September 29, 2011

The brownies from Baked

Under the excuse of baking something to contribute to our school family picnic recently, I tried the much lauded brownie recipe from Baked.  Boy, these brownies are trouble.  It was seriously difficult for me to stop eating them but I'm very partial to brownies.  The texture of these is the definition of what a brownie should be, in my opinion.  Forget the debate over cakey or fudgy textures; a brownie should look and taste like these.  Now I get what all the hype has been about. 
I haven't had the pleasure of visiting the Baked bakery in Brooklyn but I've certainly heard a lot about it from seeing the cookbooks in the bookstores, packaged mixes at William Sonoma, and appearances on TV (watched one of the owners bake a cake with Martha a few months back).  And you might know that  I love brownies (I can hear you reading this and saying you do too) and I was excited to see if these brownies were as good as "they" say - "they" being many people like Oprah.  
I loved the moist, dense, fudgy texture (thanks in part to the butter and brown sugar) and hint of salt in these brownies.  These came very close to my utter favorite Fat Witch brownies.  I have to say that those remain my favorite; while the two are very similar, there is an amazing flavor in the Fat Witch brownies I can't quite identify, that sort of umami effect, that I swoon over.  Nonetheless, the brownie recipe from Baked is excellent and one we can make at home.  The recipe makes enough to fill a 13 by 9 inch pan so you feel a little less guilty about the 2 sticks of butter you pop in there.  Plus, you'll have plenty to share. 

It's true that I've yet to meet a brownie that I didn't like.  But I do appreciate a really good one.  As to be expected, this recipe shares a lot of similarities with the double chocolate brownie recipe I use often from Martha Stewart.  These from Baked are more decadent.  There's more butter, sugar, and chocolate used here so the result is a denser, richer product.  The Baked brownie batter is mixed by hand and includes brown sugar.  A good teaspoon of salt in the Baked version also gives it a nice hint of salt in the background that I liked.
The picture below shows the ingredients I gathered for the Baked brownies.  The bowl with the spout has flour, a bit of cocoa powder and salt.  The batter goes into a 13x9 inch pan.  I highly recommend using a piece of parchment (buttered) so that you can simply lift the brownies right out once baked and cooled.
Start with 11 oz. of dark chocolate.  The recipe specifies using 60-72% cacao.  I used 60% Callebaut chocolate; since the brownies were for a school picnic with plenty of young kids, I shied away from using too dark a chocolate.  Melt the chocolate with 2 sticks of butter and a teaspoon of espresso powder in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. 
Turn the heat off the stove and add 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar and 1/2 cup of packed light brown sugar.  Whisk until smooth and then remove from the pan.
Remove the bowl from the pan.  Making sure the mixture is at room temperature, whisk in 3 eggs.  Then whisk in the remaining 2 eggs until just incorporated.  Do not over-whisk.  Stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.  
The dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, salt) should be combined and now added into the batter.  Gently fold together with a rubber spatula.  Again, be careful not to over-mix.  You want to still see a few streaks of spots of the dry ingredients so you know you haven't over done it. 
Pour batter into a butter, parchment lined 13x9 inch pan.  Smooth the top and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.  The brownies are done when a toothpick comes out with some moist crumbs clinging to it.  You don't want to over-bake these or any brownies.
The brownies have a slightly crackly top.  They are dense and rich, fudgy and just delicious. 


The Baked Brownie
From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

- One 13x9 inch pan, or about 24 two-inch square brownies -

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60%-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.  Butter a 13x9 inch pan.  For easy removal, I highly recommend fitting a piece of parchment paper over the bottom and 2 sides of the pan, leaving about a 2 inch overhang on either side.  Butter parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt. 

Place chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally until chocolate and butter are melted.  Turn the heat off the stove and add the sugars.  Whisk until completely combined.  Remove the bowl from the pan. 

Making sure the chocolate mixture is at room temperature, add 3 eggs and whisk until combined.  Add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk together before adding vanilla extract.  Do not overbeat the mixture or brownies will be cakey. 

Sprinkle dry ingredients over the mixture and fold in, using a rubber spatula.  Fold until just a bit of the dry ingredients is still visible.  You don't want to overmix. 

Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing out the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan midway through the baking time.  Check the brownies early to avoid over baking.  A toothpick inserted into the brownies should come out with some moist crumbs attached. 

Let brownies cool completely before slicing into squares.   The brownies can be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for 3 days. 

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