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Brownies – The Topic


Saffy
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I'm not sure I understand the logic here. Cocoa butter is bland and has very mild flavor. ...

I didn't come to the conclusion via theory, but by comparing results. I can suggest explanations (more expicitly below), but as the British saying goes, the "proof" (i.e. test), of the [brownie] is in the eating.
I don't understand the aversion to cacao either. It imparts a wonderful chocolate flavor to baked goods.

I'm guessing you meant "cocoa," as cacao is the plant, so all recipes use cacao. (Some decades ago I processed "cocoa nibs" into "chocolate liquor" myself -- if anyone doesn't know the last term, it's liquified pure chocolate, not a drink.) But no one who uses whole chocolate can be called averse to cocoa, because we all use cocoa one way or another -- in whole unsweetened chocolate, cocoa constitutes around half the weight. The issue is whether you also use the fat that comes naturally in whole chocolate, or substitute it completely with butter (which is what the cocoa-powder recipes do). Here I have a problem with logic asserting, in effect, that by using only a component of the whole chocolate, you get more chocolate flavor. Again I'm assuming apples-to-apples comparison: two recipes can contain the same mass of "cocoa" solids (one as powder, the other via the cocoa component in whole chocolate), the issue is whether or not to substitute the other chocolate component -- cocoa butter -- with dairy butter.

I acknowledge that my view of cocoa powder wasn't helped by the mediocre industrial product long sold to US home cooks. I gather some powders are now much better, but I'm skeptical of finding dairy butter that contributes more chocolate flavor than natural cocoa butter does.

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The recipe in question calls for dutched cacao powder, semi-sweet chocolate and dairy butter. It make sense to me that the dutched cacao, in addition to the whole chocolate, would impart more chocolate flavor than just doubling the semi-sweet or something. I would think that the addition of the cacao powder would reduce the amount of flour needed in the recipe to get the proper brownie cakiness.

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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.

Slightly off the subject of brownies:

I press unsweetened chocolate liquor as part of my business and I can assure you that most of the flavor is _not_ in the fatty mass--the cocoa butter-- but rather is in the cocoa powder*. I don't use solvent extraction either.

I do agree that using chocolate--without the fat extracted--makes for a richer mouth feel in hot chocolate, but in my opinion, to get the really robust chocolate flavor, it is still a good idea to add some cocoa powder too.

*Edited to clarify a bit.

Edited by A Patric (log)
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The issue is whether you also use the fat that comes naturally in whole chocolate, or substitute it completely with butter (which is what the cocoa-powder recipes do). 

That's not really correct -- most cocoa powders still contain 10-12% cocoa butter. My favorite cocoa powder, Callebaut, is about 22% cocoa butter as I recall. So recipes using cocoa powder do still have some cacao fat. Also, as I'm sure you're aware, chocolates do vary in terms of their cacao solids/cacao butter ratio. Valrhona's new Coeur de Guanaja, for instance, having 34% cacao butter.

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"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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In general I find whole chocolate (when it's good) to have more interesting and more complex flavors than even the best cocoa powder. But cocoa can provide greater intensity. For baking, I think cocoa powders lower in fat offer the most flexibility; they make it easy to mix whole chocolate, cocoa powder, and alternative fats (like butter) to fine tune the flavor, intensity, and mouthfeel.

I have not tasted cocoa powder-based cakes or brownies that are as good as chocolate-based ones. But I often use SOME cocoa powder in my recipes for the flexibility it offers. In my brownie recipe, the cocoa also acts as a drying ingredient ... it works alongside the flour to help hold the things together.

Notes from the underbelly

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Two separate points here. First, I apologize for confused comment characterizing cocoa powder as a sort of waste product. I recall another, less-common chocolate product from reading about chocolate many years ago, like cocoa with the flavoring principles partly extracted, or else it's made from some other part of the cacao pod. In the intervening years, dull mass-market almost fatless US cocoa powder I encountered kindled a blurring of the distinction in my mind. Though I think products can't legally be sold as cocoa powder in US unless whole cocoa. US food regulators have so far resisted big chocolate manufacturers' petitions to permit artificial fats in product sold as whole chocolate -- which underscores the value of cocoa butter. I haven't read up on the regulatory history of cocoa, and probably should. (Note that amazing information is now readily public on the Internet, things like FDA calls for discussions of over-the-counter medication labeling, arguments pro and con and from whom. I believe some of these processes were always public, but archiving them online makes them easily available to more than just specialists.)

