Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Anatomy of an Outrageous Brownie

 My name is M. and I'm a Chocoholic!!!
But I think I can live with that!!! Please tell me if you're not addicted as well. And if you claim not, I dare to say YOU LIE!!! Let's face it,  if you are to be addicted to something (and most of us are) it should be this wonderful thing called Chocolate. So far, the longest living woman Jeanne Louise Clement of France, who lived well passed 122 years, attributed her good looks and health to port wine, olive oil and chocolate, which she ate every week in amounts of no less than 2lbs!!!  Two pounds every week???!!!! Piece of brownie....I mean cake, I can do that!!!
With great variety of chocolates available these days, it seems to be easier then ever. And some of us, seriously obsessed, treat it like finest scotches or wine, knowing its percentages, origins, plantations, cuveƩ(s), grand cru(s), premier cru(s), textures and aftertastes.
If you decide to splurge on that highly priced chocolate bar you should also know how to enjoy its every bite. First carefully break off a small piece, smell it, notice all the aromas..... then let it sloooowwwly  dissolve in your mouth.... instead of wolfing it down, brace yourself!!! I know it's hard but this way you will get so much more for your buck. And if you can pair it with ruby port or red zinfandel wine, you're right there....in a place called chocolate heaven!!! To me high quality chocolate can be easily compared to jazz, it will  crazily play all your taste buds, whereas not so great one will leave you with just a dull tap. But enough.... I think I've already proved my chocolate insanity, let's talk about some outrageously tasty brownies here.

shopping list+anatomy poster and some directions:
  • 1 pound unsalted butter
  • 1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces unsweetened, good quality chocolate
  • 6 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules or brewed espresso
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar, I usually use only 2cups
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts +1/2cup cocoa nibs(optional but you will love it!!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1-inch baking sheet.
Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake!!! I can not stress this enough if you want some soft, chewy brownies.  Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares

adapted from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa", original recipe from NY's SoHo Charcuterie Restaurant

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lemon, thyme and sea-salt shortbreads

 Aromatherapy session while baking??? It turns out with right ingredients even that is possible. Just mixing lemon zest, fresh thyme with flour and butter will fill your kitchen with wonderfully refreshing and energizing aromas, which only intensify during baking. Each such session will not only result in relaxation but will also leave you with these flaky, savory and fragrant cookies, sprinkled with crunchy sea salt. They will make perfect addition to dry white or rose wine, beer and cheese. I like them best freshly baked and only slightly cooled. This recipe is from "Savory Baking" by Mary Cech, my new favorite... or at least for a while. Do you have your own version of aromatherapy and baking??? I would love to hear about it.

shopping list:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, I think cold butter works here better
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons water
 coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Stir the flour, salt, lemon peel, and thyme together in a medium bowl. With your fingertips, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until a coarse, crumbly mixture forms. Blend the lightly beaten egg, egg yolks, and water together. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the egg mixture for brushing.
2. Make a well in the center of the flour. Add the remaining egg mixture and blend together with your hands without kneading the dough together; the dough will look a bit crumbly. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough together once or twice, just until it sticks together. Press the dough into a 1-inch-thick disc, wrap in plastic film, and refrigerate until firm, about 1/2 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Remove the shortbread dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place it on a floured work surface. Press the dough into a 6-by-5-inch rectangle. With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a larger 10-by-7-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.
4. Cut the shortbread dough in half, forming two 5-by-7-inch pieces. Using a pizza wheel or sharp paring knife, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Carefully place the shortbreads on the prepared baking sheet leaving a little room between each cookie. Brush the tops with the reserved egg mixture and sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on top. Gently press the salt into the surface of each shortbread so it does not fall off.
5. Bake until the shortbreads are lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Store the shortbread in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

                                                                                                    Bon appetit!
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