Category Archives: Brownies

How to Make “French” Brownies

This photograph is but a peek into the irretrievable past. How so? Because I’ve eaten all these already. Don’t judge me, I can’t help myself. I might even make them again this weekend. I’ll start by preheating my oven to 300 and preparing a baking pan as in the previous brownie recipe. Then I’ll combine my dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together to combine:

Next I’ll turn my attention to the raisins. I’ll put them in a small sauté pan over high heat and add the water.

Once they’re softened like so, I’ll flame them in the rum (not shown since I’d set my camera on fire).

Then I’ll melt the chocolate. I’ll break it up into pieces and microwave it for 20 second, stir it, and give it another ten seconds. I’ll stir for another 30 seconds or so, then zap it again for ten and so on, until it’s all melted.

The I’ll add the butter…

…and stir until it’s roughly smooth.

After that, it’ll be batter time. I’ll put the eggs and sugar together in the bowl of a mixer and beat on medium-high until they’re pale and frothy, about two minutes.

With the mixer on low I’ll add the chocolate mixture…

…and stir until a thick batter forms, about 30 seconds.

I’ll do the same with the dry ingredients…

…and I won’t worry that all the flour isn’t incorporated after 30 seconds.

Lastly I’ll fold in the raisins by hand, and in the process, incorporate the last of the flour.

Then I’ll scrape the batter into a pan.

I’ll bake it for 50 minutes to an hour, cool it on a rack, and lift the whole thing out by the foil. Lastly I’ll cut the brownies into two inch squares and eat them greedily. Yeah…that’s exactly what I’ll do. And I’ll have absolutely no regrets.

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“French” Brownie Recipe

Dorie Greenspan calls these her “French” brownies, not just because she invented them while living in Paris, but because her point of departure was French fondant (which on that side of the pond is a kind of cake). All that is beside the point to me, as I consider this recipe to be the highest expression to date of the American brownie-making art. These are my personal died-and-gone-to-heaven brownies. As a chocolate experience, I vastly prefer them to flourless chocolate cake, which is so decadently chocolate-y as to be almost profane. These are dense and rich, but somehow also light. Try them, friends. With or without the raisins, they are a phenomenon. The formula is:

2.5 ounces (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
6 ounces (12 tablspoons) butter at room temperature
3 eggs
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar

Begin by preheating your oven to 300. Prepare an 8″ square baking pan by lining it with foil and greasing it with butter. Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Place the raisins in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the water. As the moisture boils away, the raisins will plump. If you wish, you can add the rum at this point. Swirl the pan to warm the liquor, then (carefully) ignite it and flame the raisins until the alcohol is burned off. Set the raisins aside to cool.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (Ms. Greenspan uses a double-boiler) as directed in the previous brownie recipe below. When the chocolate is smooth and warm, add the butter and stir until it’s melted.

Next, combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and whip until the sugar and eggs are light in color, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, add the chocolate mixture and whip another 30 seconds until a thick batter forms. Add the flour and whip only another 30 seconds or so. The flour may not be completely incorporated, not to worry. Picking up the nearest spatula, add the raisins and fold them in.

Scrape the mixture into the pan and bake on a middle rack for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool completely, then de-pan them by picking up the tin foil and lift the whole mass out. Cut into 2″ square and serve!

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Classic Brownies

Yes, pretty much all old-school brownie recipes had nuts in them. If you don’t like nuts, just hang on, I’ll put up a recipe without them. These are about as moist a brownie as I like. Some recipes have so little flour in them, they might as well be fudge. Not being a fudge person, this is as far as I’m willing to go. Start by lining an 8″ square pan with aluminum foil. Cut two long strips that are just under eight inches in width…

…and lay them in. Grease the pan with butter.

Now then. Melt your chocolates together in the microwave as directed in the recipe below. When the chocolate is fully melted and still warm, add the butter pieces and whisk until they’re melted as well.

Whisk in the sugar.

Yes, it will make the chocolate appear as though it’s “seized”. Trust me though, it hasn’t. Add the eggs one by one…

…and your espresso powder and vanilla.

Lastly, and lightly, whisk in the flour and salt. Whisk only as long as it takes to incorporate the flour.

Then, with a spatula, fold in the nuts.

Then just spread the whole mess into the pan and bake about 35 minutes, until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

There now, that was pretty easy, wasn’t it? Miracle devices, these bar cookies. So little hassle, and so much reward.

To de-pan them, cool the pan on a rack until the brownies are room temperature, then just lift them out in one piece by grasping the edges of the foil lining (it helps to have another set of hands for that maneuver).

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Brownies: The Classic Recipe

Here’s a recipe for brownies that’s not so far off from early brownie recipes, save for the fact that it has a good deal more chocolate. I confess I mostly swiped it from Dorie Greenspan, but if you’re going to steal, why not steal from the best? The woman is deeply serious about brownies. Her most recent book, Baking: From My Home to Yours contains over a dozen recipes for them. That, my friends, is commitment.

2.5 ounces (5 tablespoons) butter, in pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
½ teaspoon salt
1.75 ounces (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 325. Prepare an 8-inch square pan by lining it with aluminum foil and buttering it.

Combine the chopped chocolates in a microwave-safe bowl and insert into a microwave. Zap on high for 20 seconds, stir, then apply as many more 10-second bursts as it takes to melt it all the way, stirring for 30 seconds to a minute between heatings. When the chocolate is smooth, add the butter and stir until completely melted (apply microwaves once more if need be). Whisk in the sugar, then the eggs one by one, then the vanilla, espresso, salt and finally the flour, whisking only enough to incorporate it. Fold in the walnuts with a spatula.

Bake on a middle rack for 25 minutes, then rotate and check for doneness. The brownies will take about 35-40 minutes. Cool the brownies completely, then gingerly lift them out of the pan on the foil (if you can recruit an extra set of hands for this, so much the better). Cut into 2-inch squares.

Filed under:  Brownies, Desserts & Cookies | 4 Comments