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Brownies – The Topic


Saffy
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Slightly OT, but why is it that while we bake all sorts of tasty, creative, labor of love confections, our brownie orders outnumber everything else combined, by about 3 to 1? Just the aforementioned Betty Crocker recipe, too. :blink:

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Slightly OT, but why is it that while we bake all sorts of tasty, creative, labor of love confections, our brownie orders outnumber everything else combined, by about 3 to 1?  Just the aforementioned Betty Crocker recipe, too. :blink:

Bearbones11

Here are the reasons I can give you for the popularity of the brownie:

Portability - no fork needed, no refrigeration needed; almost immediate satisfaction and sedation (yes, a brownie is almost as good as a Midol during PMS Week); versatility (brownie trifle, brownie alaska); and just the smell of them, especially right out of the oven.

When the local ambulance corps has an event, they always ask me for a brownie donation.

PaulRaphael -

When I made my giant brownie, I told the hosts to cut it into 1"x2" slices, so as to not overwhelm the eater. I agree with you that a standard cut of 2"x2" would be too much at one time.

Theresa

Theresa :biggrin:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

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Slightly OT, but why is it that while we bake all sorts of tasty, creative, labor of love confections, our brownie orders outnumber everything else combined, by about 3 to 1?  Just the aforementioned Betty Crocker recipe, too. :blink:

Brownies rule! Not quite a cake, not quite a cookie; a texture and substance that is nearly perfect. While the OP might be bothered by it, they are clearly highly adaptable: you can add all manner of nuts, cream cheese or other toppings, flavorings, sauces, ice cream, whatever, and the brownie takes it all without complaint. Serve them hot, serve them cold. Good for any occasion or time of day. When the question is, "Would you like a brownie?" the answer is always, Yes!

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

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You said no nuts or other inclusions, but how about a brownie made from black beans? Found a recipe...source now lost....from Baking With Agave Nectar: Over 100 Recipes Using Nature's Ultimate Sweetener by Ania Catalano. (Ten Speed Press 2008) calling for black beans and sweetened by agave syrup.

Hey! I am just the messenger! :raz:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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These are my favorites. They have the most intense chocolate flavor of any brownie I've ever had. The baking temperature is low, so you should be able to make them as thick as you want just by varying baking time ... but I haven't experimented with this.

I'm going to experiment with the recipe soon to add just a bit more crumb and structure to them. But that's just me being OCD.

Notes from the underbelly

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These are my favorites. They have the most intense chocolate flavor of any brownie I've ever had. The baking temperature is low, so you should be able to make them as thick as you want just by varying baking time ... but I haven't experimented with this.

I'm going to experiment with the recipe soon to add just a bit more crumb and structure to them. But that's just me being OCD.

I googled OCD and found that one, but can't find a useful explanation of Underbelly. That is the second recipe I have found for that title. Please, what is it? Thanks.

The brownies sound wonderful. :wub:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Oh man, for crackly top, cakey-fudgy all at the same time, I use this recipe:

King Arthur Flour's Never Fail

And yes, I do stir in the chocolate chips so that they will melt into the whole thing.

Brownies are a wonderful thing.

This is also my go-to brownie recipe. They used to call it On-The-Fence Brownies. Soooo good!

Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Orison Swett Marden

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That is the second recipe I have found for that title.  Please, what is it?  Thanks.

The brownies sound wonderful. :wub:

Since the idea was to get as much dark chocolate into the brownies as possible (without them falling apart), "heart of darkness" seemed like a fitting name. I also happen to like Joseph Conrad...

Later I found out that some cookbook author was using the same name for a completely different brownie recipe (not much chocolate; tons of candy and stuff in the batter. The horror! The horror!)

Edited by heidih (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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Surely such a brownie could be created--but if it is going to be just fudgy chocolate, in other words, chocolate diluted iwth nothing but flour, sugar, egg, and butter, well, I'd rather have the straight chocolate. Or limit the diluents to butter, egg, and cream, and make a mousse instead.

I only make brownies if I want to play chocolate off on something else--nuts, fruit, spices, different textures of brownie part vs frosting, etc.

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http://mentalexperimental.org/?p=34

This was my final after about 4 revisions, but I'm in the process of trying to reduce the amount of cocoa in favor of upping the chocolate in the recipe. I prefer a 60-70% cocao chocolate for this, and a decent one. Ghirardelli or Guittard, but preferably Callebaut.

My next trial will probably be reducing the cocoa by 1/2, upping the chocolate to double again, and adding 1/8 cup more flour to compensate for the loss of cocoa.

