Monday, June 2, 2008

TWD- French Chocolate Brownies - Shirlie's Take

This week’s TWD recipe is French Chocolate Brownies. Holy cow, the ease of which these came together belies the decadence! I had it in my mind that there are two basic types of brownies. Those that come from a box, and Ina Garten’s. All other recipes I’ve tried fall squarely into the former camp, i.e. they taste similar to box brownies, maybe a notch or two above. I know I might be speaking sacrilege here, but hear me out. One afternoon, my husband and I caught the Barefoot Contessa’s Outrgeous Brownie episode. We quickly got to work duplicating her recipe and these became our very favorite and most treasured brownie recipe. But the work involved! We like to joke that only Ina can pull it off because she gets to hang out in her gourmet kitchen all day, entertaining her florist and/or her architect. Anyhow, I’ve tried other brownie recipes over the years, but thus far, I’ve always acknowledged that Ina sets the bar with her Outrageous Brownie Recipe. Fast forward to this week’s TWD. Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook selected Dorie’s French Chocolate Brownies. This recipe is really easy, the only odd thing about it is the flambéed raisins, which soak up some nice, dark rum. I like raisins OK, but not as much as I love prunes! So, I plumped up the prunes in water, and soaked them in dark rum, ignited it all, and used those prune pieces in the brownie recipe. These French Chocolate Brownies were awesome. Dark chocolate (70% bittersweet), fudgy and with a crackly top, these were the perfect foil to vanilla ice cream. Sometimes I wonder if I just use baked goods as my vehicle so I can shovel ice cream into my mouth, but those thoughts should probably be saved for another post. At any rate, my family tried them and really enjoyed these brownies, remarking that the prunes gave the brownie an unusual tartness in occasional bites. I proclaimed these brownies perfect and would like to state for the record that Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies should look out because there’s a new brownie in town.

French Chocolate Brownies
- makes 16 brownies -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they're even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside—good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!

Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.


Engineer Baker said...

Prunes sound like a great addition! And seriously, what does Ina do all day? I totally want her life!

Bumblebutton said...

Glad you found your new brownie recipe...and an easy one at that. Prunes sound like a terrific idea!

April said...

Looks delicious!

Linda said...

I love the idea of adding prunes...I'm definitely going to try that the next time I make this. Fantastic job!

ostwestwind said...

Glad you found your brownie recipe, I should have thought of prunes either.

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Gretchen Noelle said...

Glad you enjoyed them! Hadn't thought about using prunes - yum!

Melissa said...

Glad you enjoyed them!

Anonymous said...

Prunes are definitely the most interesting addition to these I've seen yet. I haven't had a prune in years but you've got me craving them now!

Your brownies look great! I love how the top of them turned out.

Andrea said...

These brownies are pretty darn tasty. Ina Garten doesn't have a presence here in Australia (well maybe on cable but if I got the food network in the house I think I would become a tragic shut in, only leaving the house for more ingredients)
Love the use of prunes.

Rebecca said...

You're an Ina fan! Have you checked out Barefoot Bloggers?(

noskos said...

Job well done, they look great!

CB said...

Prunes! love it. Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

I thought I was the only one who used baked goods as an excuse to make and eat ice cream...hee-hee! Nice to know there are others out there.

Shari said...

I'm one of the few who like prunes, so this sounds like a great substitution to me!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Mara said...

oooh a new brownie in town, way to shake things up!!! i love easy one bowl recipes so this one was right up my alley. i used raspberries and chambord, yum!

Susie Homemaker said...

Hmmm - I think I will have to try Ina's recipe! Though yours look great! (not a fan of prunes really, but I bet they were yummy!)

Jaime said...

great job! you are the second person i've seen who said these were better than ina's. i have heard so much about her recipe but have yet to try it - now i feel like i need to, to compare!