Saturday, September 02, 2006

3 Brownies

So, I'm having a bad day with trying to get my car registered here in PA. I feel like I'm on a hamster wheel - running, running, running and getting no where. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that I've been working on this since July, my IN plates are now expired and I will have to wait another week or more to get them. Here's to hoping that any police office that might notice is very forgiving.

Which brings me to brownies. Because we all know a brownies can make a bad day better, right? Actually, I've been on a bit of a brownie kick ever since the weather turned a little cooler. I'm still on a search for that perfect brownie. It has to be out there somewhere!

I alternate between trying new recipes and tweaking old ones. Sometimes I take a new recipe and tweak it without trying it as written. This week I tried 2 new recipes with a few tweaks and tweaked an old recipe.

First I tried this recipe from Sharffen Berger. How can you go wrong with Sharffen Berger, right? Wrong. We didn't like this one at all. I could tell they weren't going to be chocolatey enough right when I was pulling them out of the oven - the were too light in color. Sure enough, they were dry, crumbly and seriously lacking in chocolate. Admittedly they were overdone (though I followed the directions), but I could tell from the flavor - or the lack of - that these were not worth trying again, even with less cooking time. I even used the 70% Cacao Scharffen Berger chocolate which seemed like a big waste considering how little chocolate flavor these had. I definitely won't be making these again.

Next up, I tried a brownie recipe that my niece made in her cooking camp classes. She made these brownies during one of our visits and they had that chewy texture I like, so I decided to try them. They were much better than the recipe above, but still not great.

As I try all of these different recipes, it's so hard to evaluate them. Sometimes a recipe tastes great, but only relative to a previous not-so-great recipe. When I get a good one, it's much easier to see how truly lacking the other recipes are.

That's what I realized when I went back and re-tried the Cook's Illustrated recipe that I keep going back to. This recipe is definitely the closest I've come so far to the perfect brownie. This time I altered the recipe by adding 1 ounce of bittersweet chocolate and using a full 1/2 cup of cocoa. The result was delicious - a moist, intensely chocolate brownie that holds together. It's dense and moist without being gooey - it's even a little chewy. There's something about it, however, that seems a bit off in texture, but I can't put my finger on it. Have you ever had something that looked and seemed moist, but also had a somewhat dry texture too? Like I said, hard to explain. I wonder if it's because I got a little carried away with the cocoa? The chocolate flavor actually has hints of coffee or espresso - perhaps not enough sugar to balance out the cocoa? Maybe a tad bit overdone? Hard to tell, but something's definitely a little off.

I think I want to try another recipe or two, especially one recipe that calls for all cocoa from Alton Brown. I've heard many positive things about these brownies and am curious to try them since I have yet to make an all-cocoa brownie that really appealed to me. To help make evaulation a little easier, I will freeze a few of the Cook's Illustrated brownies to taste alongside any other recipes I try.

It's a very windy, very rainy, very chilly day here in PA. We have some black bean and chorizo chili on the menu and perhaps some baking as well. And I still have a few catch-up recipes to post from earlier in August to post too! I will tune in tomorrow with more recipes...........

Photo from Sharffen
John's Favorite Brownies

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  1. AB's brownies are good. It has been a long time since I made any brownies...hmm
    Back in January I made and posted about brownies from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook that were pretty good also.

    That black bean chorizo chili sounds delish. Is it a CL recipe that I have missed?

  2. Hi Patti. :)

    Okay, I feel dumb, apparently I HAVE tried AB's cocoa brownies! I've made so many, I can't keep track. I'll check your blog for the Martha Brownies...

    The chili is a CL recipe. I posted it today under the What's Cooking thread. It's also in the recipe finder.

  3. This is my favorite recipe. It's best with butter, of course, but the nondairy versions are pretty great, too. Like the Cook's Illustrated recipe, it has 5 ounces of unsweetened chocolate for an intense flavor, but it has a teeny bit less cocoa and slightly more butter for a richer texture.

    Like you, I did have a few experiences in which the brownies came out a bit dry. I finally figured out that I just had to reduce the cooking time from 28 to 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should be moist and a little bit fudgy when the brownies are ready.

  4. Thanks, elf. That recipe is in my "to try" brownie recipe file. :)

    There are so many things to play around with - pan size, ingredient ratios, cooking times - it gets a little overwhelming. I like to tinker a bit, but I'd also love to find a recipe that comes out perfectly the first time. :)

    I've begun a different way of testing for doneness. I have started scooping out a small portion from the middle of the pan to see how it looks, as well as testing the corners. I do this because the really fudgy kind are hard to test with a toothpick - they tend to leave nothing behind, and yet they can be underdone or overdone.

    I can disfigure my tray of brownies until I get the perfect cooking time and then I won't need to test them any more. :)