Thursday, August 07, 2008

Some Serious Brownies

I know I've posted about brownies before, but it looks like my obsession with finding the perfect formula is FINALLY starting to pay off. These were just about as close as I've ever come.

In the course of my trial-and-error efforts, I've adopted various techniques from different sources. From the Tartine method, I've learned to use glass baking pans and massive amounts of dark chocolate, butter and eggs - but I use a blend of white and brown sugar where they call for all brown, and I like to add baking powder for a little extra lift and a bit more flour to keep them from being too heavy - tricks I gleaned from a Martha Stewart recipe (which in turn came from the skier Picabo Street. I always knew she was cool.)

These could have had a touch more bittersweet flavor, and three to five minutes longer in the oven would not have hurt - but still, I think these were the best I've ever made. I know, I always say that - but this time, I really mean it.

These came about primarily because I was using up a surplus of chocolate I had on hand. I actually don't eat that much plain chocolate - and I don't like to keep it around for too long because it starts to go chalky and develop that bloom - especially when it melts and re-solidifies in our hot summer weather. I had enough on hand that I'd actually intended this to be a triple recipe, but my Pyrex pans were so big that I got two nice, thick batches.
crackly brownies
The advantage of the glass is that it holds heat and distributes it uniformly, so the brownies cook more evenly than they do in a metal pan. If you haven't tried it I highly recommend it. I lined the pans with parchment this time, spraying nonstick spray on the pan before pressing down the parchment to help keep it from sliding, but you can also just butter or grease the glass well. (Above is a photo of a batch I made using Tartine's recipe a while ago.)

As the name implies, these are not for wimps, and may well be considered too rich or too fudgy by some. If the thought of three pounds of chocolate is daunting to you (and I can't blame you myself!) you may want to try a batch of these, which are a tad more chewy.
Serious Brownies
makes 3 9x13 pans, or 1 11x17 pan and 1 9x13 pan

3 pounds of bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces of unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 1/2 sticks of butter (14 ounces)
2 Tablespoons powdered espresso concentrate

1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
4 cups of granulated sugar
11 large eggs
3 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon salt or other large flake fleur de sel, lightly crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour

optional - 1 cup of chopped walnuts or chocolate chips for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your pans with parchment or grease them well.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large saucepan over low heat, gently melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring periodically to incorporate and prevent burning. Stir in the espresso concentrate. As soon as the mixture is melted, turn off the heat and allow to cool.

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs with the sugar on high speed until the mixture is very pale and thick, and falls back into the bowl with a wide ribbon that folds back on itself and slowly dissolves when the beater is lifted from the surface. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

Gently fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar, then fold in the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Distribute the batter evenly among the pans, and sprinkle with chocolate chips or nuts if using. Bake at 350 degrees until the top surface is slightly puffed and uniformly dry, and the batter no longer jiggles when you shake the pan gently - about 25-30 minutes depending on how thick they are. The standard toothpick/cake tester will not work with these because they are so damp and full of chocolate. They will sink a bit as they cool.

These can be eaten the day they are baked, but I find that both the flavor and texture improve exponentially if they are allowed to sit for one or even two days. (This is true of just about all brownies.) After they are cut, store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container. They will keep for several days in the fridge - and even longer in the freezer.... if you can leave them alone that is!


  1. Wow, those look like they need a SERIOUS cup of coffee! And hey, if they keep getting better each time you make them, you can truly say that each batch is the best you've made :)

  2. I was lucky enough to have some of these, and they were incredible. I was wondering about the salt used, because you could definitely taste its presence. I thought it added a great touch. These are dangerously good - I ate them in an embarrassingly short period of time.

  3. The word of the day is decadence. These are going on my labor day picnic menu!

  4. I wonder if I'd still have friends if I consumed 3lbs of chocolate in one sitting. I think its entirely doable...especially in brownie form.

  5. Yum! Can't wait to try these. There is an article on the best brownie recipes in the new issue of Saveur, btw.

  6. Oh. My. God.

  7. Oh man I chose the wrong blog to browse at this late hour. Now I have the munchies! I bet those brownies taste as good as they look...