Tuesday, June 3, 2008

TWD: French Chocolate Brownies

Oh, please, please, don’t force me to bake another batch of brownies. The horror…

Um, yeah right, that might be me in a parallel universe. But here in this universe, I’m happy to try another brownie recipe. If I had to pick one dessert to take with me to the proverbial deserted island, it would be brownies.

This weeks Tuesday's With Dorie recipe is French Chocolate Brownies chosen by Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook. Thanks Di!

But what makes them French, you ask? In the blog, Serious Eats, Dorie says she was aiming for a different dessert (a fondant) while baking for a get-together in France. When the French folks saw the dessert they assumed it was brownies so she just went with it… Voila! French Brownies!

I changed up a few things. For my version, I left out the cinnamon since I was afraid my kids would turn up their nose and I didn’t want to be left alone in the house with an entire pan of brownies. In addition, I used dried cherries rather than raisins, and subbed semi-sweet for most of the bittersweet chocolate.

The verdict? they were… quite good. Better than the Quintuple Chocolate Brownies, if you ask me (but not quite as good as my favorite box mix combo. But hey, they're brownies so they were still scrumptious.). You don’t notice the cherries until you bite into one, and then it’s a little burst of cherry flavor, distinct and yummy. (I wasn't able to detect the rum.) I might have underbaked them... silly me, I forgot to set the timer and wasn't paying attention to the time (what else is new?).

My kids... they didn't like them because of the cherries (uh-oh! stuck in the house with a panful of brownies anyway). My mother-in-law, however, thought they were delicious.

Here’s a helpful hint for cutting brownies. You know how when you cut your brownies, the brownies get stuck to the knife and then your cuts are jaggedy and rough? I would have never guessed until some baking friends clued me in... the best implement for avoiding this is the humble plastic knife. Cuts like a dream and doesn’t get all globbed up with brownie.

Up next week: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart


1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional) *I left this out
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden *I used dried cherries
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped *I used mostly semi-sweet
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.

1. Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.

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