toothpick (or skewer) comes out mostly clean. Remove brownie from the pan using the overhang. If you really care about the presentation let it cool before cutting into even slices, otherwise just dig in!

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