bittersweet brownies

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There have been a lot of brownies around here lately, and there hasn’t been a one that I haven’t enjoyed. But I think I’m starting to feel like Dave – without having them side by side, it’s hard to pick favorites. When it comes to something that’s defined by being a square of buttery floury chocolate, it’s the nuances that set recipes apart.

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This recipe, like Dorie’s classic brownies and her ginger brownies, show her preference for a squat, dense bar cookie. These brownies don’t have a bit of cake fluffiness to them, but they aren’t greasy like some so-called fudgy brownies. They’re tender, almost as if a sablé could be a brownie.

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In short, I like them. Really, I like any brownie with good chocolate flavor, which these certainly have. I won’t complain about making three different brownie recipes that, to me, all seemed similar, because they were similarly good.

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Leslie chose these for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I followed the mixing instructions exactly, but then decided to change things up and bake these in a mini muffin pan. I baked them at 325 degrees (the temperature called for in the original recipe) for about 12 minutes.

One year ago: Cranberry Apple Galette
Two years ago: Cran-Apple Crisps
Three years ago: Rice Pudding

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ginger-jazzed brownies

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I wasn’t confident in the ginger / chocolate combo, so rather than make a full batch of potentially less-than-perfect brownies to share at work, I made a just a small portion of the recipe and kept them for myself. Granted, my coworkers will eventually eat nearly anything sugary that finds its way into our kitchen (the same day that I brought in dulce de leche cupcakes, someone put a basket of Twinkies out; the cupcakes went faster, but the Twinkies went), but I have my standards, you know.

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I needn’t have worried. The ginger flavor was so subtle as to be essentially invisible. I might have been disappointed by that, but I was so pleased to have a mini-batch of deep chocolately and meltingly tender brownies all to myself that I had no reason to complain.

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Clivia, who chose these for Tuesdays with Dorie, has the recipe posted. Except for making only a third of it, I followed it exactly. It resulted in a very good regular brownie. However, if you want your brownies to have any ginger kick, you’ll want to increase the ginger; I would double both the ground and fresh ginger.

One year ago: Caramel Pumpkin Pie
Two years ago: Allspice Crumb Muffins
Three years ago: Pumpkin Muffins

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chewy brownies

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I’m going to put this right out there: I didn’t absolutely love these brownies. The whole goal of this recipe is to mimic the chewiness of boxed brownies, and…eh. I don’t need that texture. I don’t mind it; I just won’t sacrifice flavor for it. Plus I think that the fudgy-cakey balance of my favorite brownie recipe is perfect.

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The problem, and it’s one that just keeps getting more frustrating, is the availability of ingredients in my small town. My favorite brownie recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, and the only brand available within a hundred miles of where I live is Baker’s. I’ve noticed that the flavor of brownies baked with Baker’s chocolate is muted.

So, I needed a recipe that wasn’t based entirely on unsweetened chocolate. (I did have a few ounces leftover from my last trip to a big city.) This one uses a combination of unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, and bittersweet chocolate.

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The trick to getting that boxed brownie chew is substituting oil for some of the butter called for in most brownie recipes. These brownies, though, were intensely gooey. Not bad, by any means; my coworkers raved. But my coworkers have never had my favorite brownie recipe, which has a more intense chocolate flavor and isn’t so weighed down by oil. I guess I need to stock up on unsweetened chocolate next time I visit the big city.

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One year ago: Palmiers
Two years ago: Bran Muffins
Three years ago: Pain Ordinaire

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chewy Brownies (from Cooks Illustrated)

Makes 24 brownies

⅓ cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1½ teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups (17.5 ounces) sugar
1¾ cups (8.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Whisk the cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add the unsweetened chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted. Whisk in the melted butter and oil. (The mixture may look curdled.) Add the eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in the sugar until fully incorporated. Add the flour and salt and mix with a rubber spatula until combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate pieces.

3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool 1½ hours.

4. Using the foil overhang, lift the brownies from the pan. Return the brownies to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. The brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

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salt and pepper cocoa shortbread

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I brought these and the allspice chocolate cookies to work on the same day, and someone asked me if I come up with these flavor combinations on my own. I most definitely do not. Coming up with interesting variations isn’t really my thing. Not only do I love classic, simple flavors, it would just not occur to me to add black pepper to a chocolate cookie.

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But once confronted with the idea, I’m perfectly happy to try it. I can see how pepper would work with chocolate. I think pepper’s bite could compliment chocolate’s bitterness.

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I might have gone a little light on the pepper though. I was worried, I admit. In the end, the cookies were tender and chocolately with salty pockets. I didn’t really notice the pepper, but a few people at work told me they detected it and enjoyed it. I never would have thought of it on my own, but apparently, it works.

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Tia chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I actually didn’t make any changes this time!

