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Where’s that brownie recipe?

I had a hankering for a dense, rich, double chocolate brownie the other day.  Immediately, I went searching through my library.  Every time I go hunting for a particular book, I am reminded of the Dewey Decimal System.  In other words, I need to come up with a better cataloging system for my collection.  Go figure!

This time I was looking for Alice Medrich’s book, Cookies and Brownies [1], published in 1999.  During one of her cooking classes in the Twin Cities, Alice, herself introduced me to it.  Even after many years, I remember one of the recipes in particular.  It calls for cooling the pan of brownies in an ice bath just after it comes out of the oven.  We’ll get back to this technique a little later.

Anyway, I baked off the recipe for her Bittersweet Brownies (page 96 in the book).  I’m not sure what happened, but they never got completely firm.  Instead they remained too gooey to even cut.  They were great, however, eaten with a spoon.

I baked off the recipe again, this time adding just an extra tablespoon of flour.  Yes, only one tablespoon.  Since this time I was needing to cool the pan down quickly, I  remembered the technique and placed the pan in the ice bath.  It worked splendidly.  What I don’t know is whether it was the extra flour or the ice bath that caused them to become firm and crusty on the outside, yet moist and creamy on the inside.

Therefore, I had the pleasure of making them once again.  This go-around, I had time on my side.  The brownies were allowed to cool in the pan without the aid of the ice bath.  The results were the same; crusty on the outside and moist on the inside.

Next, I had to make a decision as to which chocolate would be a part of this decadent snack.  I decided to use a Scharffen Berger [2] un-sweetened and a 64% Valhona – Manjari [3] dark chocolate.  The Scharffen Berger is not at all harsh and has notes of espresso.  The Valhrona comes from the best beans grown in Madagascar.  It is slightly bitter on the tongue with hints of fruit, especially dark cherry.

I’m also in the school that doesn’t mind having nuts in my brownies, cookies or ice cream.  Since I had macadamia nuts in the freezer, I thought, hey why not use these.  Don’t use good macadamia nuts in this brownie.  They were totally lost in the chocolate decadence.  If you are part of the “I like nuts in my brownie” school, stick to using toasted pecans or walnuts.  Keep your macadamias for something where they can shine.

One more thing.  Where’s the rule that says brownies have to be square?  I have a 7-inch and 9-inch square pan, but no 8-inch square.  Therefore, I used an 8-inch round cake pan.  Luckily, it worked perfectly.  Whew!  It allowed me to get my chocolate fix and saved me from purchasing yet one more pan.

ALICE MEDRICH’S BITTERSWEET BROWNIES  (with a slight variation)

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus enough to butter pan
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
7 ounces (1 cup) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 ½ ounces (¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
2 ½ ounces  (2/3 cup walnut, pecan pieces – optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Line a 8 x 8-inch square or 8-inch round pan with foil leaving at least a 1-inch overhang.  Set-aside until ready to fill.

Melt the butter with all the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a medium heatproof bowl set in a pan of barely simmering water.  Stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth.

Remove the top of the double boiler (or the bowl) from the heat.  Stir in the sugar, salt, and vanilla.

Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until each is incorporated  and before adding the next.  Stir in the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth, glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan, at least 2 minute.  Stir in the nuts if using.  Scrape the batter into the pan.  (I used macadamia nuts, which in the end were not the best option.  They got lost in the chocolate flavor.)

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the brownies just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before removing from the pan.  Slide a knife between the pan and the brownies on the unlined sides.

Lift the foil to transfer the brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into 16 squares or 12 triangles.  May be stored, airtight for 2 to days.