Monday, June 24, 2013

The Best Brownies

Again, I’ve been sidetracked by writing and design work. I’m hoping that over the next few months I’ll have everything wrestled to the ground enough that I can get back to regular posts here.

By way of making amends, I have a tasty little post today for a basic, simple and very good dessert that most people adore – especially if they love chocolate.

This was supposed to be a large pile, but, well…they're
that good. This is the “less-chocolate” version.
I first had brownies from this recipe forty-three years ago (gulp!) when I first began going out with the soon-to-be love of my life. Vicki’s mom went way up in my estimation when, right after the first meal I’d ever had with the family, she brought out a plate stacked high with her homemade brownies. It was love at first bite, and we’ve gone on to devour many more such plates as the years have passed.

The recipe shortly found its way into our small box filled with index cards of treasured family recipes. After my own mother died, taking away with her a number of my favorite dishes that she had never written down and I’d never bothered to ask about, I decided that I didn’t want this to happen to our kids, so I digitized everything we had. This turned out to be the basis of Blechta’s in the Kitchen, our legendary family cookbook, of which we’ve produced in two editions for special Christmas gifts to give family and friends.

Today, I’m presenting to all of you out there Florence Woolsey’s recipe for what we fondly call The Best Brownies. Generally, when we serve these to guests, they want the recipe. Being the lazy sod I am, I can now send them here for it. They’re generally more cakey than some brownie recipes, but I’ll pass on a few secrets to make these come out any way you’d like.

And that brings me to a very curious thing. The original recipe calls for Bakers Brand chocolate squares and gives a number (2) but also a weight (4 oz). I decided to make these a year or so back using some Ghirardelli chocolate I had on hand. Out comes the scale and I weighed out 4 oz of chocolate. Wait a minute! This looks like a lot more chocolate than I’d get out of two squares of Bakers. After a quick research trip to the grocery store, I discovered that Bakers squares have dropped in weight over the years or something, because they now weigh only 1 ounce!

I made the brownies going by the weight of the chocolate to see how much of a difference it made. (The chemistry would obviously still work so I knew I wasn’t risking some rather expensive ingredients.) The difference was quite amazing. Wanting to be fully researched on this, I then made a batch going by the number of squares called for (which is what my mother-in-law does) and the results were identical to hers, and obviously less chocolatey – but still quite good.

So here’s the deal: if you want a more cakey, slightly less chocolately sort of brownie, use 2 squares (2 oz) of semi-sweet chocolate. If you want a super chocolatey brownie, double that amount (4 squares or 4 oz), but be prepared for your brownies to have a more fudgey sort of texture. Cooking these ones a bit more will dry them out to the point where they’re nearly cakey, but not as much as the version with the smaller amount of chocolate.

Clear? If it’s not, drop me a line, and I’ll connect you to our Brownie Expert. Which do I prefer, you might ask? I can’t quite decided, but I’ll have a scoop of vanilla ice cream with mine, please!

The Best Brownies
Makes an 8"x 8" pan (but nearly everyone doubles the recipe)

2 squares Bakers semi-sweet chocolate (2 oz) for the Flo Woolsey version
4 squares (4oz) for the super chocolately one
½ cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup sifted flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Cool and transfer to a mixing bowl.
3. Add sugar, then add eggs and beat until fluffy. Stir in vanilla.
4. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt, then add to wet mixture and mix gently until blended.
5. Fold in nuts.
6. Cut out a square of parchment paper to line the bottom of your baking pan and pour in the mixture, evening it out with a spatula.
7. Bake on a high shelf in the oven for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester or knife comes out clean. Be careful! It can overcook easily. Turn them out onto a cooling rack once they’ve been out of the oven for 10 minutes or so.