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Fear Conquered: Homemade Brownies
As I keep posing recipes, you'll probably notice a theme - I cook comfort foods. This kinda makes sense because I want the food I make to be an expression of the way I feel about the person (or people) I'm cooking for. And to me, comfort food isn't about comforting myself, it's about creating a comforting memory for the other person or about sharing in a remembered experience that the food evokes. I didn't start out focusing on comfort foods - I just seemed to gravitate to them. Thus, brownies.
My remembered experience evoked by brownies goes back to high school. I always think of my sister because during high school we were both were both homeschooled and that meant we could rearrange the day to fit whatever we were doing. Most days we followed a fairly routine schedule with studies in the mornings/afternoons and then "free time" in the evenings.
But some days my sister would get a craving for something special and take an extended break from studies to bake something (I hated baking or cooking at the time and would always wait until they were done before showing up in the kitchen). Her favorites were peanut butter cookies (I'll share that recipe someday) and brownies. Both were always amazing and most of the time the brownies or cookies wouldn't last more than a day (and most of the time my sister and I would polish off most of them!).
So whenever I start mixing up brownie batter, I can't help but remember scarfing down brownies in the middle of an afternoon. My sister's brownies tended to be on the chewy/dry side which is one of my favorites for brownies. I hate cakey brownies (and so does Boyfriend Javelin) - I like them dense and either moist or chewy or both. I have no idea what recipe my sister used, but I do remember she added prunes - another secret weapon to amazing brownies.
So I've experimented with the brownie recipe below for a while and it's now reasonably reliable. Some inspiration comes from Ina Garten (adding coffee to chocolate and tapping the pan during baking), some comes from my sister (adding prune puree), and some comes from what works for me (brown sugar and dark chocolate). To be honest, I have no idea if these are as good as the brownies my sister used to bake, but they're pretty damn good.
A couple comments on this recipe.
I normally stay away from artificial stuff like margarine and that doesn't change here. I have used a reduced fat butter in the past (Smart Balance with olive oil) - but it's not margarine, there are no transfats and the product ingredient list seems reasonable. If you'd rather stick with butter, the brownies will turn out virtually the same (only with more calories and fat).
I also don't like over-complicated recipes and this one really pushes the limits (lengthy prep time, lots of ingredients, lots of measurements and quite a few steps). However, the results are really worth it and there's nothing too complicated about any of the steps or ingredients. The hardest part is waiting 3 hours for the brownies to cool.
STORY | PRINTABLE RECIPE | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
|Semi-sweet chocolate chips|
|Add chocolate chips to microwave-safe bowl|
|Dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa content)|
|Chop dark chocolate|
|3/4 cups (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, best if at room temperature|
|If not at room temperature, slice butter into pieces|
|Mix chocolate chips, dark chocolate and butter together in microwave-safe bowl|
|Microwave chocolate and butter on HIGH in 10 second intervals until chocolate is melted, stirring vigorously between each interval; watch chocolate carefully once it starts to melt to avoid overheating chocolate|
|Add 8 prunes to a microwave-safe dish|
|Add 1/3 cup water to prunes; microwave on HIGH for 1 minute|
|Add prunes and water to blender (I use a Ninja)|
|Puree until smooth; any unblended lumps will remain after brownies are baked, so puree thoroughly|
|Add 4 large eggs to a large mixing bowl|
|Add brown and granulated sugars to eggs|
|Add prune puree, coffee, vanilla and salt|
|Gently whisk together ingredients until just mixed|
|Add melted chocolate mixture|
|Gently stir in chocolate until just mixed|
|Add 1/2 cup flour and 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder to sifter|
|Sift flour into brownie batter mixture|
|Toss 1 cup chocolate chips with 3 Tablespoons flour|
|Add floured chocolate chips to batter|
|Fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed|
|Grease a half-sheet pan|
|Add batter to sheet pan and spread out batter evenly|
|Bake brownies for 15 minutes at 325F, then rotate brownies and reduce oven to 300F and bake for another 25 minutes|
|Let brownies cool for 3 hours before slicing for best texture and flavor|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Fudge Brownies[Updated 12/19/2011: Recipe revised (simplified), technique clarifications, pictures added, capitalization and punctuation updated. Original version available.]