By the by, the first time I made the recipe I did it in an 8x8. They were only about an inch thick, so if you want a thicker brownie you'd have to double it.

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to get the crackly top you like, it's all about the particle size of the sugar, believe it or not. it's called 'flinting', and the finer the particle size of your sugar is, the better (or more) flinting, you'll find.

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to get the crackly top you like, it's all about the particle size of the sugar, believe it or not.  it's called 'flinting', and the finer the particle size of your sugar is, the better (or more) flinting, you'll find.

Therefore, if flinting is your primary goal, it's better to use superfine sugar, rather than straight granulated.

Since superfine has less air space between grains than granulated, does it have more sweetening power? And if so, then what would the exchange be to get the same sweetening power as say, 1 cup of sugar?

Theresa :biggrin:

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

- Abraham Lincoln

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In my experience, to get a crackly top conventionally takes a higher sugar content than what I want. I like dark, dark, bittersweet chocolate!

There's a simple solution. Hold back a little bit of sugar from the recipe, and sprinkle it on top before baking. I know it sounds too simple to work, but it does.

Notes from the underbelly

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And if you, like most of us, prefer the crusty, crunchy brownies baked along the edge of the pan, you should try one of these little genius items:

Brownie Edge Pans

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Theoretically, it'd be sweeter because it has more surface area. however, in reality, powdered sugar almost always has a flow agent added to it to prevent caking, and as such, that cuts the sweetness. Net/Net - use it at a 1:1 and you'll be just fine.

to get the crackly top you like, it's all about the particle size of the sugar, believe it or not.  it's called 'flinting', and the finer the particle size of your sugar is, the better (or more) flinting, you'll find.

Therefore, if flinting is your primary goal, it's better to use superfine sugar, rather than straight granulated.

Since superfine has less air space between grains than granulated, does it have more sweetening power? And if so, then what would the exchange be to get the same sweetening power as say, 1 cup of sugar?

Theresa :biggrin:

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I've made very dense chewey brownies since the 1960s. I use the recipe to test out different types of chocolate. (Which often come in the form called semi-sweet or "dark" choc. in US and "sweet chocolate" in UK, though the original recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, so if using semi-sweet, which is a mix of sugar and unsweetned choc., I adjust the recipe of course). The same recipe is called "fudge pie" if it's baked, thick, in a bottom crust (then served with heavy, unsweetened whipped cream -- a choice combination). Using the high-quality solid chocolates now available, these brownies can be superb, the quality of the chocolate shows through.

It's the standard brownie recipe in mid-century eds. of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook probably intact in a recent edition. Chocolate, sugar, flour, butter, egg (I think optional Vanilla extract and a touch of salt). I use the variation called Harvard brownies ("especially rich and chewey") - the basic recipe but with only one egg, not two, and cooked slowly, 300 degrees F. Tops are always dry and crinkly. Buttered waxed paper in the pan before the batter makes removal easy. For a very thick version, make more batter and cook like fudge pie but in a pan instead of crust, and cook very s l o w l y so it cooks through, but without drying the top too much. This source and probably others have the exact recipe online. ("Harvard brownies" are among variations at the bottom. Nuts, obviously, are optional.)

Important tips for any dense brownies:

Avoid leavenings of any kind (baking soda or powder) -- this is fairly obvious

I'm doubtful of any brownie recipe employing cocoa powder. When cacao beans are processed into chocolate (I've done it myself), most of the flavor is in a fatty mass, sometimes extracted with solvents. "Cocoa" is the dry fiber left over. It has historically been heavily promoted in the US and is less often found in recipes elsewhere. But traditionally, intensely chocolate-flavored foods, including "hot chocolate," are made from whole chocolate, not cocoa.

Edited by MaxH (log)
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Since superfine has less air space between grains than granulated, does it have more sweetening power? And if so, then what would the exchange be to get the same sweetening power as say, 1 cup of sugar?

Weigh the sugar?

I just baked the King Arthur Flour Brownies and OMG. It's my new "go-to"! :wub:

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I'm doubtful of any brownie recipe employing cocoa powder. When cacao beans are processed into chocolate (I've done it myself), most of the flavor is in a fatty mass, sometimes extracted with solvents. "Cocoa" is the dry fiber left over. It has historically been heavily promoted in the US and is less often found in recipes elsewhere. But traditionally, intensely chocolate-flavored foods, including "hot chocolate," are made from whole chocolate, not cocoa.

I sort of disagree. Cocoa is not a bad thing. Almost all great brownie recipes I have used over the years as a professional pastry chef have used cocoa. Cocoa solids are the most concentrated form of chocolate there is. With cocoa you have a greater chance of adding chocolate flavor to your recipe without adding additional fat to throw your recipe off balance.

