Variety Flour Thursday: Classic Brownies
March 31, 2011
The truth is I never understood how people could eat cakey brownies. I never saw the appeal; why wouldn’t you just eat chocolate cake? Brownies should be gooey, fudgy, and rich to the core by definition. Because of my strong belief in the fudgy brownie, my brownies all turn out relatively the same regardless of recipe. This was fine for me until I had one of those moments when I remembered I’m not only person in the world (I know, crazy) and maybe, just maybe, my strong opinions are only strong because I don’t venture outside of them often enough. My little epiphany led to my choosing a brownie recipe representing a balance of cakey and fudgy goodness instead of a recipe that is, well, just like every one I’ve used.
At first I was intimidated by this recipe for classic brownies because the good people at America’s Test Kitchen warn you to carefully test for doneness otherwise it would completely compromise your batch of brownies. If you over bake them, they will be dry. If you under bake them, they will be gummy. Ah! The paranoia! Totally unnecessary, though! Surprisingly, or not, the brownies turned out just fine after one test after minimum baking time and a two or three minutes after. And surprisingly or not at all, I loved them! The fact that they weren’t super rich made them easy to eat and enjoy without feeling overwhelmed. It’s really important, like with most brownies, that you let them sit for the entire two hours after baking before you cut them, and the brownies are awesome the next day.
Why this recipe on Variety Flour Thursday? The secret ingredient is cake flour, which lends a fine crumb and light crust to the finished brownies.
(Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2000-2010)
Yields one 13 by 9 inch pan of brownies, about 24 squares
1 ¼ cup cake flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 oz, or 1 cup, unsweetened chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons, or 1 ½ cups, unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pats
2 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Optional: 1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 13 by 9 inch pan with two pieces of foil and spray with vegetable oil, or coat generously with butter.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
3. In a double boiler (or makeshift double boiler, a heatproof bowl over simmering water), melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove from heat. If heatproof bowl or top of double boiler isn’t big enough to contain all ingredients for batter, pour melted chocolate-butter mixture in a bowl large enough to fit everything.
4. Gradually whisk in sugar until thoroughly combined.
5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla.
6. In three parts, add flour mixture, folding gently with a rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth.
7. Transfer batter evenly to prepared pan and smooth top with rubber spatula. If using, sprinkle chopped nuts over batter.
8. Bake in preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. America’s Test Kitchen warns you to take testing seriously with these brownies; under baked and the brownies are gummy, over baked and the brownies are entirely too dry.
9. Cool brownies in pan, on a wire rack, for at least 2 hours at room temperature. Loosen edges with a paring knife before attempting to remove brownies from pan. If using foil, lift brownies out by foil overhang. If you forgo the foil, cut brownies in pan and remove them one by one.
Store brownies in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days, or freeze up to a month.