One year ago: Coffee Break Muffins
Two years ago: Flaky Apple Turnovers
Three years ago: Dimply Plum Cake

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dorie’s classic brownies

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The worst brownie I ever ate was on a layover at the Detroit airport. My flight was delayed, so obviously I deserved a treat. Despite my suspicion of the freshness and quality of desserts from coffee chains, I figured any chocolate was better than none.

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Except there was, essentially, no chocolate in this brownie. It goes to show how a little cocoa goes a long way in terms of color, but not so much with flavor. What a disappointment.

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This was not that brownie. This brownie is full of chocolate flavor. It isn’t chewy and it isn’t cakey, but I’m not sure fudgey is the word I would use to describe it either. It isn’t my favorite brownie – my favorite is taller and fluffier – but certainly wasn’t a disappointment.

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Anne, who chose these brownies for Tuesdays with Dorie, has the recipe posted. The only changes I made were to add the salt (½ teaspoon) and espresso powder earlier in the process, with the melting chocolate, so they would dissolve and be perfectly evenly dispersed in the batter.

One year ago: Peach Upside-Downer
Two years ago: Chocolate Soufflé
Three years ago: Chocolate Chunkers

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chocolate allspice cookies

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September is an ambiguous time. School and football, two signs of fall, have started. Labor Day is over. It might not be meltingly hot out every single day. On the other hand, that all important sign of autumn, fire-colored leaves, hasn’t started except in the most extreme of climates. And besides, tomatoes are still in season. Everyone knows that tomatoes belong to summer.

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When I lived in upstate New York, where summer was disappointingly short, I refused to acknowledge fall until October 1st. I wouldn’t make anything with pumpkin or apples, and I wouldn’t buy candy corn for Dave. (I’m mean.)

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But come October 1st, I was all about fall. I love it for all the reasons everyone loves fall – the colors, the chill, the apple cider. We don’t get any of those things in southern New Mexico, so I welcome what little there is here that feels like fall, no matter when it happens.

Dave thinks anything with ginger or allspice or cloves tastes like Christmas. I say it tastes like fall. And even in early September, I’m not complaining.

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Jessica, who chose these cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie, has the recipe posted. I doubled the spice, plus I freshly ground my allspice berries in a coffee grinder just before mixing the dough. I also increased the salt.  I had ground almonds to use up, so I made the dough in the mixer instead of the food processor.

One year ago: Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Two years ago: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies
Three years ago: Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops

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chocolate friands

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These are hard to describe. They resemble brownies, but are so far on the fudgy end of the brownie spectrum that they’re almost candy. They’re served in candy cups if you can find them, but the alternative option is mini muffin cups, which makes the friands resemble cake. These don’t fall neatly into any category.

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They’re made similarly to brownies too, with a few interesting variations. One is that, instead of melting the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water like most brownie recipes, hot melted butter was poured over chopped chocolate, and the residual heat of the butter melted the chocolate. It provides the same effect as a double boiler, but it’s simpler.

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The other difference I noted is that the eggs are stirred in last. Usually flour is the last thing added to batters and doughs, because the more flour is worked (stirred or kneaded), the chewier and less tender the resultant baked good becomes. Plus, eggs are mostly water and they don’t easily mix into the fatty mixture of butter and chocolate, so seeing that worrisome “do not overmix” warning right after the eggs are added at the end was extra stressful.

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And lastly, and I believe most importantly, there is no leavener – no baking powder or soda, no whipped eggs. This is what makes the confections so rich that they’re almost more candy than brownie. And that is what makes them so hard to figure out.

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Apparently they’re hard to pronounce too, as I had multiple coworkers come by my office to thank me for the ‘chocolate friends’ that I brought in to share. It’s an appropriate name for a treat I chose to make for Josie’s virtual baby shower. Josie is in the no-dessert-is-too-rich club, like me, so I definitely consider her a chocolate friend. Congratulations Josie! I wish you and your family the best.

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One year ago: Banana Peanut Butter Muffins
Two years ago: Vegetable Curry
Three years ago: Country Egg Scramble

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chocolate Friands (from Tartine)

Batter:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
16 tablespoons (1 cup) unsalted butter
1½ cups + 1 tablespoon (11 ounces) sugar
¾ cups (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large eggs

Ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅔ cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line up 48 1½-by-½ inch candy cups on 2 baking sheets, or butter and flour 24 mini-muffin-tin wells, knocking out the excess flour.

2. To make the batter, place the chocolate in a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until very hot. Pour the butter over the chocolate and whisk or stir until smooth. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, whisking well after each addition. Add 2 of the eggs and whisk until combined, and then add the remaining 2 eggs and whisk just until incorporated. Be careful not to overmix the batter.