The issue is whether you also use the fat that comes naturally in whole chocolate, or substitute it completely with butter (which is what the cocoa-powder recipes do). 

That's not really correct -- most cocoa powders still contain 10-12% cocoa butter ...So recipes using cocoa powder do still have some cacao fat.

It seems my real point wasn't completely clear. It is not disputed by residual fat in cocoa powder.

This thread is about recipes that add substantial fat (usually butter) to whatever form of chocolate they use. Any such recipe specifying cocoa powder, or "adding cocoa for more flavor," is exactly equivalent to using whole chocolate instead, but replacing some of its fat (cocoa butter) with dairy butter. Any amount of cocoa you might add to a recipe can be done alternatively by adding whole chocolate instead (its cocoa-solids content provides the cocoa) and reducing the butter ingredient to correct for the cocoa butter that comes in the whole chocolate. So I'm talking about how much of your brownie's fat is butter, vs cocoa butter. ("Apples-to-apples comparison.") I maintain that given a fixed total fat content, if some of it is cocoa butter, that will impart more, or more complete, but obviously not less, chocolate flavor than if less or none of that total fat is cocoa butter.

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I don't think that's a given, considering the complexity of taste perception. Cocoa butter has very little flavor, whereas butter has quite a bit. I think it's entirely possible that by replacing some of the cocoa butter with dairy butter, the taste imparted by the dairy would enhance the perception of the chocolate. (I'm not stating that this happens, only that it is possible—someone send me some brownies to test and I'll let you know!). Perception is a screwy thing sometimes...

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I'm not a big brownie lover,( I'd rather have cake), but there are two brownies that I've made that I do love.

Zingerman's magic brownie recipe( on my foodblog) and Alice Medrich's recipe which I think is more of a technique. You plunge the almost baked brownie pan into cold water to shock them and stop the cooking. They come out very fudgy!!

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and Alice Medrich's recipe which I think is more of a technique.  You plunge the almost baked brownie pan into cold water to shock them and stop the cooking.  They come out very fudgy!!

I also like Alice's recipe except I use the "Classic Semi-Sweet" variation which omits the ice bath. The recipes are found in her book Bittersweet.

Mark

My eG Food Blog

www.markiscooking.com

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I'm in the mood to make brownies. I like to add chocolate pieces to my brownies but don't like overly sweet brownies. I use organic, fair-trade chocolate and haven't found an organic fair-trade baking chip that I like. Sooooooo, has anyone had experience adding couverture pieces rather than baking chips to brownie batter? I'm afraid I'll just get a big chocolately goop due to the high cocoa butter content. I'd like to use my Cocoa Camino 70% processed into bits for the add-in chocolate. This chocolate has a 40% cocoa butter content. Hmmmmmmmm.....

Any thoughts?

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I'm in the mood to make brownies.  I like to add chocolate pieces to my brownies but don't like overly sweet brownies.  I use organic, fair-trade chocolate and haven't found an organic fair-trade baking chip that I like.  Sooooooo, has anyone had experience adding couverture pieces rather than baking chips to brownie batter?  I'm afraid I'll just get a big chocolately goop due to the high cocoa butter content.  I'd like to use my Cocoa Camino 70% processed into bits for the add-in chocolate.  This chocolate has a 40% cocoa butter content.  Hmmmmmmmm.....

Any thoughts?

I add chocolate from good-quality bars all the time. I've used many different kinds. I add it two ways to my regular brownie recipe so it isn't a substitution, since I still use the same proportions of baking choc and butter. I'm with you, I don't like an overly sweet brownie, and I like a little chocolate boost and sometimes flavor as well. I might add a small amount of extra flour to the recipe, but not a lot.

