If there’s one recipe that I have bookmarked since the beginning of time and took about a million years to get to, this would be it.
There’s actually a very fun story behind how I came to make these brownies. I had no idea that they were supposedly Oprah’s favourites (not that I care an awful lot), only that a lot of people are buzzing about them. This recipe is actually found in a number of blogs, and so I did not intend on buying its cookbook. However it must have been fate when I stepped into a second-hand bookstore and the bright orange spine of Baked: New Frontiers in Baking caught my attention.
It was the only thing that I pulled out of the shelf. I started looking through it, and even though I am a bit terrified by the presence of shortening in a lot of the recipes in here (but let’s save that for another time), I have to admit I was once again struck-dumb by how cute the layout was, with all the lovely typographies and nice photographs. And so I caved. You just do not argue with fate!
And the best part? It sold for about a quarter of the list price, (or half the price sold in Amazon, which is pretty cheap already!), and did I mention they were in mint condition?! This was the first time I ever discovered the rush of buying bargain cookbooks, and it was spectacular!
I’m certain I’m not the only food blogger here who is obsessed with cookbooks. Buying cookbooks is like a disease. Even though you already have more than enough to tide you over; even though you’ve got about a million earmarked pages or recipes on your to-do list; you just keep wanting to have another cookbook.
I don’t feel so bad whenever I buy new cookbooks, because I guess I find some comfort in the way that I carefully select and evaluate the cookbooks that I eventually purchase. I’m not terribly impulsive when it comes to these things because it really burns a hole through my wallet! I carefully read comments of other people who have bought and tried recipes from cookbooks I’m considering, then I try to find digital previews or browse actual copies of them just to see if I like the look and feel of the book. Once the cookbook-in-question passes all my criteria is when the cookbook actually gets into my wishlist. But sometimes when I find a better alternative for it, it gets deleted off the list. It’s a long and arduous process, but one that has ensured that I get only the cookbooks I really really want, and do without the cookbooks that are only a product of hype.
Now these brownies were hyped like crazy, by people from Oprah, America’s Test Kitchen, and countless other blogs. And it was because of this hype that my skepticism began to take a hold of me (previous bad experiences with the hype train, sorry!). But after finally making this recipe, I would have to concede that there are some things that actually deserve all the publicity they are being given.
I am surrounded by a bunch brownie fiends. Alas, I am not one myself. There’s something about brownies that makes me look the other way. Don’t get me wrong, they are delicious if not made too sweet, and every bite is a solid chocolate hit (I especially prefer the fudgy kind); but for me, everything about them screams decadence to the point of overindulgence. Decadent food might not be my thing. I never ever eat a whole square. A quarter to half a brownie is pretty much enough for me.
The brownie lovers in the house don’t seem to have a problem calling dibs on the rest of my share though.
The Baked Brownies
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito | Makes one 9 x 13- inch pan of brownies (I divided into 48 2-inch squares, the book gives a yield of 24)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder*
11 ounces dark chocolate (60% to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
2 sticks (1 cup/8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder**
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
3. Place 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.
4. 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. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature.
5. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining 2 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 cakey.
6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is still visible. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
7. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway 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 lift them out of the pan using the parchment paper. Cut into squares and serve.
Storage: Store at room temperature in an airtight container or wrap with plastic wrap for up to 3 days.
* I used regular unsweetened cocoa powder, thus the red quality of my brownies.
** I used instant coffee powder.
While I haven’t eaten enough brownies to actually play favorites, I have to admit this is one of the better ones I’ve had in a while.