Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Brownie Experiment: Part 1

Is it possible for something to be too chocolatey? I never thought I, a devout lover of all things chocolate, would ever ask this question, until I tasted these over-the-top brownies.

Alice Medrich's New Bittersweet Brownie recipe from her book "Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy" was the kick-off to my quest for the perfect brownie, and definitely was a great place to start. Dense, rich, and full of deep bittersweet chocolate flavor, these are more like bars of flourless chocolate cake combined with the decadent pudding-like interior of a chocolate souffle rather than your classic less chocolately, cakey brownies. I highly recommend this recipe to anyone completely and hopelessly addicted to strong, dark chocolate.

My little brother, a fruity dessert person, took just one bite and was temporarily knocked senseless, which goes to show you absolutely MUST be a die-hard chocolate fan to enjoy these brownies. You might as well be eating heaping spoonfuls of sweet, buttery melted chocolate (I wouldn't recommend this unless you enjoy being in a sugary, dizzy stupor. Personal experience). Now, to answer my previous question: no, these are not too chocolatey. However, they do lie dangerously close to that fine line separating chocolately goodness from chocolate overdose, which didn't stop me me from eating half of the pan on my own. After my initial brownie experiment, I've decided to search for something with slightly less chocolate and possibly more flour, to get a little closer to that traditional brownie taste. But it'll probably be awhile before I've fully recovered from this chocolate binge before I can proceed with my experiment (AKA before my mom allows another pan of brownies in the house. The torments of not living on your own...).

8 oz 70% cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

Line the bottom and all 4 sides of an 8 inch square metal baking pan with foil.
Preheat oven to 350 deg F with a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Place the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl set on top of a pot of barely simmering water. Stir frequently until melted, smooth, and quite warm. Set aside. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until the eggs are thick and lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Whisk the warm chocolate into the egg mixture. Fold in flour. Pour batter into the lined pan and spread evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean**. Cool in the pan on a rack, and cut into desired size squares. (The recipe said 16 brownies, but that seemed ridiculously tiny for me, so I suggest 9 squares instead.) In my opinion, serving warm with a small scoop of vanilla or coffee ice cream is the perfect counter-balance to the dark chocolate flavor of the brownies. 

**Be very careful not to over-bake. Nothing is worse than a dry, crumbly brownie. Pulling them out of the oven even before a toothpick comes out completely clean is 100 times better than waiting too long. I think slightly under-baking them for extra gooey-ness is the only way to go when making brownies.

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