Monday, January 16, 2012

Classic Brownies

Apparently, brownies will invoke strong opinions from some people.  Chewy, too chewy, fudgy, too fudgy, too chocolate-y, not chocolately enough.  I, obviously, am not one of those people because I had no idea until I looked for a basic brownie recipe to bring to our Bible study last week and found lots of brownie recipes and perhaps even more reviews about what people want in a brownie.  However, I figured the best place to start for a general, crowd-pleasing brownie recipe was Cook's Illustrated. 

The brownies are pretty basic to make - melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler, add sugar, vanilla, eggs and then fold in the dry ingredients.  I omitted the nuts and added half a teaspoon of instant coffee. I think the coffee deepens the chocolate flavor without leaving any coffee-taste.  I halved this recipe and baked the brownies in an 8 x 8 baking dish which was perfect.

These brownies ended up being exactly what I was looking for -- very crowd-pleasing! They were moist with great chocolate flavor. I got a chance to grab one (hey, someone has to be the first to break into the brownies, right?) and it was delicious. At the end of the night, my husband lamented a little that there were only a few brownies left to bring home (and those didn't last 24 hours in our house).

As an unrelated note, I wanted to post our weekly menu (I typically do Saturday-Friday when I plan my meals) because I thought it would be fun at the end of the year to look back at what we had. 

Classic Brownies
Taken from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes one 9 x 13 baking dish (I halved the recipe and baked it in a 8 x8 dish which made 12-16 brownies)
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 (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional, I omitted)
  • 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
  • 2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder (optional, I added this to the recipel)
  1. 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 overhand 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.
  2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk or sift to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. 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. Whisk in espresso powder.  Add eggs on at a 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.
  5. 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 for up to 3 days; they also supposedly freeze well.)


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