Back in February, I tried making brownies for the first time (yes, I’m including any potential boxed mixes).
What changed my mind? Well, two things: Michael Ruhlan’s Ratio and it’s very persuasive argument in favor of weighed ingredients and inspiration grounded in math; and the accidental acquisition of a pound of Black Cocoa due to kind customer service after a box with an combined order with several friends was damaged.
And then into that willingness to bake brownies, Smitten Kitchen offered up a recipe she claimed to be the Best cocoa brownies ever, and she should know from brownies. (and SK found/adapted the recipe from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet)
Right, so brownies.
Now some people would know enough about cocoa powder to be a little intimidated by having the wrong (more alkali processed) kind, but this did not deter me as this was the kind of cocoa powder I had to experiment with. Or they might be intimidated by not having a brownie pan… but I had a casserole dish that looked to be of good dimensions for brownies. And I didn’t line it with parchment paper, just greased it with butter.
But other than that, I totally followed the recipe exactly. Probably.
Black Cocoa Brownies with Orange and Clove
Go ahead and preheat the oven to 325F
And bring out your double boiler. Okay, so SK admits that this step can probably be done in the microwave, but I have a double boiler that has been sitting unused since I acquired it for free about 4 years ago, so I used a double boiler. Put water in the bottom, but not too much – simmer.
Dump 141 grams (if I’ve got the scale out and the author is kind with the measurements, hell yes I’m going to use them ~g~) of butter (1 1/4 sticks) into the double boiler. Top with 280 grams of sugar. She used all white sugar; I did about 100 grams of brownulated sugar and 180 grams of white. Add a generous 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt. And add your cocoa powder (82 grams) – black, in this case. Stir it from time to time, breaking up the butter, until it’s an evenly grainy base.
pour in 1/2 tsp vanilla extractI scraped in some vanila seed from about half a bean. Because that’s what I had in my apartment.
Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating them in well, but without splashing because that black cocoa powder is really hard to clean up. The mixture should look nice and shiney when you’re through.
Add 66 grams of all purpose flour, stirring it in so that it is thoroughly incorporated. And then even more stirring for good measure (she says 40 strokes). (Oh, and she also has everything off the heat by this point. I was enamored of my double boiler enough that I just turned the burner off and did not separate the top from the water.)
At this point, I tasted the batter – because batter is delicious. And it was very dark in flavor as well as appearance. So I took and orange and zested the entire rind into the batter. And then I crushed the heads of about 15 cloves into the batter (tasting/smelling at intervals to see whether the flavor seemed right).
And then I added a bunch of broken walnuts into the mix and stirred it up thoroughly.
Pour into my greased casserole dish of shame…
And here’s where I ran into difficulty. The original recipe called for 20-25 minutes. SK’s ran about 35 minutes. Mine ran about 45 minutes, even with (because of?) enthusiastic toothpick testing.
The first batch wasn’t so good.
It went almost immediately from gooey pudding to a brownie impersonating a brick rather quickly. Actually, it was sort of like biscotti, so the overcooking did not stop me from eating almost half of the pan by myself.
So I appealed for help on Twitter. And I called friends. And my mom. And in general I did not take it well because everything had seemed to be going so well until those last nail-biting 20 minutes.
And apparently you should take it out still a bit moist and just trust in it cooking further… or eating it with a spoon.
So I made a second batch. And it was much improved. My co-workers gave my baking the seal of approval. And my foodie co-worker approved this recipe as my entry into the… wait for it…
April 17, 2010, 10am – 3pm
A Full Plate Cafe, on Liberties Walk (1009 N. Bodine St Philadelphia, PA 19123)
On April 17th Food Bloggers from Philadelphia will be gathered with goodies for sale from their home kitchens in order to raise money for Share Our Strength. Funds raised through Great American Bake Sale support Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America. Nearly 17 million— almost one in four—children in America face hunger. Despite the efforts of governments, private-sector institutions and everyday Americans, millions of our children still don’t have daily access to the nutritious meals they need to live active, healthy lives. Click for more information on Share Our Strength.
Philadelphia’s Great American Bake Sale is being held on April 17th from 10am till 3pm at A Full Plate Cafe on Liberties Walk (1009 N. Bodine St Philadelphia, PA 19123) in Northern Liberties (yes, this is the restaurant where I bake full-time) and snag goodies made by some of Philly’s most beloved food bloggers! I’m donating some Cookies ‘n Cream Whoopie Pies to the event and I know Sabrina of Rhodey Girl Tests is going to whip up some of her delectable chocolate and candy covered pretzel rods.
So, if you’re a fan of food blogs, or just want to do your part to ensure kids across the country are getting the nutritious food they need, come on out to the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale and spend some money! All proceeds benefit Share Our Strength. If you can’t make it to the bake sale, but would like to donate to the cause, please visit this link to make a safe and secure donation.
If you’re a food blogger in Philly or the surrounding area and would like to donate a goodie to the bake sale, please contact Julie at email@example.com and visit her post of the Great American Bake Sale here.
AND That will be a convenient break from the other amazing thing happening in the city that weekend –
Saturday & Sunday, April 17 & 18, 2010