Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter

Do you like nuts in your brownies?  I don't.  Not that I have anything against nuts, I just don't think they belong in brownies.  It's a texture thing- I feel like the crunch is out of place with the chewiness of a good brownie.

When I saw the cover recipe of this month's Bon Appetit, I thought "Mmmm, brownies.  Too bad they ruined them with nuts."  But then I read the recipe, and the words browned butter jumped out at me.  I knew I had to make these brownies no matter what their stance was on nut-inclusion.

Since I was making these for a weekly get together with friends and not for myself, I had originally planned to just make the recipe as written.  But I was out of walnuts, so it was going to have to be pecans.  And then I tasted the batter (I know you do this too- don't judge!).  It didn't need nuts.  Any nuttiness requirements were already filled by the browned butter, and have you ever seen anyone pass on a brownie simply because it didn't have nuts?  I know I haven't. 

To make up for the deletion, I did add some chocolate chips, mostly because I found part of a bag while hunting for the walnuts.  The final brownie was fantastic, and a hit with the friends I made them for- intensely chocolatey, dense and fudgy, but with a slightly salty, caramelly taste that balanced it nicely.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter

What's in them:

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

How to make them:
Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8x8x2" metal baking pan (I used a 11x7x1.5" with no problems) with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot).

Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes (uh, I didn't count- just go until it looks like brownie batter). Stir in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes (the slightly larger pan only took 22 minutes). Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan and cut into desired size.  I cut approximately 2x2" squares, and really, they're so rich that they don't need to be bigger. 

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