Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the joy of brownies

I'm making brownies tonight to take to a writing thing I'm doing this weekend. Brownies are good because I've made them so often I don't really need the recipe anymore--they make me feel like a high-flying, don't-need-to-check cook. Also, they're good because they're good. No one ever pokes at them dubiously and asks, "Now what's this again?" They do say, "Oh, I shouldn't." But then they do.
I originally used the Joy of Cooking recipe, but over time I've tinkered with it a little, and I have several different variations. The big difference is that I use more chocolate and less sugar, because I like them fudgier and a little less sweet. I sometimes make them with nuts, but not too often, because one of my daughters hates nuts, especially nuts in cookies. I also use the trick (which I think I read about in one of Maida Heatter's cookbooks) of lining the pan with foil and then lifting the brownies out to cool--they're much easier to cut and you don't have to pry them out of the pan with a fork if you overbake them the slightest little bit.

1/2 cup butter
5 0z unsweetened chocolate (if I have it I use Scharffen-Berger)
1 and 3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
a tiny pinch of salt
1 cup flour
I often add
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, and
1 cup chocolate chips
but this time I substituted 3/4 cup of slivered dried apricots and a handful of chopped crystallized ginger for the chocolate chips.

Melt the butter and chocolate together (I use the microwave, doing it in 30-second increments so it doesn't get too hot; is there such a thing as overmelted?). Beat the eggs with the tsp of vanilla and the pinch of salt. You could also add other spices, etc., if you're using them.
(The old Joy told you to add the sugar to the eggs, and then the chocolate/butter mixture to that. But the new one says to add the sugar to the chocolate mixture--the advantage of this is that you don't have to wait as long for the chocolate to cool, because it cools somewhat when it mixes with the sugar. And then you don't have to worry about it being curdling the eggs. And it works fine.)
After adding the sugar to the chocolate/butter, mix in the eggs lightly, mixing well but not beating. Then add the flour, mixing until just before it all comes together (so that there is still some flour visible. Add the nuts and/or chocolate chips or whatever you're adding, and mix the rest of the way.
I line a 9x13 pan with foil, and I grease the foil with butter, and then I throw in a mixture of sugar and cocoa to coat the pan (as you are directed to do with flour for some cake recipes), tapping out the excess. In goes the brownie batter, and the pan in the preheated oven, to bake at 350 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes--checking the brownies with a toothpick to see if they're done.
Sometimes I add a tsp of chili powder (chipotle or ancho); sometimes a half tsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger. I made it once with a syrup of mint made from the mint in my garden, but I forgot to write that version down, so I'll have to invent it again some time. I also made it once and drenched the still-warm brownies with a slathering of black raspberry jam, and then a chocolate-bar frosting, which was so decadent that I haven't yet done it again.
Some things that don't work: minimarshmallows and Heath Bar bits (they both melt into the brownies). But white chocolate chips are good; and M&Ms would probably be fine, too. I won't taste the brownies with slivered apricot, ginger, and walnuts until tomorrow, but they smell divine, and D says they're pretty good.


Gina Ventre said...


I like them with Reeses cups baked in.

I also bake them until they are just about done so they are gushier (if that's a word).

lucette said...

I also like squoodgier. I really like the sound of the Reese's cups version.

erieblue said...

About the tinfoil, surely earlier than you reading MH's cookbook, you remember that Aunt Theresa used to do that with her bar chocolate chip cookies.

bloglily said...

Lovely. I like that idea of putting some sugar and cocoa in the pan first.

And I also do that thing with the foil or, sometimes when I'm not out of it, parchment paper. I forget how helpful it is until I decide to do without.

Hope your writing event was fun!

lucette said...

Erie--who could forget Aunt T's baking?
BlogLily--The writing event was good, the food superb.