Brownie Wars

October 22, 2009

Brownie Collage

Let’s get right down to business.  Are you cakey or fudgy?  Don’t laugh – it’s an important question.  Well, some people think it’s important.  Some people are downright militant about their brownie preferences.  Me?  My brownie preference is “Yes, please.”

Some recipes I find and then have absolutely no problem telling myself it is the definititive fill-in-the-blank recipe.  Challah for example.  I made some of that gorgeous egg bread this week for a lunch party on Saturday and, as I was braiding the dough, I realized that I have never ever been tempted to find another challah recipe.  Why mess with perfection?  Years ago when I found an über-fudgy brownie recipe, I thought it was the be-all end-all and would be my brownie recipe forever.  But I have strayed.  I’ve made Mexican browines, Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies and just recently, I made the Baked cookbook version.

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Now, this is not an apples to apples comparison.  I made the Baked version in a 15×10 pan rather than a 13×9 knowing full well that they would turn out flatter.  After having a few things from that cookbook turn out sub-par, I was really pleased with the brownies.  Cakey but not dry and with terrific chocolate flavor.  Not overly rich and just about perfect when topped with homemade honey lavender ice cream and leftover almond praline from Holly B’s scones.

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My old stand-by (which is from Bon Appetit) I did make in an 13×9 pan and they were as close to a large piece of fudge as I remember.  They are gooey, not from being underbaked, but just from the amount of butter and chocolate in there (with very little flour).   If you want fudge masquerading as a brownie, this is the recipe to try.

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If I were a food scientist or Alton Brown, I could tell you precisely why these recipes turn out so differently.  Although they are both brownies and the method is similar, the ingredient list and the proportions of those ingredients are very different.  But ultimately food science is not why you read Dana Treat is it?  I’m here to tell you my personal opinion.  My next pan of brownies will be from the Baked cookbook.  Why?  Because they are what I think of when I want a brownie.  In other words, perfect.

One Year Ago:  Soba Noodles with Tofu and Bok Choy

The Baked Brownie

Baked – New Frontiers in Baking
Makes 24 brownies

If you like the idea of a flat brownie, make them in a 15-by-10 inch pan, or what is often called a jelly roll pan.  If you want them thicker, use the 13-by-9 called for in the recipe.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

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

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 the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars.  Whisk until completely combined, then remove the 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 combined.  Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be too 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 center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center 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.

Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes 24 brownies

I cut back the amount of sugar in here from 3 cups to 2 1/2.

3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
12 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour a 13-by-9 inch metal baking pan, knocking out excess flour.

Melt butter with chocolate in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Remove bowl from pan and whisk in eggs, 1 at a time.  Sift together flour and cocoa powder in a separate bowl and stir into batter with sugar and salt.

Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven until top is firm and a tester inserted into the center comes out with crumbs adhering, 35-40 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on a rack before cutting into squares.



25 Comments »

  1. The perfect brownie is the one I pop in my mouth. Preferably it’s thick and fudgy and comes with peanut butter frosting on top.

    Comment by susan from food blogga — October 23, 2009 @ 12:00 am

  2. When it comes down to it, put any brownie in front of me and I will not refuse it. I do find that I like different kinds of brownies depending on my mood. When I’m near-tears, only the fudgiest kind will suffice. :)

    Comment by Joy — October 23, 2009 @ 12:09 am

  3. I use only 1 brownie recipe (it’s from one of the Moosewood books), but I’m so willing to stray. I’m bookmarking this one for later and I like that it’s baked in a larger tray. Flatter brownies are okay by me!

    Comment by kickpleat — October 23, 2009 @ 12:21 am

  4. My favorite are, well, yours! I like that your brownies are slightly crispy and a little chewy just on the edges, but dense and oh-so-moist in the center! And if a corner piece is available, sign me up! For variation, I don’t mind if there is a peanut butter or caramel swirl in there. Hmmm a salted carmel swirl might be fantastic…is there a recipe for those?? :)

    Comment by Deb — October 23, 2009 @ 1:07 am

  5. I pretty much love any brownie, but if there is such thing as a fudgy-cakey brownie, I think I would like that best. Often I liked to cut a recipe for 9×13 down by half and bake it in an 8×8 pan. It makes them just a tad thicker, and I love thick brownies.

