Saturday, June 19, 2010
I suppose by now some of you may have heard something about these brownies. I can't stop thinking about them. In less than three weeks I have made three batches.
It all started with Najwa putting up the cutest photo of her son waiting for a good-sized brownie with his mouth wide open. Then Najah posted the recipe. A discussion on brownie baking ensued - cakey versus fudgey, crumbly tops, how much sugar and size of eggs used, Dutch-process chocolate or natural, et cetera. I joined in, having never made a brownie in my life but have eaten enough hard and unimpressive ones at restaurants, the imperfections often masked with a huge good scoop vanilla ice cream on top. All that talk then reminded me of this recipe I spied at where else (by now you would've established my certain fixation with Deb's site). I set out to make it on Wesak Day evening, craving a good chocolate baked something now that I finally have an oven. The pan of delicious batter went in after baking some potatoes for Vijay's vegetarian night. Our small flat started smelling like Willy Wonka's chocolate factory by the tenth minute. While cutting the squares I took my time to sample the crumbs and scrape the parchment paper clean.
From this point we went to the dark(est) side of browniedom.
Cold ones tasted even better the next day. With some faint and halfhearted effort of rationing we wiped out the entire tray by the next weekend, saving nothing for the chocolate lover friend who was promised some but was not delivered any due to a night half marathon (17 clicks of it walked due to my injury) which rendered me limping and hobbling around the house like a grandmother the Sunday after Wesak. Freezing them by lovingly wrapping up each piece didn't help, we just wait about five minutes before biting into them.
By Saturday evening Najah demanded her missing brownies just as I stuck another batch into the oven before making our weekend roast. 25 pieces minus 18 for her left us with a ridiculous seven, three of it gone the same night itself. Desperation drove me to make the third batch on a very late following Sunday night, cutting them at 1:00AM Monday morning! This batch even more fudgey as I watched for the doneness closely. Almost keeling over from sleepiness at work, I received a Facebook announcement from said brownie connoisseur claiming them as the "THE BEST BROWNIES I HAVE EVER TASTED!!!!!" and yes, I know she ALMOST never type in all-caps. Another friend of hers made a batch, added nuts to a second batch and later got her son demanding for more "square cookies". Najwa made some the other day and the verdict was "to DIE FOR", yes, again in caps.
At the time I'm writing this we are brownieless. We got a little carried away and finished all seven last Saturday, for breakfast and post dinner (the World Cup late night matches adding to extra time in front of the tube and more cravings).
For the next few days there won't be a small square of cocoa heaven waiting for me at the end of a long day. So I implore you to make this as soon as humanly possible. Don't wait, there is really no point mucking around considering the evils of the dark side and your waistline/calorie count/tightening pants/28th-day-meltdown when you already have all the ingredients lying around your pantry, if you're anything like me. Double the recipe, make 50 instead of the measly 25, especially if you have made promises to share.
No, I am not joking. I went and bought more 8-inch square trays, one is just not cutting it. I don't know how long I can last before making the fourth batch. The only way to avoid it is to bake another one of these.
Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted barely from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (the size you see pictured yielded 25)
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, cold
- 1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8x8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of simmering water (I set my bowl on top of a pot, base not touching the water, like a double boiler). Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point but don't fret - it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon (I used a silicon spatula). Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. (Mine takes about 21-22 minutes at 300F as I use the convection setting.) Let cool completely on a rack. Flash freeze or fridge it before cutting to get cleaner lines.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner and transfer the brownie to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
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