Monday, November 8, 2010

Outrageous Brownies

I didn't name these little gems, but it certainly does them justice.  They are in fact Barefoot Contessa brownies, so you know they have to be good.  And they are.  Let me tell you:

I mentioned it somewhere on the blog before, but I have a running challenge to make the most chocolate-y things possible for my dad whenever I go back to Boston, which I did, briefly, this past weekend.  Thursday it just poured and poured all day on Nantucket, so in lieu of work I flexed my domestic muscles, cleaning a good portion of the house, and making some things in the kitchen that needed to be made.  Like, you know, more banana bread, and two batches of pesto (basil/pinenut and parsely/walnut).  And then, in the evening, as I was packing my suitcase, I realized that I had TOTALLY forgotten to make a chocolate offering.  At this point I was in my pajamas, and was not going to go to the store, so I needed a recipe that used things I already had on hand.  Luckily I stumbled upon Ina's recipe pretty quickly, and realized they were PERFECT.  Why?  First, you melt the butter, so I could use sticks right out of the freezer (although cut into cubes with a chefs knife to speed up the melting).  Add to that a little unsweetened chocolate, lots of semisweet chocolate, just a smidge of flour (so immediately I knew they had to be good), baking powder, vanilla and salt.  And, as I mentioned a few weeks ago in the Whiskey Soaked Bundt Cake post, Ina is a fan of adding that extra ingredient to bring out the essence of an ingredient, and in this case, instant coffee (or espresso) powder is that special something that makes you say "wow!"  Ina's recipe is enormous, and is baked on what is called a "half sheet" pan.  These pans, which measure 12 x 18 inches, are common in commercial kitchens, but bigger than most home cooks' pans.  I realized that half of a "half sheet" is essentially a lasagna pan (9 x 13 inches), so I halved the recipe and baked it in a Pyrex lasagna pan, which worked perfectly.  Below you will find the half recipe, which is probably all the brownie you need, anyway!  If you are cooking an enormous batch of brownies though, here's the full recipe, so you don't even have to do the math all on your own ;)

And if you're wondering what my dad thought of these?  He left me a voicemail and simply said "save the recipe."

Ina's OUTRAGEOUS Brownies (Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
Makes about 24 2x2-inch brownies

I'm not normally a walnuts in brownies fan, so I omitted them, but I actually think these would have been better with nuts to break up the outrageous chocolatey-ness of these squares.  As most of the chocolate flavor comes from the chocolate chips that you use, it is worth using a quality brand that you really like.  You can also use bar chocolate for the 8 ounces of chocolate that you melt with with the butter.

* ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
* 8 ounces (1 1/3 cups) + 6 ounces (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips, divided
* 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
* 3 extra-large eggs (I used 4 large eggs, which is probably a little more than needed, but I think it worked fine)
* 1 ½ Tablespoons instant coffee or espresso powder
* 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
* ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
* 1½ teaspoons baking powder
* ½ teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 ½ cups diced walnut pieces (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×13 baking pan (aka, a standard lasagna pan).  (If your pan is a dark colored metal pan, only preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.)

2.  Melt together the butter, the 8 ounces of chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler (a mixing bowl on top of, but not touching, a pan of barely simmering water). Cool slightly. Stir (don't beat) together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir this mixture into the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature
3. Sift together the ½ cup flour, baking powder and salt, and then gently stir into the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and chocolate chips with flour to coat. (If you are omitting walnuts, use only 1 tablespoon of flour to toss the chocolate chips.)  Fold chocolate chips and nuts into the brownie batter, then pour batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not overbake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate for several hours or overnight before cutting into squares.  I was nervous about these brownies not coming out of the pan, but I discovered that running a knife around the edges of the pan, then inserting a flexible metal spatula down and under the brownies made the whole pan pop out nicely.  Use a nice sharp chefs knife to cut these dense, fudgey brownies into nice, clean squares. 

ENJOY!!! (And be sure to have a big glass of milk on hand--these babies need it!)

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