3. Transfer the batter to a liquid measuring cup for pouring, and fill the cups three-fourths full. Bake until the cakes just start to crack on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack, and then unmold them if you have baked them in the muffin tins and let cool completely. If you have baked them in the paper cups, just let them cool in the cups.

3. To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let sit for a minute or two. Stir gently with a rubber spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

4. Make sure the friands are cool before dipping them into the ganache. Holding each friand by its sides, dip the top into the ganache and then shake gently to let the excess run off the side. Return the friand to the rack and let the ganache set up in a cool place for about 1 hour.

5. Don’t put the friands in the refrigerator to set up if your kitchen is hot because condensation will form on the tops when you take them out, ruining the smooth look of the ganache. The only way to avoid the condensation is to place them in an airtight container before putting them in the refrigerator adn then to leave them in the refrigerator and then leave them in the container when you remove them from the refrigerator until they come to room temperature, or to serve them right away.

6. Serve the friands within a day of making, or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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chocolate sorbet

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My feelings toward cookie dough are well documented. In short, I like it a lot. It isn’t just cookie dough either; it’s anything made in the mixer and not in its final form, which means that also includes frosting and all manner of batters.

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But somehow, on Saturday, I made muffins, snickerdoodle dough, frosting, and chocolate sorbet without overeating even a little. I was some kind of self-control expert!  So I was extra surprised on Sunday when I ate enough chocolate sorbet to put me over that edge of too much. Chocolate sorbet? Who knew?

It snuck up on me, I think, because chocolate sorbet seems like it should be so rich and indulgent, but it’s also refreshing and light. It’s easy to justify one more little scoop, because there’s no butter or cream. It’s just sugar and milk, and heck, chocolate – everyone knows chocolate is good for you. There’s no need for self-control!  Except for all the sugar, of course, not to mention the fat in the chocolate.  Healthwise, though, it could be a lot worse – it could be cookie dough.

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Steph chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie; she has the recipe posted. Other than adding a pinch of salt and a dribble of vanilla, I followed it as written, but my sorbet is definitely grainy. Maybe I should have whisked more or even given it a whirr in the blender.

One year ago: Chewy Chunky Brownies
Two years ago: Vanilla Ice Cream
Three years ago: Summer Fruit Galette

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chocolate chocolate chunk muffins

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How is a muffin different from a cupcake? Let me count the ways.

1) Frosting: A cupcake without frosting is just wrong. Muffins, while sometimes glazed, are never served with a tall swirl of sugary icing. But cupcakes with a coating of soft glaze are beautiful as well.

2) Add-ins: Many muffins have some textural contrast, whether it’s chunks of fruit or bran or poppy seeds. Most cupcakes are smooth-textured; fruit is pureed, chocolate is melted. But what about pumpkin muffins? Or carrot cake?

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3) Mixing method and texture: The classic cake mixing method starts with sugar beaten into softened butter, which is smoothed with egg, then thickened with flour and leaveners. It results in an even-textured, fluffy cake. Muffins, by contrast, are usually made by whisking together the dry ingredients, separately whisking together the wet ingredients, and then folding the two together. The resultant texture is coarse with large air pockets. But not all cakes are mixed with the cake method, and not all muffins are mixed with the muffin method.

4) Course: Cupcakes are dessert. Muffins are breakfast.

So while, by this set of guidelines, these chocolate chocolate chunk muffins do seem to be muffins, they could certainly pass for dessert. Or, if you can’t get enough of their sweet, tender, moist crumb and rich bites of solid chocolate, enjoy them for both breakfast and dessert. I know I did.

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One year ago: Tarte Noire
Two years ago: Tribute to Katherine Hepburn Brownies
Three years ago: Blueberry Pie

Printer Friendly Recipe
Chocolate-Chocolate Chunk Muffins (from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, for Tuesdays with Dorie)

Makes 12 muffins

Two ounces of chocolate chunks mixed into the dough is a restrained amount that reflects the breakfast intentions of these muffins. For more richness, feel free to increase that up to as much as 6 ounces. I mixed in some white chocolate as well.

6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (4.67 ounces) sugar
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough — a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

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sour cream chocolate cake cookies

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Chocolate cake without frosting is just sad; likewise, chocolate cake cookies without frosting are clearly missing something important. Cream cheese frosting is important. Sprinkles are important.

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The cookies were soft and tender, as cake should be. Despite a full container of sour cream, they weren’t overly rich, and their chocolate flavor was more than subtle, less than overpowering.  (I like overpowering.)  They might seem plain and homely on their own, but that’s nothing that a dollop of frosting can’t fix.

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Spike chose these for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the full recipe posted. I chilled the dough for about an hour before baking to reduce spreading. I also left out the raisins and spices so that the cookies would mimic a classic chocolate cake.

Two years ago: Perfect Party Cake (compared to 2 other white cake recipes)
Three years ago: Apple Cheddar Scones

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