I take any bittersweet chocolate I like, sometimes just very dark, sometimes dark with orange or mint or even coffee. I might use a half bar at most. About a half of the total I use gets melted along with the butter/baking choc. The rest gets chopped fairly small, and is just stirred in at the very end, instead of or in addition to nuts. Start with a small amount. I guess I don't add enough to really change the nature of my brownies, and I don't like gooey or fudgy brownies--I just like them dense and moist and with good chocolate flavor. Lately I've been using Lindt dark mint. I've used Valrhona orange, and other Valrhona with varying cocoa content as well.

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Thanks for the tips Katie. You and I are brownie twins! I, too, like a dense, moist brownie...

I made 2 different batches today - variations of the King Arthur "On the Fence' brownies and 'Baked' brownies from 'Baked: New Frontiers in Baking'. The latter are supposed to be Oprah's fav.! Here's a blog about the recipe: http://tendercrumb.blogspot.com/2009/02/my...nie-begins.html

I haven't made a cocoa powder based brownie in years. I used Cocoa Camino's cocoa powder for the King Arthur recipe. It was good - but not fabulous in my view. I prefered the Baked brownies. I used Cocoa Camino's 70% but also added in 1/2 cup chopped Cocoa Camino 56% into the batter. The Baked brownies were more moist - yet remained dense. The King Arthur were more dry. Mind you, I reduced (and changed) the sugar in the recipe. Instead of 2-1/4 cups white sugar, I used 1 cup white sugar, 1/2 cup light brown sugar and 1/4 cup Golden syrup (a partially inverted syrup so will keep brownies moist due to reduced sugar). I used the same exact sugars (in the same amounts) for the Baked brownies.

I'm going to try Ann T's Decadent Brownies next - from the recipegullet http://recipes.egullet.org/recipes/r1733.html

I'll use both brown and white sugar (and maybe Golden syrup too!) and add the espresso. I'll also use 1/2 70% and 1/2 semi-sweet for the chocolate.

That'll have to wait until next week. Too many brownies in the house right now. :rolleyes:

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  • 4 years later...

This afternoon I baked up a batch of brownies - my first ever - and they turned out pretty well.  Rich, somewhat chewy, fudgy, and very chocolatey.  One corner was cooked so the edge had a crispy kind of crust to it, something I liked quite a bit.  The contrast between the crust and softer brownie was very appealing.

 

I'd like to know if it's possible to get that crust around the edge without overcooking the brownie's interior.  Maybe a heavier hand with the oil on the pan's sides, perhaps using butter instead of oil for the pan, or .... ?

 

Thanks!

 ... Shel


 

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I've seen special pans that have a lot of interior edge.

 

Yep.  Shel, you ain't the only one that likes those crusty bits.

 

Buy one of these:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Bakers-Edge-Nonstick-Brownie-Pan/dp/B000MMK448

 

Hell, maybe I'll buy you one.

Edited by Jaymes (log)
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I've seen special pans that have a lot of interior edge.

 

Yep.  Shel, you ain't the only one that likes those crusty bits.

 

Buy one of these:

 

http://www.amazon.com/Bakers-Edge-Nonstick-Brownie-Pan/dp/B000MMK448

 

Perhaps you misunderstood my question.  I'm interested in getting that crispier crust without overcooking the inner part of the brownie, leaving that nice a chewy and fudgy.  The pans you mention seem like they'd just give me more edge, but not a more crispy edge.  Is that correct?

 

In doing some poking around, I came across a suggestion by Alice Medrich.  She says that rather than baking brownies at the more typical 325-deg F temperature, one should bake at a higher tem (400-deg she said) for a shorter time.  Any thoughts on her suggestion for crispy edges?

Edited by Shel_B (log)

 ... Shel


 

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I've read that it's easier to get a crust in recipes that have a high sugar content. I couldn't confirm the science, but it sounded plausible. I don't like overly sweet brownies, so I experimented with a simple technique. I withold a half ounce or so of sugar from a recipe (one that would fit in a 9x13 pan) and then add it back at the end, by sprinkling on top. This creates a high concentration of sugar right at the surface, which is all that would matter.

