March 9, 2011

Best Brownies Ever, A Respectful Variation on the Malgieri Brownie

Last week was my husband's 35th birthday and instead of a cake, he requested a chocolate brownie sundae that oozed chocolate. I had a sneaking suspicion he might be supporting my recent need to indulge in chocolate-y goodness every few days as exhibited by the fact that the only recipes I've posted lately have been chocolate. But I resolutely pushed aside my conspiracy theorist tendencies and got to work. A brownie sundae begins with the perfect brownie and I intended to find it.

But first - I have a confession to make. Please, don't judge me too harshly.

I have never been a big brownie fan. They have never done it for me. While I love dark chocolate, I prefer it in creamy desserts like mousse or a chocolate creme brulee. So, I knew the brownie would have to be the perfect texture and flavor to tempt me. And, I figured if I could find a recipe to tempt a non-brownie lover like me, my intended audience would be happy too.

I started with a brownie from the Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite sites. See it here. I liked the description of the recipe she posted because it was so easy, used only cocoa powder and didn't require my tempering any chocolate. But, when I tasted the finished product, the cocoa powder bitterness stood out to me. I didn't do the brownie any flavors by leaving it in the oven just a minute or two too long (classic brownie error!). It was still chewy fudge-y but I could tell I'd overdone it. It was not a bad brownie by any means - just not the one I was looking for. By the way, if you haven't visited the Smitten Kitchen yet, you should. She's a really funny writer, the pictures are great and the food is phenomenal. You'll love me for it!

Next, I tried the Best Brownie EVA recipe over at the feeding time blog. And, in classic "Monna" style, I altered it by adding just a little cocoa powder since I wanted it to be SUPER chocolate-y. And, it was. But, the cocoa powder definitely gave the brownies a bitter flavor. More importantly, when those brownies came out, I realized the real problem.

I thought I wanted a fudge-y brownie. But, both those fudge brownie recipes seemed heavy, flat muddled. I wanted a taller, chewier brownie with a with a crispy top that would showcase the flavor of chocolate and finish with chocolate chunks melting into my mouth. I'm serious about chocolate.

Know how they say third time's the charm? Well, it was. In my insane perusal of hundreds of brownie recipes to find the perfect one (maybe that's an exaggeration but barely. I spent way too many hours on this project!), I stumbled across several forums frequented by people much closer to "nuts" about brownies than me. We're talking some seriously passionate, brownie-pated individuals! Several of them referred to a recipe for Supernatural Brownies by a guy named Nick Malgieri as the ultimate brownie. I had to find it.

Sure enough, I discovered the recipe in another of my favorite places. The website for the American Public Media radio show called The Splendid Table, hosted by Lynne Rosetto Kasper had the recipe posted here.

By now I'd learned a few things about brownies, so I tweaked it just a leeeee-tle. I just can't help myself. I have a chronic tendency to change recipes.

And, this one nailed it. I can't tell you what your taste in brownies should be. But, if you want the best brownie you've ever tasted, try this one. Despite the fact that it requires tempering, it's pretty darn easy. By the way, no cocoa powder. 

Notes: The pan you use in a brownie recipe makes a big difference. I used a metal Nordicware quarter sheet. That's smaller than Mr. Malgieri's recipe calls for but the smaller size lets the brownie puff up to the height I wanted while still allowing it to remain chewy. If you use a bigger pan, shorten your cooking time. If you use glass, lower the temp 25 degrees to prevent burnt and squishy brownies. Yuck.
For the record, I've been having problems with my oven, thus the wide variance in baking times. But, I'd rather have a slightly underdone brownie than an overcooked one.
Finally, for those of you who would argue this is NOT a brownie with baking powder in it, I have only to say - I don't care. It tastes DELICIOUS!

Best Brownies Ever, A Respectful Variation on the Malgieri Brownie

16 tablespoons butter (I used salted and decreased the salt in the recipe)
10.5 oz bittersweet chocolate pieces (I used TJ's 85% bars. Reasonably priced with a smooth flavor)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour with 3/4 t. baking powder carefully stirred in (nothing worse than a bite of leavening)
1 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips


Quarter sheet (12x9x1) baking pan with parchment paper and let a little hang over the sides
1. Preheat oven to 350F and set oven rack in the middle
2. Bring a saucepan of water to boil and turn down to med-low. Set a heat proof bowl over the pan and combine butter and chocolate until melted. Whisk thoroughly.
3. Remove the chocolate mixture from heat and add sugar. Whisk until sugar is nearly dissolved. 
4. Let mixture cool to just warm (as in, not enough to cook eggs!) and add eggs one at a time and whisk. .
5. Add salt and vanilla and whisk. 
6. Add flour and baking powder to chocolate mixture and whisk until the batter takes on a sheen, about 1 minute. 
7. Add chocolate chips and stir in briefly.
8. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. 
9. Bake between 25-40 minutes. I started checking around 20 minutes. Having over-cooked a batch already, I didn't want to ruin this one. You really must do the toothpick test on a brownie. When it's done, it should have just a few damp-ish crumbs on the toothpick and spring back when you touch it with your finger. If your toothpick comes out dry, it's over-baked. Don't worry. Just eat that batch with ice cream and try again.

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