Brownie Points

Browniepoints

It has been more than a year since I literally drowned in brownies here. Then, my quest was for the best tasting concoction that would not taste like it was made from a box. During my trip to San Francisco last August to take a chocolate techniques class from Alice Medrich, she had to rock my comfort zone by making available MORE recipes for brownies. Apparently she was constantly tweaking what were already the best brownies ever.

Luckily for my sanity, most of them followed the same number of ingredients and technique. My interest now was more peaked than ever about using different percentages of chocolate to come up with relatively the same textures and qualities for all batches. Alice used a lot of Scharffen Berger chocolate in her tests. Since this chocolate had vanilla in its flavor profile she suggested skipping the use of any vanilla extract. I wanted to use my favorite Valrhona Equatorial in the 55% chocolate category because I felt this was a well-balanced semi-sweet chocolate. In her new version of her brownies, Alice labeled them 8.07 – one of them was now known as Robert Steinberg’s recipe which is labeled 8.07 RS ( I think this recipe is also in The Essence of Chocolate). What I noticed with her new versions is that she uses less flour so really you’ve got a very fudgy chocolate brownie with a nice crackle in the outer layer. The 55% recipe is from her Bittersweet book that I have not tried in my original brownie experiment.

 

 

 

Valrhona Equatoriale

(55%) original

Scharffen Berger

(62 %) 8.07

Scharffen Berger

(70%)  8.07 RS

chocolate

10 oz

11 oz.

8 oz.

butter

5 tbs.

3 ½ tbs

6 tbs.

sugar

2/3 cup

2/3 cup

1 cup

vanilla extract

1 tsp.

*

*

salt

¼ tsp.

¼ tsp.

¼ tsp.

cold eggs

2

2

2

all-purpose flour

½ cup

1/3 cup + 1 tbs.

1/3 cup + 1tbs.

 

 

Directions: (for all recipes)

Position a rack in the lower theird of the oven and preheat to 350 °F.

 

Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the chocolate is melted and the mixture smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger quickly after dipping it to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet. Mix in the sugar, vanilla (if using) and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until the first one is incorporated before adding the second. Add the flour and stir vigorously until the mixture is thick, smooth and glossy, and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about one minute. Spread evenly in the lined pan. Bake until the batter just begins to pull away from the edges of the pan and small cracks appear on the surface, about 30-35 minutes. A toothpick plunged into the center will emerge with moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool on a rack. Lift the edges of the parchment or foil liner and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares. Brownies can be stored, airtight, for 2-3 days.

 

 

Cooking Notes:

Among the three recipes, I preferred the one made with Valrhona Equatoriale, 55%. And so I wouldn’t be biased I asked the “Hungry” hubby to taste it as well and he agreed that the 55% one produced a brownie that was intensely chocolatey with a smooth finish (brownie tasting can almost be like wine tasting you know). With a higher percentage of cocoa butter the batter is a lot stiffer. My least favorite was the one made with Scharffen Berger 62%. I was most disappointed with this because I had high hopes for it being the middle percentage. I suspect that the chocolate needed to be reduced because at 11 ounces it does seem extremely high. This brownie had a bitter catch on the palate which I found disconcerting. The 70%, as always, was a pretty good bet if you want a deeper chocolate punch.

There are two important aspects that need to be pointed out in the directions of the recipe. Noticed that you melt the chocolate and butter until when you dip your finger in it, you want to immediately take them out. Now this may be a tolerance-dependent factor but for me that temperature is between 140 °F to 145 °F on an infrared thermometer. It is also important for the mixture to be this hot when you add the sugar because that is what makes the crust crackle and become shiny.  The second point is beating the flour in just right. It is interesting to watch the batter transform from a cake-looking batter to a homogenous shiny blob that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and just drops into your prepared pan with no problem. For the Valrhona Equatoriale, I must say my arm almost fell off from the stiffness of the batter.

 

This was a fun experiment – one that I have longed to try for quite sometime now. I made four batches all in all because I made the 62% twice just in case I made a mistake in my measurement the first time. I still came out with the same result. I would try to reduce the 62% chocolate to 9 oz next time, just to see if that was an anomaly in the recipe. In the meantime – brownies anyone?

 

Also, the nice folks at Foodie View asked me to write their recipe roundup this week. Since this month is the month of love, I thought it most appropriate to talk about For the Love of Chocolate .

17 thoughts on “Brownie Points

  1. Gosh, my brownie baking seems very amateurish now (though the resulting brownies were excellent!) You take comparative brownie recipe testing to a totally new level, Veron!!

  2. Hi Veron – another excellent experiment, with great information! You're doing God's work here as you search for the perfect brownie! How lucky the Hungry Hubby is to be your official taster!

  3. Wow, those look so rich and fudgey… I am seriously craving brownies now! Perhaps I should do some research for myself on the perfect vegan brownie…

  4. Those brownies are to-die-for!

    Btw, we can't thank you enough for your sinfully delicious chocolate Recipe RoundUp!!! I'm in a sugar coma already ;)

  5. Really interesting comparison you've set out. I thought I had tweaked my own brownies into perfection but clearly I have some more experimenting to do!

  6. Your note that the crust depends on the temperature of tempered chocolate when sugar is added is interesting- where did you find this out? I had always been under the impression that flaky, shiny crusts are a result of how long the batter is beaten after eggs are added. Hence, the lack of crust on every single eggless brownie recipe. Time for more experiments!

  7. I absolutely love your approach to kitchen experiments. So very scientific with the charts and comparing every aspect of the finished products. I’m well contented with using a (gasp!) brownie mix from Ghiradelli. Consistently yummy, beautifully dark, shiny, intensely chocolatey brownies each time. But you have made me curious, as until now I have been distinctly UN-curious about brownies, being more of a pure chocolate or fruit person.

  8. thanks for your experiments!:)

    do u know why cold eggs are used? usually room temp eggs are used, and are supposed to be better able to produce more flavor? also, wouldn’t the eggs curdle if the mixture is hot?

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