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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.