During my stint away from The Dish I made brownies….a LOT of brownies. It was not my intention to do so. On the contrary, it was something simple that evolved into a minor obsession with creating the perfect brownie; at least by my standards. Brownies after all happen to be not only one of my go-to comfort foods, but as far as foods go are one of the great loves of my life. Therein lies the source of my recent undertaking; I am ridiculously hypercritical of brownies.
To me the perfect brownie can’t be too thin, too soggy, too dry, too heavy, too light, to rich, too sweet and never, ever can it be cakey.
I extend my apologies to those of you who happen to be rather fond of cake brownies; I mean no intolerance. However there is a distinction between brownies and cake in the universe of food, and brownies that eat like cake are not brownies at all. They are simply heavy cake. Brownies are brownies; cake is cake.
Granted, brownies were most likely created as the accidental offspring of a cake gone wild but a clear line was drawn in the sand at one point in time and the two became separate entities entirely.
During my adventures in brownie making I made several incarnations of them; from cocoa powder and sugar to baking chocolate. The cocoa versions weren’t bad but tended to be a little more time consuming and were often hit or miss. The baking chocolate was a wee bit too bitter and lacked that certain “flare”. In the end using chocolate chips or other good quality chocolate ended up the consistent winner. The key was using good chocolate.
I used either Godiva bar chocolate or Ghirardelli, mostly because the “other brands” in the yellow bags are distinctly more bitter and the taste is far inferior. Plus the ingredients in the “yellow bag brand” consist of many things on my “do not ever touch or consume” list. Over all the Ghirardelli won out simply because it was much more cost effective. At nearly three dollars a bar, three cups equivalent chocolate in bars is a serious amount of coin. Check the economy, the future is bleak.
Slowly I figured out just the right amounts of each to make them the right thickness; although in truth I wouldn’t balk at making them a tad more-so. The first batches resulted in brownies that were too thin. All brownies must be a minimum of one inch to ride this attraction. That’s the rule, no exceptions.
Secondly the batter must fill a 13×9 inch pan or two 9×9 while meeting said height requirement. See Mr. Sweet Butter is a zenful kinda guy. He likes his food to be basic with as few unnecessary additives as possible. WizKid and I however are a bit more Indiana Jones. We like to be adventurous and experiment. Granted I’m not about to attempt calamari brownies any time soon but we did add copious amounts of coconut and macadamia nuts to one batch; peanut butter and peanuts to another; carmel and pecans to a third. Our imaginations are only getting started here. The possibilities are endless and I for one am willing to go where those possibilities will lead, within reason of course.
That being said, the batter needed to be enough to satisfy both my Zenful husband and the eclectic tastes of WizKid and myself as well as meet the height requirements. Rules are rules after-all. We made two pans or one pan of half and half. If it can be done for pizza, trust me, it can be accomplished with a single pan of brownies as well.
After several batches we were finally getting somewhere but there was still something lacking. It was the last piece to the puzzle; the cherry to the sundae; the Mona to the Lisa; the Sonny to the Cher…wait that didn’t work out so well..scratch that. You get the idea; something else was needed to make them truly perfect to my tastes. It was by one part experimentation and one part inspiration that I stumbled on the missing link. Of course doesn’t inspiration usually lead to experimentation thereby making them equal parts of the same thing? Whatever; the fact is all brownie recipes I looked at called for vanilla and only vanilla, always vanilla. I added 1 tsp vanilla, simply because it seemed necessary to maintain the proper balance of the universe, but I also added 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and voila, the planets aligned and a wormhole through time and space was created bridging the universe of brownies for me eternally. The almond gave it that added flavor and in the world according to Tara, the perfect brownie was born.
Mr. Sweet Butter, who was never much of a brownie kinda guy, actually requested fresh batches nearly four times in a row. It knew then I had hit the mark. We ate them warm, we ate them cold, we ate them plain and with ice cream and chocolate on them.
Now, to perfect the cupcake. New adventures await.
- 1¾ cups flour
- ¾ cups unsalted butter (1½ sticks)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3 cups good quality chocolate; (Ghirardelli chocolate chips at a minimum)
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 eggs
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- In a three quart pan, melt butter and chocolate on low heat.
- Remove from heat and add both sugars, stirring until incorporated and slightly cooled.
- Add eggs, one at a time, mixing completely between each addition.
- Add vanilla and almond extract.
- In a separate small bowl, combine four and salt. Add flour to chocolate mixture and stir well.
- Butter a 9x13 pan and spread batter evenly throughout pan.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes depending on oven and altitude until knife or toothpick inserted through the center comes out slightly moist but not runny or sticky.
- Cool and serve.