Friday, October 15, 2010

Did He Just Ask for Brownies? . . . (Dark Chocolate Brownies, Two Ways!)

Last Sunday afternoon I was busy at the kitchen sink, scrubbing away at an encrusted pan, when my 17-year old son, Charlie, called to me from his comfy perch on the living room couch. "Mommm! Will you make some brownies??"

Now, Charlie very rarely makes specific baking-related requests of me. The one predictable exception to this being his birthday cherry pie which, naturally, is required only once a year. The rest of the time, he's not under the mystical spell of sweets like the rest of us seem to be, and it shows. He's the skinniest one in the family. You know, the kind of boy who's so busy he forgets to eat? (Yeah. That's a rare talent I've never managed to develop.)

So, you'll understand when I say that his spontaneous brownie query startled me to the extent that I ceased my scrubbing, gazed out the window a moment to gain my bearings, and replied in all seriousness, "What for?"

What for, indeed . . . 

My simple response, translated, actually meant: "Are you asking for brownies right now because you need them for some sort of official function for which you will be rushing off very soon? Are you asking me to whip up homemade baked goods at the absolute last minute because of an event about which you have neglected to inform me, dude?" The fact is, Charlie and his friends--all high school seniors--have more events to attend than you can possibly shake a stick at and, sometimes, it's just better to surrender to it like an incoming tidal wave.

Anyway, Charlie caught my suspicious tone. He righteously replied, "For us to EAT!"

Well, that was that. As you can see, I did indeed comply. I made brownies that afternoon. And here they are. One recipe, finished two ways--half the batter with toasted walnuts, baked in a round cake pan, and the other half with semi-sweet chocolate chips, baked in a square pan.

About this recipe . . .

This formula is adapted from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook, a shiny and appealing book by John Barricelli. My little changes included doubling the recipe; adding in a smidgen of coffee flavor, not too much; using Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa for two-thirds of the cocoa powder; and adding in nuts to half the brownies. These are soft, with a semi-chewy, semi-cakey texture and they're not-overwhelmingly sweet like some brownies tend to be. And, luckily, they satisfied Charlie's rare craving for a treat.

Dark Chocolate Brownies

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush with softened butter, or spray with baking spray, one 9" x 13" pan, or two smaller pans (I used one 9" round cake pan, and one 8" square pan).

1 cup All Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
1 cup cocoa powder (I used 2/3 cup Hershey's Special Dark, and 1/3 cup natural cocoa powder)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 pinches baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. instant coffee, or 1/2 tsp. (or less) espresso powder (omit if you don't like coffee!)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional; I put these in half of the batter, into one pan)
2/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional; I put these in the other half of the batter, into the other pan)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the sugar and corn syrup. Add in the eggs one at a time, whisking until well combined. In a very small bowl, stir together the vanilla extract and the coffee/espresso powder until it dissolves. Stir this into the liquid mixture in the pan. Add the dry ingredients into the pan as well, and fold with a spatula until the flour has been incorporated.

If you're making the brownies "two ways," now is the time to divide the batter equally into two parts, pouring one half into the bowl you used for the dry ingredients. Into one half of the batter, stir in the chocolate chips. Into the other half of the batter stir the walnut pieces.

Pour the batter into the pans, smooth the tops with your spatula, and bake them on the middle rack of your oven for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out pretty clean. (If you're making one large pan, you may need to bake them longer as they'll probably be a little thicker.) Let the brownies cool on a rack before cutting them.

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