Busy Nights Real Food
Thursday, September 22, 2005
  Thing I learned from making brownies
Well, I did it. I made brownies from scratch. I feel I learned a few very important things in the process and I am going to share with you now.

#1: Any one who says that making brownies from scratch is just as easy as making them from the box has obviously never made brownies from a box. The mess alone is unbelievable.

#2: When judging the ease of a recipe, pay close attention to who is saying it is easy. If it is a site for new cooks, it is probably easy. When it is Epicurious, proceed with caution.

#3: Double boilers and the like take much longer to melt than a brownie craving can stand. When the craving hits, the less time you take to brownie the better.

#4: Brownie recipes from scratch do not plan ahead for licking the bowl or spoon. It is cruel really, who can resist a bowl full of melted chocolate (and this is coming from someone who is not a chocoholic)

#5: If you are wanting to make brownies at 10pm, scratch is not your best option. By the time they were mixed, baked and cooled, it was well past 11.


#7: Only a raving maniac could manage to get 16-25 brownies from an 8x8 pan. What good is that small of a brownie?

#8: Scratch brownies are the (real) breakfast of champions.

#9: Scratch brownies don't come out looking quite as uniform as the box kind. Mine were rather bumpy and lopsided.

and finally
#10: Scratch brownies really do taste so much better. Who would have thunk it?

Cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top "crust" of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate. Use the best cocoa you know for these fabulous brownies.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it's more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies.
November 2003
Artisan by Alice Medrich
I'm wondering if we learned any new words or phrases along with this? *covers virgin ears* Congrats on the outcome though - woo! Brownies are a gift from the heavens.
Glad you went ahead and made the brownies - I agree from scratch is much better! They look great!
haha i can relate- the first time i made brownies from scratch, i made a huge mess. but its so worth it!
Hi Punky,
I linked here from the nice comment you left on my blog, Farmgirl Fare. I love this post. Your list is a riot. And congratulations on making your first batch of scratch brownies. I am on a constant search for THE perfect brownie recipe. Such hard work. : )
Yum! The brownies look and sound great! I think that the bumpy and lopsidedness is just a strong indicator that your brownies are made from scratch, therefore they must be great!

My favorite brownie (Chocolate Cinnamon Brownies with Chocolate Ganache) is yummy, but I only get it just right about every other time I make them. THe other times I either cook them for a minute too long or a minute too short.
You know what they say... practice makes perfect! So, keep on with the brownie-making, girl!

Also, I never use a double-boiler- that's what the microwave is for!
Hi, this is my first visit to your blog and I really like it. I love the pointers on brownie making.
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