Thursday, July 10, 2014

Smitten Kitchen's Best Cocoa Brownies - To Heal The Broken Hearts

When I get bad news, my first instinct is to head to the kitchen to lose myself in a recipe. Or two. Or three.

And so it was when I got the call and the first words pretty much were, "Anne, he's gone." The gut punch.  I do the mental math and the months between our ages barely matter to any statistician.  In the sadness of it all, my own mortality blankets the scene. "It could just as easily have been me. Or my mister. Or my brother..."

I don't think I am terribly unique to find refuge in the kitchen as funeral plans are formulating around another kitchen table down the road.  The burners and ovens are blazing for the usual cast of characters.  Food that can feed plenty but also freezes well. Lasagnas, chickens, chilis, stews, casseroles.  Then there are the treats.  There is a bit of irony baking up a calorie laden, sugar and butter weighted treat on such a sorrowful occasion. But desserts are tradition.  There will be company and tea times.

So this time I hit the larder to see what I had on hand and I knew I could double up a batch of Smitten Kitchen's Best Cocoa Brownies.  Chewy, dense chocolate.  Its sweetness hidden behind the deep cocoa.  Its buttery-ness married with eggs, for a firm lava. No need for icing.

A gift for you to heal the broken hearts.  From my kitchen to yours.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen who adapted from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet

280 grams unsalted butter
500 grams sugar
130 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, cold
130 grams all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.  Lightly grease a 9"x13" cake pan and line with parchment that continues up the sides and over the edge.  The lightly greased pan will help the parchment stay in place and not fold in on top of the batter.  The overhang of parchment will help to lift the baked brownies from the pan.

Warm the butter in a heatproof bowl to almost melting using your microwave.  Add the sugar, cocoa and salt and stir. Place the bowl over a boiling water and stir the mixture occasionally until fully incorporated and the batter is quite warm to the touch.  The batter will seem somewhat grainy.

Using an electric hand mixer add the vanilla extract.

Let the batter cool to warm.  Then add each egg one at a time and use the hand mixer to blend.

Add the flour in three batches and use the hand mixer to blend.  When all the flour has been added, mix the batter for another 45 seconds on low.

Pour half the batter in one end of the pan.  Add the chopped walnuts to the remaining batter and pour into the other end of the pan.  This way your can keep your nutty fans happy and also the not so nutty.  Even out the batter with an offset spatula.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool.  Set the cooked brownies in the fridge or freezer.  When you cut into it, you will have clean edges.  Remove the pan from the fridge or freezer and remove the brownies from the pan by lifting on the parchment.  Trim the edges and then divide into squares.

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