Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Very Chocolate Brownies

Very Chocolate Brownies

This is a wonderful brownie with a rich flavor and an occasional burst of rich chocolate chunks. Light cakey versions are not for me. I love a moist, dark, luscious interior with a firm, smooth, velvety texture that your teeth glide through easily; meeting just a little resistance when one encounters a little chocolate chunk. My perfect brownie must pack in intense chocolate punch and have a deep resonant chocolate flavor. It must not be so sweet as to make your teeth ache, and it must certainly have a thin, shiny, papery crust and edges that crisp just a bit during baking, offering a contrast with the brownie’s moist center. Brownies embody so much of what I love about deserts in general  - both warm and rich chocolatey decadence, reminiscent of family, friends and comfort.

One must use a high quality chocolate for success. It is key! I love Callebaut, Scharffen Berger or Valrhona. They are all available at fine grocers. Or, use your favorite locally made favorite chocolate! To truly be over the top – serve them alongside Caramel or Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce – just with a little whipped cream or powdered sugar, or all by themselves.

I use a 9 inch square silicone mold because it keeps the edges from overcooking; if you use a glass baking pan, butter and flour it. Preheat your oven to 350 degree F. Sift together ¾ C all-purpose flour, 1 C unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder and 1 tsp salt; set aside. Unsweetened, alkalized cocoa powder (also called Dutch-processed) is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Common brands are Scharffen Berger, Droste and Guittard.
 Melt 1½ sticks of unsalted butter slowly in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put another 1½ sticks of unsalted butter, cut into 1 Tb pieces, into a bowl – pour the melted butter over the bowl of butter and stir to melt the butter. (Total of 3 sticks of butter is used – ¾ lb) The butter should look creamy, with small bits of unmelted butter, and be at room temperature.
Melted butter
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix together 3 large eggs and 1¾ C granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes, until thick and pale. Mix in ½ tsp vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract. I much prefer vanilla paste for all my baking over vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is made by infusing vanilla into some sort of alcohol, usually bourbon, which bakes off during baking leaving the vanilla flavor behind. Infusing vanilla beans into thick, sweet syrup makes vanilla bean paste. The primary difference is that the vanilla beans are scraped into the paste, so you get all those lovely little vanilla bean specks in whatever you are baking along with the vanilla flavor. 
Cocoa and flour mix
Mixing the brownies
On low speed add ¼ of dry ingredients, then about ¼ of butter, and continue alternating flour and butter until all are incorporated. Now add 6 ounces 60-64% chocolate which has been chopped into chip-sized pieces, (about 1½ C). Mix to combine. The batter can be refrigerated up to a week before baking. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it.  If the pick comes out wet, test again in another area as you may have simply hit a chocolate chunk.  Cool in the pan until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature.
chopped chocolate
Run a knife around the edge if you are NOT using a silicone pan. Invert the brownie onto a cutting board and cut into 12 rectangles.  Dust the top with powdered sugar just before serving.  If by some miracle you have some left, the brownies can be stored in an airtight container for up to two days. Gary prefers that I zap them briefly in the microwave before serving on subsequent days so that they are once again warm and oozing chocolate goodness. Delish!

Adapted from Thomas Keller recipe

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