There was a time in my life when food was something to be ignored, or rather restricted. A time when meals were regulated to a t, and finding pleasure in food was absurd. Coincidentally, this was probably the lowest time of life. I’d like to think that the minute I sank my teeth into a deep, dark and devasting piece of chocolate, my heart started beating again. All of a sudden, the skies opened up and sunlight flooded my mind. It wasn’t as simple as that, but I’d like to think that chocolate brought me back from the dead. In fact, it reminds me to keep on living, to find pleasure in the little things everyday.
Thus began my love affair with chocolate. It’s something I look forward to, sometimes eating pieces sporadically and other days finding that even jsut the smell of chocolate is enough to wake me up. Anytime I feel the urge to hide or crawl back into my small hole, I think of a life without chocolate and I realize it’s one not worth living. This attachment to chocolate, or any kind of cuisine you choose, is universal. No matter your religion/race/education/socio-economic class, the need for food and the emotions tied to food unite us all. I’m pleasantly reminded of this every day, and it’s a thought that brings me happiness, especially during hard times when so much sadness fills the world. It’s all about the simple things, right?
This week’s Tuesday’s With Dorie pick came from Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook and I welcomed the choice of French Chocolate Brownies. Valentine’s Day was the last time I made these brownies, drowning my lovesick/desperate heart in pools of dark chocolate and M&M’s. A sad cliche, I know but one that has been tested by the masses. The best way to soothe a sad heart? Chocolate, my friends.
Like many, I feel as if I am on a never ending quest to solve my must-have-perfect-brownie-dillemma. Sure, some are really good, but I have yet to find a brownie recipe that gets repeated over and over and over again in my kitchen. Since I am fickle about the texture and consistency of a brownie, I have almost lost hope in finding the perfect brownie. I tried Dorie’s classic brownie recipe before, but ultimately I felt that I could find better. Dorie has a good collection of brownie recipes to play around with in this book, so I guess I have some good resources to turn to.
As much as I want to say that I fell head over heels in love with this recipe, I just can’t. They are yummy and will be gone in a second, I’m sure, but they aren’t the one recipe I have been searching for. My mom thought I was nuts as she couldn’t stop gobbling them up, and I can guarentee that her co-workers will be left in a chocolate haze today, but I am not 100% satisfied. Although, let me be frank here: flavorwise, these brownies stole my heart. They are chocolatey and sweet, with just a slight aftertaste of the hazelnut liquor. I just wish the texture of of the brownies would’ve been more firm and not so sloppy.
You see, there are certain things that I require from a brownie. First, they must be strong in chocolate flavor. None of this only-cocoa-powder crap. Give me the real bittersweet chocolate, please. Secondly, I’d like them to be thick and dense, but not dry. Moisture is key in a brownie, but there is a thing as too much moisture. These brownies turned out a little to wet, which slightly bothered me. Third, I don’t like a cakey crust. When it flakes liks these ones, getting them out of the pan is ten times more difficult. Not to mention its irritating to eat that. Next, when it comes to edges, I want a nice firm but soft edge. Nothing that falls apart in the pan when you try to cut it out, like these ones did. Lastly, I like a specific type of crumb when it comes to a brownie. Light and fluffy but not loose. Nothing is worse than a brownie that has a loose crumb. I like my brownies’ crumb to be pack in but not heavy.
Wow, I never knew I had so many expectations when it came to brownies. Talk about being a perfectionist in the kitchen.
Despite my picky nature, these brownies hit the spot flavor-wise. Rich and intense, these babies aim to please. The 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate first sucked me in, and man did it pack a pretty punch. The original recipe called for raisins to be slightly flambéed in the rum, but I opted out of that step. As much as I love raisins, I don’t want them in my brownie. It’d be just a distraction to the main player, I feel. Instead, I added 1 cup of raw pecan piece as well as 2 tablespoons of Frangelico liquor at the very end. The Frangelico played well with the cinnamon, adding a hint of spice that kind of makes you go, “hhmm what is that?” Again, flavorwise, these brownies stole my heart. They are chocolatey and sweet, with just a slight aftertaste of the hazelnut liquor. I just wish the texture of of the brownies would’ve been more firm and not so sloppy.
I think that my search for the ultimate brownie will keep going. I may play around with this recipe again, so if you have any advice or tips for me regarding this recipe and the pursuit of the perfect brownie, let me know. I am eying a couple of recipes, this one from Bake or Break which seems out of this world, as well as this one from one of my favorite blogs, Sunday Nite Dinner. Have you got a brownie recipe that I should out? Let me know. I’m officially holding auditions!
French Chocolate Brownies
from Baking From My Home to Yours.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden ( I left out)
1 1/2 tablespoons water (I left out)
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum (I used Frangelico liquor)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup pecan pieces (optional)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you’re using it.
Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.
Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It’s important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you’ve got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it’s better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.
Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you’ll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won’t be completely incorporated and that’s fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.
Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.
Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.
Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they’re even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!
Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
Yields 16 brownies.