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8.25.2005

“…days that are the good flesh continuing”...on through to dessert

I am firmly of the belief that a meal has not officially ended until one has eaten something sweet. I’m not the alone, certainly, in holding this belief, and in fact, I’d venture that it’s more widely and faithfully subscribed to than many major religions. Now, dessert can take many shapes—for the restrained, a piece of ripe fruit; for the refined, a glass of port; for me on an average night, well, graham crackers dunked in milk and a few squares of dark chocolate—but the sweet tooth must be fed. So, knowing this much, you don’t really think I’d have left the lamb roast without a swipe at the dessert table, do you?

I didn’t think so.
The theme of the day may have been meat, but truth be told, I kept a closer eye on the sweets.

Prior to last year’s lamb roast, I’d never been a great admirer of baklava—so often dry, sticky, cloyingly sweet—but the Knight family’s rendition is another thing entirely.


Preparing for the inevitable raid that occurs when it hits the table, this year they’d made four pans of the stuff, half walnuts and half almonds, sweet with cloves and cinnamon, and soaked in a syrup that ran down my fingers when I took a bite.



Their neighbor Elfie, my fantasy of a Swiss grandmother made real, arrived with a tray of plum pudding, a thin, custard-topped cake dotted with soft, sweet-tart Italian plums, and a platter of puff-pastry twists for dipping into a deep glass bowl of peach compote.

Nicho’s mother Martha arrived with a small, square basket with a flip-back top—a rustic cake box, if you will—from which she pulled one of her ethereally flaky pies, dark and jammy with blackberries from the backyard, and a delicious threat to a white tablecloth.


And of course, there were also cookies, cobblers, and a linzer tart from Macrina Bakery, but I selfishly saved room for my own contribution, a few creamy-crackly, melty mouthfuls of chocolate masquerading under the humble name “brownie.”

Be not fooled, dear reader: this is nobody’s Betty Crocker box recipe, nobody’s innocent kindergarten snack-time fare. With two sticks of butter and six ounces of chocolate for an 8-inch pan, it’s not the sort of thing you want to be left alone with. But there’s safety in numbers, so thank goodness for lamb roasts, for friends that become family and entire families that become friends, for paper plates sturdy enough to stand up to a table’s worth of sweets.


The Archetypal Brownie,
or, as the book calls them, Best-Ever Brownies
Adapted slightly from Baking with Julia; contributing baker: Rick Katz

My father gave me Baking with Julia for my “un-birthday,” as he inscribed it, in 1997. It lives on my kitchen counter with my favorite go-to cookbooks, and it’s the one I reach for, without fail, when I think brownies.

These dark, deeply chocolatey, oozy things aren’t your typical specimens: they’re what brownies on sad party tables everywhere aspire to be. All too often, “brownies” are just so-so: oddly black, dry around the edges, super-sweet, or—the horror!—spongy, like cake. Not these: they’re crackly on top with a soft, gooey interior, fudgy and rich, buttery and serious and very, very sophisticated. If you’re of the cakey-brownie persuasion, these aren’t for you. But if you like a brownie that melts on your tongue with a flood of buttery chocolate, read on.

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt; set aside.

Melt the butter and the chocolate together in the top of a double boiler over—but not touching—simmering water (or in a metal bowl over a saucepan of simmering water), stirring frequently. When the chocolate and butter are both melted and smooth, add 1 cup of the sugar to the mixture, and stir it for 30 seconds; then remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

Put the remaining 1 cup sugar and the eggs into a medium bowl, and whisk by hand to combine. Little by little, pour half of the sugar and eggs into the chocolate mixture, stirring gently but constantly with a rubber spatula so that the eggs don’t scramble from the heat. Beat the remaining sugar and eggs on medium speed until they are thick, pale, and doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped eggs and sugar into the chocolate mixture. When the eggs are almost completely incorporated, gently fold in the dry ingredients.

Pour and scrape the batter into an unbuttered 8-inch square pan (I’ve found a heavy nonstick metal brownie pan to be ideal, although the original recipe recommends ceramic or glass). Bake the brownies for 25-28 minutes, during which time they will rise a bit and the top will turn dry and a bit crackly. After 23 minutes, stick a knife or toothpick into the center to see how they are progressing. They should be just barely set—not too raw, but still fairly gooey (mine generally take the full 28 minutes, if not a touch more). Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack. When they’re completely cool, cut them into rectangular bars to serve.

