Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies

I'm really picky about my brownies. To me, a good brownie starts with the way it looks. Specifically that beautiful, crackly tissue paper crust. You know what I'm talking about right? That light, flaky top that all great brownies seem to have. Then when you bite into it, it shouldn't be cakey or gooey. No, a good brownie hits that golden sweet spot of FUDGY and it tastes of CHOCOLATE. Not a flat, vaguely cocoa-ish taste that disappears into a sugary abyss 2 seconds after you bite down. No. A superior brownie will punch you in the face with an intense, deep, dark chocolate high that'll swirl around your entire mouth till you basically see nothing but chocolate.

Having said that, I can't make a good brownie.
Don't get me wrong, I've tried over and over.
But brownies have always been a problem for me. I know they're supposed to be one of the first things you learn how to make, but I've never found a recipe that's been able to co-operate. Somehow it always ends up either dry or undercooked. Most times straight up burnt. NEVER with the Holy Grail of 'beautiful crust'. Maybe I'm being over-critical but I've just never been happy with how my brownies turn out.

So I'm still on my brownie quest. Maybe not quite with the determination and vengeance that I started off with, but I do try. It was on one of these brownie quirks that I tried making Alice Medrich's cocoa brownies. I've seen so much about them over the years online, but always passed them over as potential flops. I mean... a brownie recipe with no chocolate? Madness! Then one fateful evening a brownie craving arose and I didn't have any dark chocolate in my cupboard nor was I willing to walk 40 minutes to get some. I really wish now that moment had come sooner. Alice's brownies are brilliant. They've got that perfect fudgy texture and chocolatey flavour. I added a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt over the top and that did it for me. My only criticism was that I didn't get that crowning tissue paper crackle. Although, that could've been something I did wrong. Any ideas? Comment below if you know the secret to that beautiful top!

Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies

- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cold large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

+ Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
+ Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water (I just used the microwave. Blast for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat till smooth). Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
+ Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
+ When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
+ Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

I'll leave you to bask in your chocolate comas. :p Till next time!

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