Brownies can be the most decadent treat ever. The right brownie is rich and fudgy but not so dense that it loses cake-like crumb. If you compare a dozen brownie recipes side-by-side, you will notice that there are not many ingredients: butter, flour, eggs, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and of course, chocolate.
There are two camps when it comes to adding chocolate in brownies -- cocoa powder or semisweet dark chocolate. I have found that cocoa powder based recipes tend to be more cake-like than fudgy (even the ones that claim otherwise). They make a great brownie - but it's a different kind of brownie than the recipes that actually call for chocolate.
Now, once we dive into the realm of chocolate - we see lots of variations: chocolate chips, semisweet chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, etc. Since chocolate is the star of the Brownie show, I prefer to work with the highest quality semisweet dark chocolate I can find. In this case, I used 66% semisweet Valrhona chocolate.
I needed to bake a batch of brownies for my cake decorating class last week. These were based on a recipe that first appeared in Gourmet Magazine many years ago. I think that it's my favorite brownie recipe (of all the recipes I have tried to bake). Fortunately Epicurious.com still keeps a copy online.
Of course, the one major difference between my version and theirs is that I use the Earth Balance buttery sticks instead of butter. I also used pecans instead of walnuts.
One very important tip for making this brownie recipe is that after you have whipped your eggs, sugar and vanilla together, and you have your hot melted chocolate and butter combo - if you just pour the chocolate into the eggs, you will cook the eggs - scrambling them and ruin your brownies.
So, what I like to do to temper them is turn the mixer on medium-high speed and one spoonful at a time, slowly add the chocolate into the egg mixture while it's spinning. It's tricky because if you are not careful - chocolate will go flying everywhere and create a giant mess. You have to pour it slowly about 1 inch from the edge of the bowl. I will usually add about 3-4 spoonfuls in, making sure they are well combined, before slowly pouring in the remainder of the chocolate.
A few other important tips... the usual toothpick method of testing to see if a cake is done never works with brownies because the chocolate is still hot and if you waited for the toothpick, they would be over baked. So, you have to watch and see when the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan. They should feel taut and not loose (like batter). It's approx. 35 minutes for one 8-inch square pan of brownies at 350-degrees.
Last but not least. The cooling process is critical. You have to wait for the chocolate to set-up. So, make sure the brownies are completely cool before cutting into them. I like to cool them by first waiting about 5-10 minutes before un-molding them from the pan. I do that by placing a sheet o parchment paper on top and then the cooling rack underneath the parchment, then quickly flipping the pan over, so the "top" of the brownies is now on the bottom, on a sheet of parchment. Then I add another sheet of parchment paper on top and let it cool until it's completely room temperature and there is no residual warmth.
In this instance, I decorated them too :)
I'm a home cook with a lifelong passion for learning, exploring and experimenting in my kitchen. You can find me at @Debs1 on Twitter and @Debs121212 on Instagram.
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