Note: These brownies will keep, at room temperature or refrigerated, for 2-3 days. They also freeze beautifully, although they never freeze solid—a bonus (or horrible danger) if you, like me, are known to consider eating them straight from the freezer.

Yield: 18 fantastically rich brownies

46 Comments:

Anonymous Nicky said...

Oh my goodness! Although I didn't have any breakfast yet, I'd love to skip it completely and go right to some of these wonderful desserts ;) Brings me back to my theory, that I could survive by only eating desserts... at least I would love to try!

11:54 PM, August 25, 2005  
Blogger Crystal said...

can't wait to try that brownie recipe! As a resident of the Pacific NW, I understand the last days of summer feeling, everyone down here is furiously barbecuing, eating outside, hanging in the park, etc. Love your blog!

11:58 PM, August 25, 2005  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

GAAAAHH! Want brownie (and plum pudding and blackberry pie and all the other stuff) NOW!!:-)

12:09 AM, August 26, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

Oh My Molly!
I am sooo drooling.... but I am happy that I have 2 chocolate Amarets for desert or I may have been forced to go buy some chocolate... :)

12:10 AM, August 26, 2005  
Anonymous ChubbyCat said...

All the brownies I've ever had were dry, cake like and somehow instinctively "wrong". But, your sound like it would be perfect. Must give it a try soon!

12:41 AM, August 26, 2005  
Anonymous Aino said...

I live in Finland and haven't run into unsweetened chocolate anywhere. Where do you get yours, and who makes it? I'm mightily tempted.

Also, I recently discovered your blog - and orangettes, the chocolatey ones, along with it. Thank you. :)

1:26 AM, August 26, 2005  
Blogger s'kat said...

These are also my go-to brownies, and are utterly fabulous. Recently, I've begun adding a bit of fresh rosemary to the recipe. There's something very engaging about that particular marriage of flavours when you're in the mood for something a bit different.

4:43 AM, August 26, 2005  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

I'm Armenian and I grew up eating Baklava but not my favorite Middle Eastern/Meditterean dessert. That would Taluba. My American born husband on the other hand LOVES my mom's Baklava. Adores it. She makes it special for him too. LOL. Your brownies look fantastic and we both love those! Hmm would Elfie and Nico's mom share their dessert recipes perhaps? Hmmm?

7:57 AM, August 26, 2005  
Anonymous Melissa said...

You've either made my day or just ruined it! Those desserts are magnificent. The question torturing me now is whether or not I give in to temptation and try out your recipe. Gosh, it's been a long time since I made brownies. And gosh, you know how to make a girl's stomach growl!

10:42 AM, August 26, 2005  
Blogger Shauna said...

oh my goodness. That blackberry pie recipe makes me utterly sure that I'm going to redeem myself and pick blackberries this weekend. Plus, the brownies! Now I have to make a gluten-free version of them this weekend, along with the salt cod tart. (I bought the salt cod yesterday at Whole Foods.) You're certainly keeping me in the kitchen, Molly.

By the way, last night I had a dinner party, with every recipe inspired one of my favorite bloggers. I made your slow-roated tomatoes, and they were indescribably gorgeous. I wrote an entire post about the dinner party this morning, and now I'm hungry for them again.

10:43 AM, August 26, 2005  
Blogger T said...

Hello Molly. I am a longtime reader, but firsttime commenter. I enjoy your blog very much.

Your brownies look divine- Ive always eyed that recipe in my copy of Baking with Julia but from the looks of it, I am going to take your advice and make it when I have lots of people to share it with!

12:43 AM, August 27, 2005  
Blogger lauren said...

Molly, yum... And besides the fantastic brownie report, the lamb roast itself was so well written I really felt like I was there.

thanks, i always enjoy your blog so much. the redesign is nice too though It took me a day or two to get used to it.

6:37 AM, August 27, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

You know, Molly, I was just biking home thinking, "hmm...should I bake dessert for tonight?" I still hadn't made up my mind when I started to read this. But now? I'm on my way to the store to buy some eggs. Unfortunately, I don't have a good brownie pan so I'm opting for my chocolate stand-by: kladdkaka, which is sort of like a gooey brownie cake.

Thanks for helping me say "YES!" to dessert.

6:48 AM, August 27, 2005  
Blogger farmgirl said...

