As you may have noticed me mentioning before, I’m somewhat baking challenged. It’s primarily cakes that give me fits, but depending on the whether the moon is in the seventh house or if jupiter is aligned with mars, the challenge can unpredictably extend to anything sweet. All I can say is, I’m working on it. And, not to sound all victimized and such, but I have a very sneaking suspicion that my oven is partially (if not all, dammit) to blame. Especially where brownies are concerned.
Whether I make the batter from scratch or sheepishly shake it out of a box with some eggs and oil, they always come out rock hard on the outside, underdone on the inside, all with that lovely (…not…) burnt toast flavor.
This weekend, I was tentatively vindicated on the oven theory when I decided to try a brownie recipe that I had been eyeing for a while. Deviating from the recipe, I baked the brownies in two different types of containers: a silicone “pan” consisting of 12 individual small tree mold shapes, and a springform pan. The results were illuminating.
Now, whether my experiment is interesting to all you “my brownies turn out perfect every time” types (I hate you, btw), I do believe that this recipe makes the best brownies I have ever had. Ever. I’ve gotten into the habit of trying a spoonful of raw batter before it all goes into the oven to meet its uncertain fate, and this time, I about fell over. I steadied myself, and then took another spoonful. Holy. Cow. It’s the perfect combination of rich, chocolatey goodness and firm cakey moistness, while being absent of that chocolate overkill that makes me hit what I call “the chocolate wall” after about 4 bites. (I do love chocolate, but sometimes a concoction can have a certain quality that makes my fillings tingle and my gag reflex cry, “Uncle!”)
The recipe calls for you to cut out circular shapes from the baked and cooled brownie pan, but, given my history, I felt that extra step was asking a bit much of my luck at this point (although, how cute is that? Can you imagine heart-shaped brownies with a dollop of icing sprinkled red edible glitter for Valentine’s Day?). While at Michael’s looking for other stuff, I came across the green silicone pan pictured below, and I thought that might be a way around doing – and screwing up – the cut-outs.
To cut to the chase, it didn’t quite work out the way I planned from a cut-out stance, but, the brownies came out so perfectly baked from edge to edge, right through the center, that I immediately cast a suspicious eye on my oven, which was still brewing the remaining batter in the springform pan (a solution, I figured snarkily, to the brownies sticking to a regular 8×8 pan’s sides, despite my zealous greasing of said sides. Ha HA!). Was it because the brownie trees were so small as to barely have a noticeable line of demarcation between “edge” and “center,” and therefore either nothing or everything gets burned?
As the brownie trees cooled, I noticed the edges on the springform batch were starting to look set, and, as my mind raced to save the thing (I had already tasted one brownie tree and knew the potential that the springform batch held) What do I do, what do I do? Turn down the heat? Rotate the pan? Do the hokey-pokey and move it to the top rack? All of the above? I suddenly latched on to my many pie successes: Foil on the edges! Foil on the edges!
It was a hack job, but seemed to have worked, as the brownie “pie” came out just as perfectly as the brownie trees. Woo hoo! Success at last! Whether this is the solution, or just a fluke, remains to be tested, but, it was a good, good brownie day, and that’s enough for me.
(One note on the prep in the directions below: I used my beloved KitchenAid standmixer for this recipe, so I didn’t begin the process with the microwave-safe bowl. Cream the butter and sugar like most recipes call for, and then add the remaining ingredients one at a time, except for the chips and nuts, which I manually folded in to avoid smashing the chips. I also tested out my new beater blade on this recipe. The beater blade resembles the paddle blade attachment, except it has wipers attached to the edges, which scrape the bowl completely as it rotates. Works great – I didn’t have to scrape down the bowl once during mixing.)
(And, yes, for youses with them eagle eyes, that is bits of eggshell descending with the yolk. It was the only egg I had left to photograph, so it was either blurry yolk, or eggshells…)
|Chocolate Decadence Brownies|
|1 1/4||cups||Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa (Note: The Double-Dutch Cocoa is worth purchasing from King Arthur Flour. It’s beautifully rich and chocolately, and, if you’ve never visited the site before, it’ll give you the perfect excuse to browse. Pick up the espresso powder and some Fiori di Sicilia while you’re there (your sugar cookies will thank you.)|
|1 1/2||cups||All-Purpose Flour|
|1||cup||chopped nuts, optional (I used pecans)|
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10″ x 15″ jelly roll pan or a 9″ x 13″ pan. For guaranteed easy removal of the brownies, line the greased pan with parchment, and grease the parchment. (Note: “guaranteed” – um, they haven’t met me.)
In a microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter.
Add the sugar, stirring to combine.
Stir in the cocoa, espresso powder, salt, baking powder, and vanilla.
Whisk in the eggs, stirring until smooth.
Add the flour, chips, and optional nuts, again stirring until smooth.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the brownies for 28 to 34 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and barely set in the center.
Remove the brownies from the oven, and cool for at least 1 hour before cutting.
Use a 1 1/2″ round cutter to cut as many circles as possible (about 46) out of the brownies in a 10″ x 15″ pan. You’ll get about 38 from a 9″ x 13″ pan. Wrap well; enjoy the leftover scraps.
Just before serving, garnish the brownies with whipped cream, shaved chocolate, and a dusting of espresso powder.