Posted on October 28 2011

Recipe #10: Brownies

It’s recipe #10 (double digits!) and it’s about time I have some chocolate!  I eat chocolate every day – most days it’s like a handful of M&M’s like Cher from Clueless, and then they’re days when I truly need to indulge.  I’ve made brownies many times in my life, and the vast majority of them were from a box.  I’m not proud of that, but I’ve never found a brownie recipe from scratch that didn’t turn out like chocolate cake in the end.  If I wanted chocolate cake, I would have made chocolate cake!  Geesh!  Qualities I desire in a brownie: super fudgy, very chocolaty, keeps its shape when cut and put on a plate, and it must have that crispy thin crackled crust on top, just like the ones you see in pictures.

Conversation at the grocery store, buying four chocolate bars:

Cashier (19-year-old dude/hemp necklace/tie-dye peeking above the collar of his uniform):  That’s a lot of chocolate.

Me: Yeah, I’m pretty sure one of these has the golden ticket.

Dopey Cashier:  I don’t know…You mean our customer perks card?  It’s green, not gold.

Me: No…I was talking about Willy Wonka.

Dopey Cashier: This isn’t Willy Wonka chocolate, it’s “Gurrdelli”.

Me: I just meant…the movie.  You know, everyone’s hunting for the golden tickets…

Dopey Cashier: I don’t think that’s real.

Me: Well I guess I won’t win.

One beautiful pile of chocolate! 

I’m glad I went with Ghiradelli – even though I’ve won no trip to the Wonka factory – it is a nice nod to San Francisco.  When we were in SF and had visitors, I would take them to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Yes, a classic touristy spot, but I love that once you step foot into the Ghiradelli shop they hand you a square of chocolate!  I would always hope for the ones filled with caramel or peanut butter.  And you could leave, turn right around, walk back in, and they give you more chocolate!  I think my record over the span of 15 minutes was four re-entries.  Five just seemed a little too brazen. 

I loved chopping up this chocolate so much.  SO much, in fact, that I thought taking a video was a good decision.  It’s probably the most boring video, but there’s something mildly hypnotizing about watching those bittersweet bricks get chopped up.  It probably helps that I could smell it, so it really attacked all of my senses.  Smell-O-Vision, where art thou?

Whenever I see liquid chocolate the first thing that enters my mind: “Agoooostus!” and then I replay that plump German lad falling into that chocolate river over and over in my mind.  Yes, another Willy Wonka reference.  I can’t promise that’ll be the last either.

Most people keep white sugar in their fancy sugar containers.  Dan decided to put the brown sugar in ours. 

All of my previous cake-like brownies called for plain ol’ sugar, but this recipe uses brown sugar.  Maybe some magic lies with that change up.  Once you have the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla mixed up, there’s five minutes or so of whisking it like crazy before the flour and chocolate are added.  A metamorphosis unfolds before your eyes as you watch that high-speed mixing take place.  It changes from this really dark mixture, to a very light-colored, thick, super airy and bubbly mixture.  It’s like this oxymoron of the baking world – thick AND light, sticky AND soft.  I know you’re doubting me, but I feel like we’ve got some trust going on here.  Believe me, I saw it before my own eyes!  I was afraid to breath around it for fear of making it deflate. 

After spending so long whisking the air into the mixture like some sort of magic airbender, you’re to fold in the chocolate and flour “quickly” and “carefully” as to avoid ruining that airy consistency you’ve worked so hard for.  After I just witnessed this transformation, I hesitatingly used that rubber spatula to fold it all together.  It worked out well, even though there was a tiny pocket of flour in the final product.  Turns out I was too careful and too quick about it.

Some people have moving water in their homes to aid the serenity of the home – I’m looking into fountains that pour brownie batter into ceramic dishes. 

It took all the restraint this chocolate-lovin’ soul could muster not to eat the brownies before the little dude’s friends came over for a Halloween party.  Making them the evening before meant an even longer span of time where I had to patiently wait to dig in.  With all the frequent trips to the kitchen, just to look at the brownies, I did notice they sank down into the dish a bit.  Not enough to create panic, but enough to be slightly concerned.  Reading the directions, you find that using the toothpick tester method is useless because of the amount of chocolate!  I’ve found that I’m baking things a lot longer than the recipes call for – I think that’s pretty normal for a cookbook.  I actually baked these for the exact twenty five minutes that were suggested and even thought to myself I should let them bake a bit longer.  Visually, they were on cue.   

Here’s where I scrambled today.  I cut into the brownies, and they were so very gooey.  I didn’t think you could have a brownie that was too gooey, but these were clearly under baked a bit.  (Just a couple more minutes were needed after all!)  A little debating and then discussion with friends, and throwing them back in to the oven seemed like a good idea.  I’ve always heard that when people are going through a traumatic moment, they don’t think clearly.  I’ve actually seen it on all of the Law & Order-s and know that’s how every scary movie works.  I wasn’t thinking – who puts something like this back in the oven?  If you were watching it all go down, I know you’d be screaming, “What is she doing?!  Stop!  Don’t open to oven!  She’s opening the oven!!!  Oh my god!  SHE’S PUTTING THEM BACK IN THE OVEN!”  It was pretty much reverse baking, creating brownies approximately a million percent gooier.  So – off to the freezer they went!  They cooled quickly, but then we were left with cold crazy gooey brownies.  Then it dawned on me.  These were about to be served to kids ranging from 2 – 5.  They wouldn’t care about consistency – they looked like brownies, and that’s all that mattered.  You try to tell a handful of kiddos we’re going to skip the brownies.  Yeah, exactly.  AND!  After dessert we found out it’s National Chocolate Day!  How perfect. 

I think Spiderman wanted seconds, but his mom put her foot down.

After all is said and done, I’m unsure whether to mark this as a win or loss.  They tasted amazing, but lack the perfection I seek in my brownies.  I guess I’m making a new column – “Pretty good, almost there, shall be perfected the next time I bake them”

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