Friday, February 16, 2007

The Go-To Brownie?

My Aunt Betty is a powerhouse when it comes to baking. She makes delicious, beautiful birthday cakes, gorgeous butter cookies and tasty, gooey cookie bars. Even her non-baked goodies, like her mom's Chinese New Year Cookies and her homemade ice cream, are awesome. So when she sends a brownie recipe my way, I pay attention.

The recipe Aunt Betty sent comes from a bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn called Baked. Red Hook is an an up-and-coming neighborhood, but with no direct subway service it is a bit of a schlepp, so I'm sorry to say I haven't visited. It does however have a cute web site and, from the numerous media mentions, seems to be Brooklyn's version of the upscale, nostalgic American dessert bakeries (usually famous for their cupcakes) that are now ubiquitous in Manhattan.

The hip new life of the cupcake notwithstanding, I'll take a brownie any day. And Baked's brownies are fantastic. Their name--"Deep, Dark Brownies"--is pretty accurate. The brownies (made in a 9-by-9-inch square baking dish) use Valrhona cocoa powder and Scharffen Berger semisweet chocolate, accented with a touch of instant espresso powder, which Clotilde told me enhances the chocolate flavor.--S

Deep, Dark Brownies

3/4 c all-purpose flour
1 T best-quality cocoa powder, preferably Valrhona
1/4 t salt
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
3/4 t instant espresso powder
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 t pure vanilla extract
3/4 c (4 1/2 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (optional) [I opted out but Aunt Betty said she used mini chips and they worked well]

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch [or 9x9] square baking pan. Line with parchment paper and butter parchment.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.
3. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine butter and espresso. Place over low heat and stir until butter has melted. Add chocolate, and stir constantly until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in both sugars until well combined. [Aunt B says let the heated choco mixture cool before adding the other ingredients]
4. Add eggs and vanilla and continue stirring until well incorporated and mixture no longer appears grainy. Sift flour mixture over batter, and stir until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, if using.
5. Pour batter into prepared baking pan; smooth top with the back of a wooden spoon or a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 28 to 30 minutes. Be sure not to over bake. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 9 brownies. [I then halved the squares diagonally into triangles.]

Recipe courtesy of Matt Lewis from Baked

UPDATE: (3/6/07)
A thrilling new twist on the Deep, Dark Brownies revealed itself this weekend when Fork suggested the addition of toffee bits. I stirred 3/4 cup of Heath Bar-brand toffee pieces into the batter just before pouring it into the baking pan. The bits melted into the brownies, making them even more delicious.--S

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