July 27, 2010

I tried to make brownies....

The only problem with making a fabulous chocolate cake, one where the lightness or creaminess of the frosting perfectly balances the richness of the cake, is that if I only get a taste--ok, if I only get a couple slices-- I want more a few days later.

And a three-layer cake is a bit too much effort if the goal is 'something sweet to snack on.'   In such cases, a batch of  brownies should fit the bill.  Homemade brownies are only slightly more complicated than opening a box of brownie mix and adding eggs, oil and water, so if one can find a 'go-to' brownie recipe, brownies would be an accessible weeknight dessert, wouldn't they?

Any time I want to make cookies I refer to Rosie's Bakery Chocolate-Packed Jam-Filled Butter-Rich No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book by Judy Rosenberg. She has recipes for every kind of cookie imaginable in there.  I think Rosie's Oatmeal Cookies are the only oatmeal cookies worth making, chewy with butter and brown sugar.  I skip the golden raisins that the recipe recommends and add walnuts, and I call these cookies a hearty snack.  Katz Tongues are similar to a Pepperidge Farm Milano, but oh so much better because they are fresh and homemade. If one were make homemade ice cream, this would be a good recipe to use up leftover egg whites and a wonderful accompaniment to said ice cream. Chocolate Chip Meringues are a fun shift from an ordinary chocolate chip cookie, though she has a quite a few bang-up recipes for those as well.

And her Chocolate Souffle Brownie is decadent:  a dense brownie layer topped with a mousse-y souffle layer, with so much chocolate that it has kept me a awake at night a few times.  But that wasn't what I was in the mood for.  I wanted a run-of-the-mill brownie that would be pleasing to my husband and kids who like something a little less rich and a little cakier.  I also wanted something that I might be able to remember, as I am reluctant (read: too lazy) to open a cookbook on busy weeknights.

Now, if you're not a baker you might think memorizing a brownie recipe would be difficult or silly.  Silly, it probably is.  Difficult, no, not really.  Once I have completed the method a few times, I can remember that: Melt chocolate and butter in double broiler. Allow to cool.  In mixing bowl, pour chocolate/butter mixture over sugar. Beat to combine. Beat in eggs one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Beat in flour (and whole wheat flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder or salt, if applicable) on low speed.  Spread batter in oil-sprayed, parchment-lined pan.  Bake.... It is just the quantities of ingredients and times and temperatures that I have trouble with.

Once I have a go-to recipe, I can dress it up however I want. Maybe swirling in a mixture of peanut butter, cream cheese and sugar for a peanut butter brownie?

I tried Rosie's New Brownie, and it just didn't fit the bill. The ingredient list was simple: 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, 1 cup of unsalted butter, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 cup of all-purpose flour, if memory serves me correctly. Follow the method above, then bake in a 9" square pan at 350(?) for something like 50 minutes.  I know, guessing oven temperatures has gotten me into trouble before.  You'd think I'd learn my lesson and just walk over the bookshelf, but...

Well, the brownies were okay, but next time I'll try something different. They were a bit too dense for my husband and kids, and just not chocolate-y enough for me.  I could have remedied that by adding a few extra ounces of chocolate, or by trying a different brand.  And wouldn't they have been cakier if I would have added some cocoa powder and leavening?...

My pursuit of a go-to brownie recipe has begun.


  1. AnonymousJuly 28, 2010

    About using whole wheat flour for brownies, it makes them to dense. I tried that years ago. Maybe try using half and half. I lighter flour with the whole wheat and see how that goes.

    One thing I learned from my sisters. They use high quality vanilla. I finally bought some, yep it did make a difference in taste. Try that and see what you think.

  2. Carrie KruegerJuly 28, 2010

    Maria, I am enjoying reading your blog! This is the brownie recipe I have used in the past and they are spectacular!!


  3. Thanks so much for reading!!

    Carrie, thanks for the link. Those brownies look great. They will be next on my quest for the perfect brownie. : )

  4. Our favorite brownie recipe comes from Hershey's Classic Recipes with a few adaptations to suit my tastes. I add about 1 cup of Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips and deleted frosting. I use Ghiradelli cocoa powder instead of Hersheys. Jessica and I did a taste test a while back and discovered that Ghiradelli chocolate tasted more chocolatey and less sugary.

  5. Vanilla: Making one's own vanilla is easy and can provide an almost unlimited supply. A half-dozen vanilla been pod, split and set into a pint of clear vodka in a dark, cool space. Three or four weeks later? Voila!

  6. Hi Maria
    The Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous bBrownies are my very favorite!!! Thanks for the tip on the cookbook. I enjoy the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook as well. It is amazing.
    Have a sweet day!!! Terri