No problem. I was all ready to choose the blackberry pie since it is my very favorite kind of pie in the world . . . and then I got to the brownies. Oh! Look over there! What's that!? as she grabs two desserts while no one is watching. . . : )

10:19 AM, August 27, 2005  
Anonymous apples4me said...

Yummyyyyyyyyyyyy!

7:05 PM, August 27, 2005  
Blogger Michèle said...

Molly, the brownies look and sound so very sinful, but I mean that in the best possible way! I love that you are a girl who is not afraid of 2 sticks of butter. Since my move, my previous lack of a sweet tooth is being replaced by a rather insatiable and constant craving for all things sugary.. in fact, i may just have to run down to the bakery right now..

8:18 AM, August 28, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Nicky, the Knight lamb roast would have been a perfect environment for testing your theory...but then again, between all your gorgeous sorbets and yeast dumplings and other deliciousness, I think you could give it a good go in Munich too!

Crystal, thank you! I hope you squeeze in a few more barbeques down in Portland before the clouds and rain return. And just so you know, these brownies make a killer base for a sundae, an excellent savoring-the-summer, post-BBQ dessert.

Zarah Maria, now you know how I felt, standing there at the dessert table!

Clare Eats, I'm not familiar with Amarets...is this something I shouldn't be without? Do tell.

ChubbyCat, these brownies are soft, fudgy, and very, very right! I hope they win you over to the brownie team...

Aino, I'm so glad to hear that you've discovered orangettes, not to mention Orangette! Thank you. Unsweetened chocolate is sold in most grocery stores in the U.S. You'd find it near the baking goods, along chocolate chips and the like. I buy the fancier kinds--Scharffenberger, El Rey, Callebaut--for recipes like this one, in which the quality of the chocolate is key. It is most often labeled "unsweetened chocolate," but sometimes it will say "99%" or "100%", indicating that it is 99 or 100% cocoa mass, rather than 30, 60, 70, or what have you.

S'kat, I would have never thought of adding rosemary to these! What an intriguing idea! I'm sure I've had some chocolate truffles with rosemary somewhere, and anyway, chocolate can be so wonderful with those kinds of aromatic herbs. How much rosemary do you add, and how? Do you simply mince fresh leaves and throw them in with the dry ingredients?

Foodiechickie, I've never had taluba...can you tell me more about it? Sounds like something I should try! And as for Elfie and Nicho's mom, I'll see what I can do. A little investigative journalism may be necessary...

Well, Melissa, I think you know my answer! Give in, honey! But make sure you have some help with the eating part, or it could get very, very dangerous.

Shauna, I love the idea of your dinner party--and of course, what an honor to be included! I think you're well on your way to another party, recipe-wise, between blackberry pie, salt cod tarts, and brownies...but hmm, that would be a whole lot of Orangette. Shame on me! So selfish! But I do love spreading the gospel of a good recipe, as I know you do too...

Tanvi, thanks so much for piping up to comment! Lovely to meet you. I hope you find just the right occasion to whip out a pan of brownies...

Lauren, thank you! I was hardly able, I think, to do the lamb roast and all its dishes justice--it was straight-up sensory overload! But I tried to give you what little glimpses, tastes, and whiffs I could...

Amy, I am, as you know, more than happy to help you say "Yes!"--and "Yes yes!"--to dessert! I'm going to have to try your kladdkaka recipe one of these days...every time I hear about it, I drool a little. I think that's a sign, don't you?

Farmgirl, don't tell, but I had four desserts at the lamb roast. F-O-U-R. Granted, I took small portions, but yes, there was a brownie (actually, only half, since I knew I had a few messy, unsightly cast-offs in my fridge back home), a sliver of pie, a small square of plum pudding, and a handful of fresh raspberries. Well, and there was also the baklava that I snatched from the kitchen before the party started. Oof! And yum.

Apples4me, I second that!

Michele, Paris will do that to a girl--rid her of her fear of butter, send her running to the patisserie at all hours! I go a little faint just thinking of all the beautiful buttery concoctions in those pastry cases...

10:14 AM, August 28, 2005  
Blogger foodiechickie said...