Prep Time: 1 hr
Cook Time: 35-40 min
Ingredients (yields 24 brownies)
- 3/4 cup (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
- 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate, chopped (70% cocoa minimum)
- 8 pitted prunes
- 1/3 cup water
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 Tablespoon water
- 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 3 Tablespoons for chips
- 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- Powdered confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 325℉ and grease a half-sheet baking pan
- In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter, chopped dark chocolate and 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (reserve the remaining 1 cup of chips for later). Melt the chocolate in the microwave on HIGH power for 5-10 second intervals until the chocolate is just melted, stirring vigorously between each interval. Set aside
- While the chocolate cools slightly, add the prunes and water to a covered microwave-safe dish and microwave the prunes on HIGH for 30 seconds to 1 minute. The prunes will plump (and maybe burst). Tip the stewed prunes and water into a blender (I used a Ninja) and puree until smooth
- In a large bowl, gently whisk together the eggs, sugars, prune puree, salt, coffee and vanilla until just mixed (do not beat). Fold in the chocolate mixture, then let rest while you prepare the dry ingredients
- Sift 1/2 cup flour and the baking powder into the chocolate batter and fold together with a spatula until just combined.
- In a small bowl, toss the reserved chocolate chips with the reserved 3 Tablespoons of flour. Gently fold in the floured chips into the brownie batter until the chips are evenly distributed through the batter. Do not over-mix!
- Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and gently shake the pan from side-to-side and front-to-back to evenly distribute the batter in the pan
- Bake the brownies for 15 minutes at 325℉, then rotate the pan and reduce the oven temperature to 300℉; bake the brownies for another 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out mostly clean
- Remove the brownies from oven - the brownies will continue to “bake” for another 5-8 minutes after you remove from the oven, so do not over bake! Let cool at least 3 hours before cutting (best if overnight). Sprinkle with powdered confectioners’ sugar if desired
An original recipe by Javelin Warrior. © 2010 Javelin Warrior. All rights reserved.
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Hungry for Tips?
- I've gotten a few naysayers who have been grossed-out at the thought of adding prunes to brownies. If you're among those who cannot stomach the thought of stewed prunes, just add another 8 Tablespoons (1/2 cup) of butter and another 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar. Prune puree helps cut down on the amount of fat in the brownies without sacrificing moistness or significantly impacting flavor.
- I like dense brownies, so when I rotate the brownies halfway through the baking time, I firmly tap the baking pan on a solid, heat-proof surface to release air bubbles before I finish baking. It does make a huge difference in the final texture.
- The 3 hour cooling time is an ETERNITY! But it is also critical if you prefer fudge-like brownies rather than cake-like brownies. If you cut a sample right after removing from the oven, you will likely distinctly taste specific ingredients (like coffee or prunes) - the lengthy cool-time allows these flavors to meld and coalesce beautifully.
- While room temperature butter combines best with chips and melts the fastest, if you’re not using room temperature butter, cut the butter into pieces before combining with chocolate chips. This will help the butter melt at approx the same speed as the chips
- Boyfriend Javelin and I don't like walnuts in our brownies, but if you do, you can add 3/4 cup of chopped walnuts (tossed in a little flour) along with the floured chocolate chips; or pecans or almonds or whatever your heart fancies.
- If you’re on a calorie or fat restricted diet, you can use 2 eggs + 3 egg whites and 12 Tablespoons of reduced fat butter (I've used SmartBalance successfully).
- Every oven bakes a little hotter or cooler than every other oven, so you may have to adjust the oven temp or the bake time accordingly. Always rotate whatever you’re baking approx halfway through the bake time to ensure even baking front to back. Always check baking early if you’re not familiar with the recipe.
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