The Great Brownie Quest Continues

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So, if you regularly read our Monday post, you probably already know that we have a slight obsession with brownies.  It runs so deep, I may have even written a haiku once about these deliciously chocolatey baked goods.  The problem is that when you are so enamored with a thing, the actual quality of that thing becomes infinitely more important. For us at the library, quality in a brownie is a combination of dark, complex, not-too-sweet chocolate flavor and a rich, gooey texture.  Anything that lacks a bit of a bitter edge or feels too much like cake on your tongue just doesn’t cut it for us.  Thus the search for the perfect brownie recipe began.

We’ve highlighted three brownie recipes from three different cookbooks, and so far none has satisfied our particular ken for brownie nirvana.  When I came upon The Ultimate Brownie Book, I thought “Maybe?”, and I gave it a two recipe try.  First was the Buttermilk  brownies.  Rich, dark brownie flavor with less sweetness and more complexity—perfect flavor.  But sadly, the texture was dry and crumbly.  Not the holy grail of brownies for me.  The second was mayonnaise brownies.  Yes, mayonnaise.  This time the texture was perfect—crackly chewiness in the corners combined with a soft, fudgy, just this side of totally cooked middle—Yum.  However, with only a half a cup of cocoa powder, the lack of complex flavor was a serious drawback.  Sweet was the overwhelming flavor.  So, the quest continues.  More brownies, more tasting.  Darn.

Buttermilk Brownies

1 c all purpose flour, plus additional for the pan

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 t salt

½ t baking powder

12 T unsalted butter plus additional for the pan, at room temperature

4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or semisweet chocolate chips

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 ½ c sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 ½ c buttermilk

2 t vanilla extract

Position the rack in the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9×13 baking pan; set it aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder until well combined.  Set aside. Place the butter and both kinds of chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water.  If you don’t have a double boiler place the butter and both kinds of chocolate in a heat safe bowl that fits snugly over a small pot of simmering water.  Stir constantly until half the butter and chocolate is melted.  Remove the top of the double boiler or the bowl from the pot; continue stirring, away from the heat, until the butter and chocolate are completely melted.  Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs and egg yolks with an electric mixer at medium speed.  Continue beating until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 6 minutes.  Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla at low speed for 1 minute.  Then beat in the chocolate mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Continue beating until the mixture is uniform and smooth, about 3 minutes.

With a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Do not beat.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it gently to the corners.  Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the pan three or four times against the oven rack.  Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.  Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Cut the brownies into 24 pieces while they’re still in the pan.  Carefully remove them with an offset spatula.  Serve immediately, or let cool completely before covering with plastic wrap for storage at room temperature.  They will stay fresh for up to 3 days.

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