Thanks for doing the investigation Molly!!! Taluba is a soft honey confection. Some say it reminds them of Churros but they are not as sugary. The flavor is heavenly. But it has to have the right consistensy of honey otherwise its ruined! I posted about Taluba in my July 26 post http://foodiechickie.blogspot.com/2005/07/while-baklava-is-niels-favorite.html
And here is another link with more info on Taluba or also known as Talumba http://www.turkishcook.com/turkishfood-recipes/Tulumba_tatlisi.shtml

3:07 PM, August 28, 2005  
Blogger margrocks said...

so funny... as i scrolled down and saw that you'd made brownies for the picnic i thought to myself, "i can't wait to tell her about the julia child brownie recipe. them's there REAL brownies." of course, then i see that your version is adapted from the very same recipe! as per usual, you do not disappoint, molly. a girl after my own chocolate-lovin' heart. i take it one step further tho - frost 'em w/ my mom's chocolate buttercream icing...people swear they've never had another brownie like 'em.

11:13 AM, August 29, 2005  
Anonymous kayenne said...

aino,

if you stil can't find unsweetened chocolate, you could probably use bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate and lessen or omit the initial amount of sugar added to the chocolate. if you can find the Lindt brand of chocolate, they carry 65-72% chocolate, which would also be a good substitute.

orangette(molly?),
great recipe! i've recently been using a flourless recipe similar to clotilde's, but using less sugar and adding in chopped walnuts. and sometimes using white chocolate, in place of dark. my family and friends love it.

but i'll probably try yours next week. just reading the recipe makes me imagine the richness and taste of the final product. great job!

12:00 PM, August 30, 2005  
Blogger cc(,``o said...

molly,

yes i meant the tomatoes in your previous post. i absolutely love the presentation.

that blackberry pie absolutely look heavenly.

i will definitely try your brownie. that would have been the perfect recipe to bake today if i had read your recipe yesterday 'coz i don't have those chocolates lying around anywhere.

leslie

3:37 PM, August 30, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Foodiechickie, thanks so much for teaching me the ways of taluba! I know I've seen it in pastry cases before, but in my ignorance, I overlooked it. I won't let that happen again, don't worry.

Margrocks, you are a woman of great taste. And that chocolate buttercream addition? A masterful gilding of the lily, if I do say so myself.

Kayenne, if you give the brownies a go, please do let me know what you think. You sound like quite the brownie maven...

And Leslie, you'd better go buy some chocolate! These brownies shouldn't be delayed...

8:40 PM, August 30, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

OOh!
you don't need to ask me twice :)

Think 2 large italian almond macaroons, which are tender, chewy and melting all at the same time. Sandwhiched between the 2 palm sized disks is a thick rich dark belgian chocolate ganache and one end is thickly dipped into melted dark belgian chocolate.

OMG SOOOOO GOOD! I can only just eat 1 if I don't have lunch, now that is saying something!

I have a photo on eatstuff, http://eatstuff.blogspot.com/2005/05/oh-my-chocolate-amaret.html
but that isn't that good a photo and they are MUCH more impressive in real life :)

9:18 PM, August 30, 2005  
Blogger cc(,``o said...

belgian chocolate are absolutely heavenly. i love them on fondue hut i could eat them on their own!

yes i absolutely have to but i have to wait until my sister gets back from her trip before i cook since she's my best guinea pig. i just baked low fat brownies today. not really my intention since ive had cocoa overload. the smell of it make me wince.

2:27 AM, August 31, 2005  
Blogger s'kat said...

Molly~

Yes, it's just that simple- strip some rosemary leaves from the stem, and finely mince. I erred on the side of caution last time, and only used perhaps a teaspoon. I'm definately going for two on the next attempt.

6:09 AM, August 31, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Clare Eats, that amaret business sounds heavenly. Oh, how I wish that bakery weren't so far away...sniffle, sniffle...

Leslie, hmm, I'm not sure about the idea of low-fat brownies. As you can see, mine are anything but! When it comes to chocolate, I say throw caution to the wind.

And s'kat, thanks for the rosemary details! I can't wait to give it a go...

12:09 PM, August 31, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

you know I would post you some... but I fear they would melt :(

1:10 AM, September 01, 2005  
Anonymous leslie said...

molly,

yea but the low-fat brownies turned out quite well. it's different but it's good. if you want the recipe i can post it for you

3:46 PM, September 01, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

Have some in the oven ;)
cant wait to see how they turn out!

12:39 AM, September 09, 2005  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

lol!
http://eatstuff.blogspot.com/2005/09/you-are-so-jealous-right-now.html
have a look please :)

5:37 AM, September 10, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Clare, yes, it's safe to say that I am very, very jealous right now! Luscious-looking fudginess, m'dear. So glad to see that we have similar taste in brownies...

