28 May 2009

Tartine's Brownies

Tartine Brownies (with title)
I'm not too good at remembering my dreams. There are a few that stick out in my consciousness-- like my favorite one, where I am being chased by a dinosaur on ice, and I have my hockey skates on. It wasn't scary, the feeling was more like being on an amusement park ride, with obstacles. In some of my more boring dreams, I am driving and it's totally natural, not the stiff and nervous way I drive in real life. I had one bizarre dream where I got married to a friend of mine, and there's totally nothing there (unless my subconscious is telling me otherwise), but at the reception I start talking to her, quite worriedly, that we don't have any money to fulfill our dreams together. It seems that I have to wreck even my dreams with my real-life worries.
Tartine Brownies (close-up)
Some of my recurring dreams involve me sitting in a classroom, in a weird class which is an illogical mix of my classmates all the way from elementary school to medical school. Nothing happens, but there's chats about topics I don't remember. I've had the dream where I show up in school in my underpants (maybe my brain has a protective mechanism that prevents me from showing up naked, lest I die of night terrors). But I've never had a dream where I cook or eat something fantastic. Maybe my conscious mind is already tired of it.

However, there are those times when you see something on a display window and it looks totally dreamy, but it turns out to be a disappointment. Surrounded by hundreds of lovely confections (though I realize by now there are tons better), the brownies at Godiva chocolatiers do look fantastic, but one bite shatters the dream. Fine, it's acceptably chocolatey, but the bitter, soapy taste of chemical leaveners (baking powder most likely) destroys it.
Bastard Brownies
Then there are those brownies you see at the display cases of grocery bakeries, which I once described to Duncan as those brownies that come to the United States with hopes of living the American Dream, before they fall by the wayside and get totally whored up with vile chocolatey vomit, M&Ms, sprinkles, Maltesers, icing, a plastic "Happy St. Patrick's Day!", and, weirdest of all, a mini-candy bar, still in its wrapper. The brownie pimp wins again. (Why I bought it, I don't know. Hunger?)
Bakery brownie ingredients
And look at the ingredients list. US Standards mandate that the ingredients be listed in order of decreasing weight, and of course sugar, oil, and corn syrup precede anything that has to do with chocolate. And I appreciate the effort, but I don't think the paprika (?!) added anything of value to this brownie.

This recipe is again from one of my favorite cookbooks, Tartine. I recently reviewed it over at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf, finally!

The brownie recipe from the Tartine cookbook is the answer to all these brownie nightmares. It only has 5 main ingredients, and salt and vanilla. However, I didn't have the easiest time making these: I scaled the recipe down and cut the baking time. After cooling, I tried to take it out, and the top crust shattered, the insides still batter-y. Bake for 10 more minutes. Uncooked. Bake some more-- till I'd baked it the same time as a big one. Still uncooked. Bake some more, beyond what a large pan would take. Still uncooked. Dismayed, I threw the whole thing in the freezer. Lo and behold, it emerged from the ice as a brownie of undeniable decadence. It now looked and cut like a brownie, and all my extended family greedily gobbled it all up before Christmas dinner was even presented. They told me I couldn't leave for the States, otherwise who'd make the brownies again?

Tartine's Brownies from Tartine
Maybe I should start calling these the brownies you can't overbake. My only advice would be to cool it completely before attempting to cut, or take out of the pan. These brownies are just as awesome straight out of the fridge or freezer as they are at room temperature, so that may be a plus for you somehow.

  • 170g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 455g (1 pound) bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 130g (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) all purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs
  • 395g (2 cups) light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line a 9x13 glass baking dish with parchment.

In a small saucepan or a microwaveable bowl, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat/microwave and stir in the chocolate. If it's not fully melted, return over low heat for 10 seconds or microwave on LOW power for 15 second-intervals, stirring in between, until it is melted. Cool completely.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat on high speed for about 4-5 minutes, after which the batter will fall from the whisk in thick ribbons that slowly sinks into the surface. Fold the chocolate into the eggs with a rubber spatula. Sift the flour over the surface and fold in gently. Pour into the dish and smooth the top. Bake for 25 minutes (the top will slightly crack-- a cake tester won't be accurate for this one).
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