Monday 10 June 2013

In Search of the Perfect Brownie....

Before you read this post, I should warn you that its quite a long one, and I apologize in advance, but I guess this is a topic that I'm really passionate about. Chocolate brownies!

I love chocolate. In any form. It always amazes me how a tiny square of this dark brown, bittersweet deliciousness can instantly make the world a happier place! And when in comes in the shape of a gooey, fudgy brownie, well, you really can't ask for too much more, can you? However, I have to say that I am one of those people who DO NOT like cakey brownies. Nothing irritates me more than ordering a brownie at a restaurant or cafe and getting a piece of 'chocolate walnut cake' cut into a square! 

So now that you all know on which side of the fence I rest when it comes to the cakey versus the fudgy brownie, let me share with you my little brownie saga. Lately I've been trying out quite a few brownie recipes, but not really finding one that ticks off all the boxes on my checklist.

1. Crispy, wafer-like top
2. Gooey, rich center
3. Easy to make. There are a lot of recipes that call for a ridiculous number of eggs, or the use of melted chocolate, which let's admit, is a bit of a pain. Because in brownies, I think cocoa works just as well, and I can't be bothered to chop up bits of chocolate and melt it each time I want to whip up a batch of brownies.

Anyway, this Saturday was a nice slow day and when an old school chum who is working on a project in Mathura (a town a few hours away) told us he was dropping in for the weekend, I decided to use him as a guinea pig. He has a real sweet tooth and has been asking me to make him a batch of brownies for a while now. Perfect opportunity to do some more trials!

I have finally managed to work out a recipe which is inspired by the one on the Epicurious website. However I did make a few changes to this recipe. I used salted butter instead of unsalted, because I thing the extra salt worked quite well. I also added a little milk, because I found the melting of the butter with the cocoa and sugar a bit difficult without it. I also replaced the walnuts with roasted almonds because I didn't have walnuts at home. That was a mistake. I really wasn't too happy with how this worked out.

On the whole, I was quite happy with the overall taste, but I was still a little disappointed with the the top crust that is such an integral part of any good brownie. However after a little research  on how to achieve that perfect crust, I discovered that the crispy top of a brownie is actually a layer of meringue! It forms by beating the mixture very well after the eggs are added, but before adding the flour. I'll definitely remember this the next time I make brownies! Another change I'll make is to use powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar. Hopefully this will improve the look of the crust that forms.

All the obsessive experimenting aside, I love it when the things you make disappear quite quickly. And these brownies did. I guess that's another one of my 'Monica' traits. 

So, if you're like me, and you love brownies the way I do, all gooey and rich, then here's the recipe....

3/4 cup butter

2 tbsp milk

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cold eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup walnuts

And here's what you do...

Add the butter, sugar, cocoa and milk to a microwave proof bowl and heat it on high a minute at a time, till the mixture is smooth and runny. Allow to cool.

When the mixture is only slightly warm, add the eggs, one at a time, while continuously beating with an electric beater. Beat vigorously for about a minute or two.

Pour into a greased and lined brownie tray and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for about 25-30 minutes. To check, insert a toothpick into the center of the brownie. It should come out with a few crumbs still sticking to it.

Here is the result...

[Image- Shalini Pereira]

I am going to try this recipe out again this weekend. This time I will use powdered sugar, and also follow the tip about beating the eggs. Will update you with the results...

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