Topic: Brownies

26 Jul

I am in love with baking because there are so many different ways to make one thing.  Depending on your proportions, your ingredients, and your technique, you can make 15 different chocolate-chip cookies… but they’re still just chocolate chip cookies.  And it’s often the simplest of baked goods that offer the most variety, and the most room to experiment.

Brownies are no different.  There are cakey brownies, gooey brownies, chewy brownies and fudgy brownies, all of which can be made–and this is the beauty part–with just a pot on the stove and a bowl on the side, if you like.  And there are few things more interesting than experimenting with a theory just to see what happens.

But what’s truly fascinating are the recipes developed to work under a certain set of circumstances.  If you think creativity is all about thinking outside the box, try coming up with something amazing when you’re stuck inside the box.  That is real creativity, people, and that’s what brings us to the recipe below.

A bakery here in a trendier part of town has published in our newspaper one of the most fascinating brownie recipes I’ve ever seen.  You can find it here: Honeypie’s Big Fruit Swirl Brownies.  I’ve reproduced it below as well, because there are some interesting things going on here that I simply must talk about.

(I must admit that at first I really didn’t know what this bakery was on about, which you might also wonder at first glance.  But I got to thinking about and, although I haven’t tested it at home, I think it might just be brilliant).

Honeypie’s Big Fruit Swirl Brownies

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) butter, melted
3 cups sugar
7 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups flour
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup raspberry or strawberry jam, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and mix on low speed until blended.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt. Combine dry and wet ingredients and mix on low speed until fully combined.

Pour mixture into a well-greased 13-by-9-inch pan. Drop heaping tablespoons of the jam in eight different spots on the batter. Using a knife, swirl the jam throughout the brownie batter.

Bake in preheated oven 35 minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out with a few crumbs on it. Do not overbake. These brownies are best when they are gooey.

Now, I know what you must be thinking:  Hey, Belligerent Baker!  That is a fuckton of fat in those brownies, I mean, shit, dude! And yeah, it is.  When I first read the ingredients list, I honestly couldn’t conceive of how these could possibly work.  This is of course because I hadn’t yet read the directions.  (Just because I am of the generation that brought you the comforting acronym “RTFM,” does not mean I ever do.)

I also wondered how any self-respecting bakery could offer a brownie that didn’t incorporate some measure of melted chocolate.  And then it hit me: Who in a busy, professional bakery is going to hover over a double-boiler melting chocolate for these things?  And at two in the morning, that is.  I’m guessing that this bakery needed to develop a recipe that was rich and chocolatey as shit, but one that could be made with a minimum of fuss, and by anybody.  And for less money, I suspect.  To hit their numbers, for example, I believe that food vendors need to make back a minimum of four times their investment on ingredients, or something like that.  So when you can skip the expense of baking chocolate, I’d say it’s wise to do so.

All right, then.  The enormous amount of fat?  I think this is to both carry and amplify the cocoa, as well as mimic the gooey texture usually rendered by melted chocolate.  That’s a great idea, people.

It is, however as noted, a fuckton of fat working against what’s a relatively low proportion of flour and cocoa.  Without a little help, these things could just fall apart.  So another smart thing here is the use of the creaming technique, which incorporates air into the mixture to give the brownies some lift and structure.  The eggs, all seven of them, are also beaten for a short time to give more structure.  And the three cups of white sugar in this recipe will, unlike brown sugar, recrystallize upon cooling, offering still more structure, and a nice, shiny top.

The three cups of sugar is necessary for flavor as well.  Without the candy flavor of melted chocolate in the brownies, the sweetness needs to be amplified for the same effect.  Discovering the fact that it serves the dual purpose of structure and flavor is one of the greater joys of baking.  It really is.  Finally, the addition of the jam will, upon cooling, bring yet more structure to what could have otherwise been a sopping fucking mess.  Good work, ladies.

Now, although I’m impressed with the concept, I do have a couple of small complaints.  Would you expect any less?  No.

  1. The directions fail to mention where the oven rack should be placed; given the properties heat conduction, this is important.  I do think the middle rack will work fine, if you’re interested in trying this at home.
  2. Next, you’re directed to mix the wet and dry ingredients with your electric mixer and, although you’re directed to do so on low speed, you still risk breaking up some of the delicate structures in your wet ingredients with those metal beaters.  To be safe, I would mix wet and dry rather gently with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula.
  3. I think that 35 minutes in a small home oven will be a good five minutes too long; given their size, home ovens tend to condense the heat a bit.  I would in fact start checking these at 25 minutes, and I would also expect more goo on your toothpick than what you’re directed to see.  Like brownies made with melted chocolate, with all this fat, jam, and sugar, as much of the action’s going to happen as the brownies cool as it does in the oven.
  4. Last but not least, you’re directed to buy some pretty high-falutin’ ingredients.  Well, you already know how I feel about that:  Unnecessary.  I do plan to test these, though, with both the brands noted, as well as what I consider the gold standard here at home.  So stay tuned.

Apologies for the terrible writing.  I have no excuse.  But I just had to get back into it and put something up.

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2 Responses to “Topic: Brownies”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. God Save the Queen « The Belligerent Baker - August 1, 2010

    […] plotting my next test.  This of course is going to be Honeypie’s Fruit Swirl Brownies (see related post and here), and while I have the utmost respect for a bakery that’ll publish its recipes in the […]

  2. Upcoming Plans « The Belligerent Baker - August 11, 2010

    […] Brownies (as promised), and/or my own, untested version of the thin and crispy maple cookie.  I raved about the science behind those brownies, so I really should see if I was right; and the least I can do with those cookies is test my […]

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