4:15 PM, September 10, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried the brownies recipe from the Julia Child book, and unfortunately, they were way too liquid, even after 28 minutes. But I thought I'd take them out of the oven anyway, since I was afraid I'd ruin them. In the end, they never got solid enough to cut without being runny. I'd suggest cooking them a little longer, 23 minutes, or even 28, are definitely not enough :(

9:48 AM, February 15, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Anonymous, I'm so sorry to hear that. What a disappointment! I'm very, very sorry. I do hope you might try them again, though, because they really are wonderful.

To avoid a repeat of the same problem, do you have an oven thermometer? I bought mine at the grocery store - they're cheap - and it really helps when I'm baking. My oven runs consistently a little lower than it should, but with the oven thermometer, I can peek inside, check the actual internal temperature, and nudge the dial up accordingly. I wonder if your oven might run a little cool too, and that's why the brownies were still too runny after 28 minutes? It's something to look into...

10:52 AM, February 16, 2007  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I just stuck these in the oven...and I'm sitting here, voraciously licking the bowl, wishing that they weren't part of a birthday present for a good friend. Delicious. I'm afraid of the effect that the finished product will have on me.

6:52 PM, November 15, 2008  
Blogger Muriel said...

Hi Molly,

Thanks for your wonderful blog. I'm working my way through your recipes and am impressed each time (and so is my team of guinea pigs :-)).

I have a question regarding the brownie recipe: why beat half of the eggs and sugar only, as opposed to beat all 4 eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy? Why does it make a difference?

Thanks a lot!

Muriel.

10:54 AM, January 27, 2010  
Blogger Molly said...

Muriel, thanks for the sweet comment! As for your question, re: eggs, I'm honestly not sure why Rick Katz calls for that. I've never tried beating all four; I've just done as the recipe instructed. I assume, though, that he only wants a portion of the eggs to be beaten for reasons of texture. Beating the eggs introduces a lot of air, making the eggs lighter, and maybe two beaten eggs is all you want for the proper texture and consistency?

6:48 PM, January 27, 2010  
Blogger andetcetera said...

these are, by far, the best brownies i have ever tasted. as i was copying this recipe into my personal cookbook, i had the urge to make them again. the search for the best brownie has ended. these are truly archetypal! thanks from me and all my friends and family who gobbled them up in less than twenty minutes!

1:02 PM, February 08, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly those brownies look amazing...So does that baklava.

I've been looking for a recipe for baklava for a while. You wouldn't be able to share that one would you?

Thanks!!
I love you blog :)

9:28 AM, April 02, 2010  
Blogger Molly said...

Anonymous, I don't have that particular baklava recipe on hand right now, but I can offer you this one, which I also love. It's adapted from my friend Olaiya, and it's one of the best baklavas I've ever had.

2:02 PM, April 02, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Molly!!!!

4:48 PM, April 02, 2010  
Anonymous Jo said...

even though i only made this twice everybody loved it!!!!!
they were gone within a day!!!!!
thank you very much!!! :D

11:18 AM, May 10, 2010  
Anonymous Mel said...

Dear Molly, today I made this brownie and brought it to work for my new colleagues. I think I scored some brownie points, no pun intended of course!

Thanks for sharing ...

2:53 PM, June 23, 2010  
Anonymous President Holmes said...

Hi, so, I made the brownies last night and brought the pan into work today and everybody loves them. When making them, it looks like the recipe isn't going to work. The butter and the chocolate melt together but the misture is very wattery and when you add the sugar, it doesn't all melt and so I was convinced the whole thing would be a disaster, but no...they are wonderful and such an easy rwecipe! I can whip these up any time.
Also, i used galaxy chocolate and some dark lindt and all worked out great.

2:20 AM, February 17, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been eating the batter through the whole cooking process it certainly is delicious, however mine is definitely taking longer than 28mins. I think it is my oven though. so i might try turning up the oven.

10:50 AM, March 06, 2012  
Anonymous President Holmes said...

It's hand beat all the eggs and sugar. Then add half the mixture. Then whip the eggs up with a hand blender till they're frothy.

12:39 PM, March 10, 2012  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I had to cook it for 45 minutes, and yes, I have an oven thermometer. It was soupy and raw at 28 minutes. It's cooled and cut now, and is lovely soft and fudgy in the middle.

7:34 PM, April 24, 2012  

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