Friday, December 5, 2008

Chewy-after-one-week Brownie

I am not sure if I want to blog about this. Anyone who are big fan of Cooks Illustrated magazine must stop reading now. I mean it….NOW. Or please, navigate away from this page. Cooks Illustrated is an outstanding magazine. Well-described and detailed instruction turn easy-to-go-wrong recipes into fool-proof ones. But, for this brownie, they don't get my brownie points. I don't hate it but this is just not my favorite. I wonder what in the world would/could/should have gone wrong. Let me tell you how I did on the first try.

I have to admit, my fault, I decided not to follow the process as directed. I beat the eggs..yeah I did...(stop screaming , okay? okay?) I know that's a no-no for making chewy fudgy brownie, but...but I just wondered if this could turn into a disaster. And yes, I got what I asked for, a disaster. The brownie came out cake-liked. It didn't hold together, let alone fudgy'ness. It melted 3 seconds right after reaching my tongue (well, If you could manage to pick it up gently with your fingers and successfully deliver to your mouth). Taste wise, dull. (now imagine, cook illustrated fans are stoning me to death). As I mentioned, it was my fault, I'm the culprit, okay? I won't beat the egg when making brownie again. I promise. After the first bite, the whole tray went directly to my Ziploc bags and to the fridge. My heart was broken and I need to be alone for a while.

I opened my fridge a few days later, ziploc bags were still there. I was greeting hello to my brownie and as if they said something like "Don't worry, I'm cool...I'm cool". Yes, of course, they'd been sitting in the fridge for a few days, must be cool. I wondered how bad/staled it was so I dragged them out and had a bite. It turned out I had quite a few bites as It was pleasantly chewy. Yes! chewiness I was after. It really was good in later days. Wait a minute, was I cheking the mole around the edges? Just kidding, they were no mold.

Then....I wanted to share them with my friends. But given it was a few days old, plus the appearance was not well-maintained on the first day, I'd better chewed it up by myself. Okie, the taste is okay and the texture is right after a few days. I marked my calendar for the second try.

After licking my wound and my fingers, I was ready to re-visit the recipe. Everything was done as instructed. I promised to myself I wouldn't beat the eggs hope was restored up high that I would get fudgy brownie of my dream. I didn’t use Ghirardelli as recommended but used >50% bittersweet chocolate bar I could source in supermarket.

The verdict ? Those who are Cook’s illustrated regulars who ignored my warning above, please navigate away from my page otherwise be ready for my harassment. Ready? Steady? Go!. The taste was exactly the same as last time, DULL. Texture was disappointing. I used to have a chewier brownie which was cooked in microwave (Dah!). This batch, I baked at night and left it sat outside the oven til next morning and the texture was still cake-liked. It was not dry or anything , it just too easy to fall apart. You know what, it was quite similar to the first batch that I intentionally whisked eggs until fluffy.

Here is my second bake looks like.

I belived the recipe did a good job in putting my hopes way up high. The crust was nice and shiny. But the texture , may be my expecation was parred up to the moon, was disappointing.

So, what make it so fragile, I doubt if I should use bread flour so that gluten develops the bonding (or the chewiness)? Well, thinking about that I have a few other recipes to try. It is a bad idea to be persistent. My conclusion, although Cook’s Illustrated claimed they threw away > 50 pans of brownie before coming up with this recipe, I would not bother my third pan of brownie and try this recipe again.

Every dark brownies has its bright side too. As I mentioned above briefly, the brownies are so good after day 3…repeat….after day 3. For chewing monster, keep them in your fridge for one week in Ziploc. No kidding, no mole, if your fridge is not overcrowded and works properly. The taste and texture develops with the passage of time. The other good thing about is that it has low fat content in relative to other fudgy brownies recipes. (well, may be this is why it’s not as fudgy?) You can feel guilt free having a little square for afternoon snack.

A debate on brownies could be endless. It is just the matter of personal preference. Mine? combination of shiny crust, cookies-liked+fudgy, cocoa+coffee taste, + some nuts. Yours? For more debates on brownie, visit NY Times article.

For those who doubt my comment. I would recommend you to try this recipe and compare it with other brownies you have ever had. Let me know you feedback.

(source: Cook's Illustrated2008)

5 ounces semisweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into quarters (1 stick)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. I used 8 inch square pan but the recipe calls for 7 inch. I believe the thickness in 8 inch one came out just fine. Melt chocolate and butter with low-med heat in microwave, stir frequently. Or, heat them over simmering water. Stir in cocoa powder. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in medium bowl until combine, about 15 second (wow...that precise !!! this is what was described in the recipe, but I think it largely depends on your hand speed. For me, I normally do 20-25 strokes within 15 seconds while my grandma would have only 5 strokes. Agree?). okay okay I understand...the idea is to blend them well...not whisk for the fluffiness.

Whisk warm chocolate mixture to egg mixture then stir in the flour with wooden spoon until just combine. Pour mixture into the pan, level surface with spatula. Bake 30 or 40 minute, I recommend you to check after 25 if you use 8 inch pan like me as the batter spread out thinner. This recipe should be under-baked as it tends to comes out too dry because the low fat percentage. The doneness is observed by , the brownie is slightly puffed and tooth pick inserted in the center comes out with small bits of crumbs.

Cut the brownie after it's completely cooled down unless you need warm brownie with vanilla ice-creme.

My notes

- Don't bake in higher heat than 350 degree. I think a bit lower than 350 is fine so that you got the shiny sugar crust which develops with time. If it is baked under high heat, the batter will dry out before the sugar molecules float up to the surface and caramelize. And you end up with a dry and matted-surface brownie.

- I think putting a shot of espresso would be a way to go. I am not caffeine addicted, but am a coffee addicted. (confused !?)

- I would omit the cocoa powder. It does nothing to improve the flavor. Rather, I love the acidic taste in bittersweet chocolate.

And last but not least.....keep in the fridge for 2 days for chewiness. See, it's a good thing that this can be baked ahead ! Wrap in Ziploc or plastic box. If you fear of strange odors. You can place a tablespoon of espresso powder (instant or freshly ground are all fine) beside brownie. Even after 1 week when you put it out for afternoon snack, you got brownie's sweet smell, not the anchovy pasta you put in the fridge last night.

Dear Cook's illustrated magazine - when it comes to brownies, it's hard to please everyone.

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