 

I like the results. It gives a crisper crust. The look and texture aren't identical to a conventionally crusty brownie, but I'm ok with it.

 

For sprinkling the sugar, I find it easiest to use a spoon, and just tap the edge of it while going over the whole surface. A small strainer with superfine sugar might be even easier.

Notes from the underbelly

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I've read that it's easier to get a crust in recipes that have a high sugar content. I couldn't confirm the science, but it sounded plausible. I don't like overly sweet brownies, so I experimented with a simple technique. I withold a half ounce or so of sugar from a recipe (one that would fit in a 9x13 pan) and then add it back at the end, by sprinkling on top. This creates a high concentration of sugar right at the surface, which is all that would matter.

 

 

It's great that you're getting a crusty top that way, and more crust on the sides. I prefer not having a crusty top ... just the sides.

 

There seems to be a way to get a crust you like without adding extra sugar:

 

http://acselementsofchocolate.typepad.com/elements_of_chocolate/ACSBrownieChronicles.html

 

Scroll down to Crust or No Crust.

 ... Shel


 

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Shel,

 

 All of my family seems to enjoy the crusty edges :wub: . The best method I have found so far is to me the simplest. I make sure that the pan is well buttered and when I spread the batter in the pan I make sure to keep the center of the pan thicker and leave the batter in a thinner layer all the way around the edges of the pan. 

 

 As the batter bakes and spreads naturally in the heat, this distibution allows the edges to thicken slightly more than I originally started with. This ensures that it is not so thin that it burns, but not so much that I lose the crispy edge I desire. Took me a few times to find the right starting thickness to get the desired results.  Hope this helps.

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It's great that you're getting a crusty top that way, and more crust on the sides. I prefer not having a crusty top ... just the sides.

Kinda reminds me of a lady who used to come into a restaurant I worked in several years ago and order one of our pizzas "very well done but with no brown on the cheese". To allow it to cook enough to get more of the crusty edge without getting more of a crust on top is going to be as much luck as skill. Unless maybe you preheated the pan before dumping in the batter... but then you're going to get more of a crust on the bottom too, not just the sides.

 

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I would think that preheating the well-oiled pan before you put in the batter would get you close to your goal.

 

I'm sure there are ways to do this ... after all, I got a nice crust on about 1/4 of the edge while the top and center of the brownie was nice and chewy and fudgy.  So, if 1/4 of the edge can be crusty, I just have to figure out why that happened and try to get the same result over all the edge.

 

Some thoughts:  Alice Medrich's suggestion of higher heat and shorter cooking time;  using more butter to oil the edge of the pan but not so much on the bottom; preheat pan but, to avoid crust on the bottom, insulate the bottom somehow; there is a mixing technique that practically assures a crusty top, perhaps using that technique and in some way insulating the top of the brownie (tent wit foil, perhaps) to keep the top temp down and reduce the possibility of crusting; I read that baking brownies in glass or darkly colored pans often results in hard or burned edges, so maybe I'll use a darker pan, or one of different material.  Cooling the brownie pan after removing it from the oven stops the hardening process around the edges.  So, perhaps by letting the brownies rest longer in the hot pan, a greater crust might form around the edge. I read that the brownies pull away from the sides of the warm pan, which hardens them.

 

I believe that this can be done, and I'm going to keep trying until I succeed, or until I exhaust the possibilities and my knowledge, and convince myself that I can't do it.

Edited by Shel_B (log)

 ... Shel


 

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Kinda reminds me of a lady who used to come into a restaurant I worked in several years ago and order one of our pizzas "very well done but with no brown on the cheese". To allow it to cook enough to get more of the crusty edge without getting more of a crust on top is going to be as much luck as skill. Unless maybe you preheated the pan before dumping in the batter... but then you're going to get more of a crust on the bottom too, not just the sides.

 

If you freeze the grated cheese and add it frozen to the pizza just before cooking, you can get a well done crust with minimal cheese browning.

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