"The only real stumbling block is the fear of failure. In cooking, you have got to have a what-the-hell attitude." ~ Julia Child

Chocolatey-Goodness: Brownies that worked

by Julie Tilsner on April 2, 2008

in Minor Miracles, Sugar and Spite, Sweet!

LastoneI’d like you to tell me how I’m supposed to lose ten pounds if I keep eating brownies.

I wouldn’t normally have such rich, delicious, calorie-laden fare at home, but the girl announced she wanted to make fudge, and in an effort to mitigate that potential disaster…I offered to make brownies.

The kids have been swooning. They are taking multiple brownies to school to trade for various goods and services. They want me to make more. Alas, I have eaten several, (as evidenced by my disappearing waistline) I am down to one, which I dare not eat.

I found the recipe in Cook’s Illustrated New Best Recipe book. As I’ve said before, I appreciate the fact that they take all the mystery out of how to make a recipe work. Unfortunately, they haven’t quite idiot-proofed it enough for me.

They promised the perfect brownie. Not too fudgey. Not too cakey. My brownies, however, turned out on the fudgey side. Presuming I did everything right (a foolish presumption indeed), we can then only suppose that Cook’s and I have differing tastes in brownies.

My “perfect” brownie is rather more cakey, with a slight crust to bite though before I get to the chewy, chocolatey goodness within.

No matter. The audience here was the kids, and they fell over themselves at first tasting. And making the things involved my cooking down chocolate and butter in a jimmy-rigged double boiler, which was great fun and made me feel like a pastry chef. I got to use parchment paper as well. Always a thrill at my house. I made a real mess of it.

Here’s the recipe: Excerpted from The New Best Recipe (Cook’s Illustrated), page 810.

1 cup pecans or walnuts (optional – I was going to use walnuts but my daughter objected)
11/4 cups plain cake flour (I used regular flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1 1/2 sticks of butter, cut into six or more pieces
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

I’m not gonna explain the parchment paper here other than to say you fold two sheets of it to assist in removing the brownies from the pan later. Figure it out.

Toast the nuts if you’re using them.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder until combined. Set aside

In a BIG heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (yeah, good luck with this.), melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Gradually whisk in the sugar, and then add the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla. Add the flour in three parts. Did I mention you need a big bowl? (I had to change bowls twice)

Pour into the prepared 13 X 9-inch pan (spray with cooking oil first, then set the parchment paper inside with enough hanging over the edge to grab and pull). Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top if using. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 30-35 minutes at 325 degrees.

There is some persnicketyness about doneness.  Use the toothpick test before you take these out of the oven. If under-baked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the brownies will be dense and gummy (I think that’s what I did wrong). If over-baked, (dry toothpick), you’ll have dry and cakey brownies.

Let these cool on a wire rack, still in the pan, for about two hours. Then remove from the pan, using your parchment paper pull, and cut into squares. You can put these in Tupperware and keep, or you can put them on your table and they’ll disappear mysteriously.

Who wants the last brownie?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

ATriana April 2, 2008 at 3:58 pm



Elfini April 3, 2008 at 9:09 am

Ship me that last brownie asap!
And the girl is correct – walnuts are very good for you but they need to stay out of the brownies!!


http://EncoreSeraphine.com April 3, 2008 at 9:27 am

I’ll take that last brownie. Lol, it sounds like you’ll have to cut it up into a million pieces or make some more.
I agree with your daughter, pecans are better than walnuts, because they aren’t bitter.
“Toasting” nuts is tricky. I tried roasting some one time in the oven to make granola, and I overcooked them. They are easy to overcook. You have to take them out before you think they are done.
So who got to lick the brownie bowl? You or your daughter?


bad home cook April 3, 2008 at 9:57 am

Seraphine: My daughter got to it before me, of course. And was finished before I could get a picture…she’s a fast cookie…
And yeah, I’m thinking I’ll have to try this one again. What’s another five pounds on my butt?


Abigail April 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm

Wow, good brownies are hard to find. I have had a grand total of about two really good brownies in my lifetime. The rest of the brownies out there are all those “brownie bites”. Good, but never great. Glad to see you’ve found a great recipe.


http://EncoreSeraphine.com April 7, 2008 at 10:26 am

Hmmm. To lose five pounds (from a normal 1800 calorie diet), you’d need to cut back about about 500 calories a day for about 5 weeks, I’m guessing.
For one day of brownie overload, it’s definitely worth it!!!


Wheeler April 9, 2008 at 11:13 am

Yum! Those brownies look delicious.


uberchik April 11, 2008 at 9:28 am

I’m gonna buy me that brownie pan in the snakey shape so I have crispy edges throughout. YUP


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