I would agree with you in the sense that whole chocolate has cocoa butter as it's fat, so there is a heightened cocoa enhancement.

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gallery_53129_4592_26990.jpg

Tartine's Brownies, which has only the five basic ingredients, plus salt and vanilla. Kind of problematic w/r/t the baking but really good. The sugar is brown sugar, but with the amount of time spent whipping it with the eggs for leavening, it's bound to leave behind a shattery crust.

I am, however, the type of person to prefer brownies to plain chocolate. Also agree with chefpeon; cocoa can turn out a respectable brownie. I just haven't made it. But they can make really deeply chocolatey cakes (the ones that call for boiling the cocoa in a sugar syrup, not recipes like Pierre Herme's cocoa cake).

Edited by jumanggy (log)

Mark

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - Collaborative book reviews about food and food culture. Submit a review today! :)

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I have my own favorite brownie recipe that i tweked for high altitude, but today I tryed the King Arthur one, since I have never made cocoa powder ones ( I too thought that a brownie should be made only with dark and unsweetned chocolate) anyway, dutch processed cocoa powder is very hard to find in stores ( I need to order some to keep handy) so I got some organic raw cocoa powder at my local Vitamin cottage. The brownie are amazingly chocolaty, very dark rich flavor not too sweet and almost slightly bitter from the cocoa powder, very good recipe wow. I think I did overbaked a bit since the edges are a little bit too hard, I might have to add some more liquid since in high altitude flour tends to absorb more moisture out of the batter ( is an issues also with bread making). Anyway, I was happy with the recipe nice shiny top.

Edited by Desiderio (log)

Vanessa

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I have my own favorite brownie recipe that i tweked for high altitude, but today I tryed the King Arthur one, since I have never made cocoa powder ones ( I too thought that a brownie should be made only with dark and unsweetned chocolate) anyway, dutch processed cocoa powder is very hard to find in stores ( I need to order some to keep handy) so I got some organic raw cocoa powder at my local Vitamin cottage.

These folks Askinosie Chocolate produce what well may be the best cocoa powder in the US.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Sugar types: chefpeon is right on the money. Don't spend time guessing grain sizes and densities, just weigh the sugars -- a true measure. Regarding dessicants in "confectioner's" sugar, I recall 3% corn starch in US retail products (when I had the data), which would have negligible effect on density or sweetness. You could always check that content with the manufacturer and adjust the weight, if still concerned. Problem solved.

Tartine's brownie recipe (per Jumanggy): Note, by my admittedly quick check, this is essentially a tripling of the classic Fannie Farmer recipe, adjusted for semi-sweet chocolate, and with light brown sugar replacing the rest of the white (for a mild penuche effect, as in fudge; I've done that too, it's not bad). Jumanggy's photos look much like the brownies from the FF recipe (if you remove them more carefully, while pan is still hot, they hold together more).

Isort of disagree. Cocoa is not a bad thing. Almost all great brownie recipes I have used over the years as a professional pastry chef have used cocoa. Cocoa solids are the most concentrated form of chocolate there is. With cocoa you have a greater chance of adding chocolate flavor to your recipe without adding additional fat to throw your recipe off balance. / I would agree with you in the sense that whole chocolate has cocoa butter as it's fat, so there is a heightened cocoa enhancement.

Sorry if I gave impression of asserting cocoa is "bad" in any absolute sense, or that you can't make good brownies with it. Cocoa retains some of the fatty and flavorful material of chocolate, but it is essentially a part of whole chocolate. What do you think is left, when all that cocoa butter is extracted for its many commercial uses (not just in food)? My main point is that I believe a blind taste test would prefer brownies made with whole chocolate, given otherwise similar recipes (including same total fat content).

Point on cocoa not adding "additional fat to throw your recipe off balance" might be excellent for some recipes -- I agree such flexibilities are powerful. But it's out of place here: the proven whole-chocolate brownie recipes that I and Jumanggy linked add butter in addition to whole chocolate (about equal amounts, in my recipe), so even whole chocolate does not itself contain enough fat, by a large margin. (And having tasted these brownies, I'd be loathe to reduce the fat. They still give a less "fattly" taste or mouth-feel than many cookies do.)

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What do you think is left, when all that cocoa butter is extracted for its many commercial uses (not just in food)?  My main point is that I believe a blind taste test would prefer brownies made with whole chocolate, given otherwise similar recipes (including same total fat content).

I'm not sure I understand the logic here. Cocoa butter is bland and has very mild flavor. The flavor is concentrated in the cacao solids, not the fat.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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