I’m pretty sure I’ve never made brownies that didn’t involve a box mix. I could be wrong. My memory is dodgy about these things. Still, it’s safe to say I haven’t done it often, or with any proficiency.
Our beloved Ana and Ricardo are coming over tonight, and Ana loves chocolate. I’m not talking “oooh, she loves chocolate (because she’s a girl)”. I mean she’s hooked on the stuff like a junkie on china white.
This, friends, is the time to try my hand at brownies.
Now, remember I’m in Portugal. “Brownies” aren’t a widely recognized delight. Instead, these folks like things involving egg yolks and cinnamon and such. Anise shows up a lot too, as a favorite flavor. Nonetheless, a rich, moist, dense brownie with a delectable flaky hint of a glaze on top is always a winner (provided the eater likes chocolate).
A box mix wasn’t an option. I’m not sure if they have them here for brownies. Whatever. I wasn’t going to look. I’m trying to keep my prego-chunk in check anyway, and if I’m going to eat some nasty-goodness, I’m going to make damned sure it’s worth the calories.
Where to start? 101 Cookbooks, of course.
I settled on this recipe (I did my usual Google-around recipe comparison) because it promises very rich, dense brownies. There weren’t many ingredients, and there weren’t many steps. In short, it seemed hard to screw up, and I was good with that.
Check it out first, and then I’ll tell you my tweaks 🙂
Now, I’m not one to go to the store for ingredients. I fly by the seat of my pants and make what I feel like, for the most part. It’s more fun that way. And it usually works.
- I don’t have any Scharffen Berger chocolate hanging around the house. Instead, I used a whole 200g bar of Nestlé baking chocolate. (The recipe called for 6 ounces Scharffen Berger 70% Bittersweet chocolate, which is 170g of chocolate.) The Nestlé tasted good on its own, and a bit of extra chocolate never hurt anyone (don’t question it.).
- I reserved a few squares of the baking chocolate from the bain-marie (double boiler) and chopped them, along with a few squares from a dark chocolate bar that I already had open. I threw those choco-chunks in with the flour.
- Most of my flour has baking powder mixed into it (self-raising flour). Fluffy, cakey brownies were not my intended product. Therefore, I used my whole-wheat pastry flour (no baking powder). I still used 1 cup.
- I didn’t have any real butter, and I didn’t dare try to pull an olive-oil switch on this one (seemed like a bad idea with melting chocolate). I used margarine. I know…somebody out there just gasped. But it works. Judge me how you must.
- I pan-toasted over a cup of whole almonds, the coarsely chopped them and tossed them in with the flour.
- I took a healthy pinch of ground fleur-de-sal (just use salt. whatev.) and divided it between the eggs and the flour mixture. The recipe seemed like salt would make a nice addition. Maybe I should have used more, but I’m not sure. I think the contrast would be good with the rich sweetness of all that chocolate. I haven’t tasted them yet, however (just pulled them out of the oven!), so I can’t give you a final verdict.
- I noticed the recipe never tells you to take the bain-marie off the heat. No problem, I thought. Possible big problem, I realized, as I mixed the eggs into the chocolate. Luckily, I busted out my whisk in time to prevent scrambled eggs forming in the midst of my rich happy chocolate. I’m no pro at this, so you might know exactly the process for such things. Let me know if you do! Anyway, it worked out just fine.
The brownies were a hit— tasty, moist, and just what we needed. Ana loved them, I loved them, my man loves them…and dear Ricardo (who doesn’t care for chocolate) game me a Michelin star for my efforts 🙂 (Awwwwwwww….)
Here’s a shot of one of the last few remaining brownies:
There were no surprise nuggets of chocolate as I’d hoped, since the chocolate in the flour melted when I mixed everything together. Perhaps sprinkling the chocolate chunks/ incorporating them with a knife into the mix once everything is in the pan would have worked.
Toasted almonds are awesome in brownies.
I think this recipe will be my go-to brownie solution. It would certainly do justice to high-quality chocolate, and I can imagine the 70% dark chocolate would have made for a truly impressive brownie. As far as I can tell, this is simple enough (once you get comfortable with the double-boiler situation…it really isn’t hard!) to use with any variation of the key ingredients.
I do recommend going with the whole wheat pastry flour— there’s a lot of chocolate and sugar involved here, so anything you can do to moderate your blood sugar spike is a good thing 😉 It didn’t affect the taste or texture as far as I could tell, so you might as well, right?
If anyone would like a coherent recipe with my tweaks incorporated, I’m more than happy to do it. Just let me know!
Now, I have to check on my no-butter scones in the oven… (with extra wheat germ thrown in, of course!)