    Comment by Katie @ goodLife {eats} — October 23, 2009 @ 2:17 am

  6. I just made these brownies over the weekend and they are totally dangerous! I started eating them fresh out of the oven, which was damn delicious. I had to give them away or else I would have kept eating them :)

    Comment by Amanda — October 23, 2009 @ 4:04 am

  7. I got this cookbook recently but I haven’t tried the brownies yet. My current favorite brownies are from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. Cheesecake swirl brownies with choc chips. I associate brownies with fudgy-ness or otherwise it is just cake…

    I’ve made the banana espresso muffins from the book and the millionaire’s shortbread. Divine.

    Comment by Liz — October 23, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  8. “Me? My brownie preference is “Yes, please.””
    This sentence sums up why I love you and your blog so much. Thank you for the experiment. I might have to replicate it in my own kitchen… you know, purely for statistical verification, external vadity and all that :)

    Comment by Yannik — October 23, 2009 @ 12:14 pm

  9. How about soft and fudgy with sea salt on top?

    Comment by Michelle — October 23, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  10. No question – I’m fudgy. That last photo looks like heaven to me.

    On the cappuccino bars, it’s funny, I thought yours looked 100% better than mine :) I thought what made the biggest difference in presentation was your terrific tip to use an offset spatula on them right after baking. It made them so flat!

    Comment by Hilary — October 23, 2009 @ 1:19 pm

  11. I have never considered whether I was a cakey or a fudgy girl. But after looking at both pictues, I definitely like fudgy.

    I am the same way about recipes. Once I find a good one, I am very loyal. It becomes “mine” and I’m not interested in finding another one.

    Comment by Lisa @ The Cooking Bride — October 23, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  12. Don’t hate me, but my brownie preference is for one with nuts and caramel and marshmallow and peanut butter or one or two of those things. I’ve been looking at the Baked book in my stack for most of this year, and I think it’s time I start baking from it! Your brownie with the ice cream and praline topping looks amazing.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — October 23, 2009 @ 1:32 pm

  13. I sucked in my breath when I saw those first photos! Wow, either would suit me fine, although if I had to make a choice I would go for fudgey every time :)

    Comment by Jacqueline — October 23, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

  14. These sound excellent. Can I confess something? I’ve never made brownies. I think I avoid it because I know I won’t be able to control myself. It’s a good thing we live on different sides of the city or I’d be there inhaling them!

    Comment by redmenace — October 23, 2009 @ 5:57 pm

  15. I am a fudgy girl, all the way!

    Comment by Maria — October 23, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  16. I’m sorry for the dumb question, but how would you set a large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water?

    Your brownies look delicious, needless to say.

    Comment by lindiebugs — October 23, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  17. I’ve been craving brownies recently, my favorite incarnation of chocolate. I’m in the middle part fudgy-cakey….

    Comment by veron — October 23, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

  18. I’m with you….it’s “yes, please”.
    I love brownies, but they must have nuts.

    Comment by Stacey Snacks — October 24, 2009 @ 1:26 am

  19. I love fudgy brownies- I’m always trying new brownie recipes though- just in case I haven’t found the perfect one yet!

    Comment by Emily Rose — October 24, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  20. I like the thickness of your brownies. I would love them with that espresso powder in them and the ice cream on top.

    Comment by Hélène — October 25, 2009 @ 12:27 am

  21. I’m 100% fudgey and holy BUTTER in the Bon Appetit recipe? 3 sticks? No wonder they’re so amazing…Now to the grocery store to buy 2 more sticks of butter :) hehe

    Comment by maris — October 25, 2009 @ 2:56 am

  22. I’m a yes please kind of person with brownies too haha. I like them either way though I think I’d more often choose chewy/fudgey mmm. Like how the corners get nice and chewy. These brownies look so good and I probably shouldn’t be looking at them right before dinner!

    Comment by Ashley — October 28, 2009 @ 11:29 pm

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