Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oh Chocolate

I live in a house filled with chocolate addicts, however I am not one of them. Ever noticed how I don't often write about chocolate on here? Well, that would be why. Chocolate and I have a funny relationship: I don't want it or need it 96% of the time, but every once in a while, somewhere within that remaining 4% I love it so much I fear I can't live without it. Right now, I'm having one of those rare moments where the idea of chocolate is so appealing, I might just have to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I think I'll start with a tray of insanely chocolatey brownies. Oh yes!
A couple weeks ago, I picked up the amazing Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook. I went on a bit of a baking binge, making four decadent recipes in just under a week. In retrospect, that may have been kind of excessive but then again, not a single crumb went to waste. These brownies were especially tasty, even for those who can take-or-leave chocolate. I made a huge pan full for five people to eat, and you can bet that by the end of the night, we had polished off the entire thing. I don't recommend you do that, however, I do recommend you make these as soon as possible.

The Baked Brownie
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

These brownies are the real deal. They are so intensely chocolatey, they are sure to curb your chocolate cravings for good. Also, if I have not succeeded in telling you how good these are, you may be swayed by the fact that they were featured in O Magazine as one of Oprah's favourite things, and they were awarded "best brownie" by America's Test Kitchen and the Today show.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60-72% cocoa), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-coloured metal baking pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.

Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until completely combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Note: According to the folks at Baked, a great brownie is easy to make, however, here are a few pointers: (1) Use a dark unsweetened cocoa powder like Valrhona. A pale, light-coloured cocoa does not have enough depth. (2) Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, and do not overbeat the batter. (3) Check your brownies often as they bake. An even slightly overbaked brownie is not a "Baked Brownie."

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