One of my favorite aspects of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking is that she gives twelve brownie recipes. There’s so much discussion about the best brownie recipe that it seems like sometimes the variety between brownies gets overlooked. Not only are there different add-ins – turtle brownies, espresso brownies, creme de menthe brownies – but there are different textures, and one isn’t necessarily better than another. Di’s TWD choice of French Chocolate Brownies was the first of Dorie’s brownies recipes that I tried.
Dorie tells a story of how these brownies were intended to be a rich chocolate cake, but her guests mistook them for brownies, and she didn’t correct them. I can see the confusion. The ingredient list is classic brownie, but the mixing method and resulting texture bridge the line between brownie and cake. Beating the eggs and sugar together until they’re thick creates a light, airy confection that is at the same time tender and moist and far less dense than most brownies.
Dorie calls for the unusual addition of flambéed raisins to the brownies, which most members of TWD weren’t excited about. I considered leaving that step out altogether, but didn’t want to miss out on the fun of flambéing. One of my favorite dessert combinations is raspberries and chocolate, so I used fresh raspberries. It was perfect. I think I’ll always add the raspberries to this recipe.
My only disappointment with these brownies was that they weren’t as chocolately as I would prefer, but I don’t blame Dorie for that. She says she prefers bittersweet chocolate over semisweet, but of course those words don’t have any official meaning in the US. I usually bake with Ghirardelli, whose bittersweet chocolate is 60% cacao, but this time I used Sharffenberger, whose semisweet is 60%, so I bought the semisweet. I probably should have used their bittersweet. On top of that, I read a Cooks Illustrated’s review of dark chocolates, and their comments for Sharffenberger included “lacked choco-oomph.” So perhaps it wasn’t the best choice of chocolate for this recipe.
But regardless, I’m nitpicking (again). I savored every single bite I took of these brownies, and I was sad when I finished each serving. I love that they’re chocolately and rich, but also unique for a brownie in their cakelike tenderness. And, an added bonus for a middle-brownie lover? There’s really no difference between the edges and middle. Every single serving is moist and light.
French Chocolate Brownies (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Bridget note: I substituted about ½ cup fresh raspberries, halved, for the raisins. Instead of boiling them in water as in step 2, I gently heated them in a small skillet before adding the rum and continuing with step 2.
Update: I made these again, this time using a Pyrex dish instead of the metal pan I used for the original entry. I don’t know if things bake faster in glass or what, but I must have overbaked them, because the brownies were too dry. So check for doneness early!
½ cup all-purpose flour
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
⅓ cup raisins, dark or golden
1½ tablespoons water
1½ tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.
1. Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you’re using it.
2. Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.
3. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It’s important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you’ve got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them-it’s better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.
4. Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated-you’ll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds-the dry ingredients won’t be completely incorporated and that’s fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.
5. Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.
6. Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.
Serving: The brownies are good just warm or at room temperature; they’re even fine cold. I like these with a little something on top or alongside-good go-alongs are whipped crème fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce or even all three!
Storing: Wrapped well, these can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.
I’m out of town this week, building sand castles and burying nephews in the sand. I’ll be back next week to catch up on comments and other blogs!