Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Food #16: Brownies

[minor edits below]

I don't think I've made dinner all week. In fact, I know I haven't: on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday I had late afternoon meetings, so Mark made dinner, and on Wednesday we had to pick Mariah up late from school so we all went and had dinner out. Well, supper. Well, burgers and fries. Which we rarely do, so I guess it was all right. (Actually, they were quite tasty.)

So I don't know what to say about food this week. I plan to make Caroline's tofu tonight, actually, because it was a big hit the first time I made it (and I will be home in time, yay!) but you can find that recipe by clicking.

And while I know no one really needs another brownie recipe, because everyone who wants to make brownies already has one, I'm going to share one with you anyway because I'm thinking of making these tonight to go with the tofu. Well, not with the tofu. You understand.

The thing about these brownies is that they violate my brownie norms. Some years ago I was at my parents' house with various other friends and relations, and one of Caroline's friends and I got into a brownie bake-off. It was all my fault. She'd offered to make brownies, and so had I, and I said, "No, really, I'll make them. I've had your brownies." Which, yes, could be construed as an insult. Um, yeah. So we both made brownies, and they were both good. They were the melt-the-butter-and-chocolate kind of brownies (she wouldn't use the microwave, I would), so they were really quite similar, though our proportions were slightly different. As I recall, hers were slightly cakier, and mine were slightly chewier. Though there was also a whole waiting-for-the-oven thing that went on, that made the bake-off take much longer than it should have, and everyone was really hungry by the time we got to them, so I may have forgotten significant details from this story.

(Mine were pretty much these, from epicurious, if you want to know.)

But since then I have undergone a conversion and I make brownies with cocoa powder. Why would you do that, you say? Well, they come out chewier and fudgier. Although, frankly, they are best if you wait a day to eat them. Which is really putting undue pressure on folks. Who can wait a day to eat the brownies? I'm not going to. But they are still good, and a tiny bit quicker than the other kind, and a little different. So here they are, the ones I make now. The ones I may make tonight. Try them and see.

Here's what you need:

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups graulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in the cocoa powder, espresso powder, sugar, and salt. Do your best to get the mixture very very smooth. [what was I thinking? It won't get really smooth at this stage. But it will after you add the eggs.] Let cool briefly. (It can be warm, but should no longer be hot to the touch, before the next stage. If you don't want to use the microwave, or don't have one, put the butter and powdery things in a heatproof bowl in a skillet of simmering water and stir to blend while the butter melts. Then, again, cool for a bit before the next step.)

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the chocolate chips. (You can skip them, of course, or add nuts instead, but why would you want to?) Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick poked into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Test early: you don't want to overcook these. If the toothpick comes out clean they're overdone. They'll still be edible, of course, but really they are better this way. I promise. [even so, they took half an hour in my oven, which is sometimes kind of slow. Still, it's worth checking every five minutes or so.] Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares, depending on how generous you want to be or how much ice cream you have to go with them. These will be even better the next day--store them in the fridge, and then zap them for less than thirty seconds in the microwave. If there are any left, that is. [for what it's worth, these are very very chewy: crackly top, fudgy inside. And we didn't eat them all, because, as Nick noted, "they are very rich."]

(Adapted from epicurious, as is so often the case...)

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