TWD: French Chocolate Brownies

by Holly on June 3, 2008

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The French Chocolate Brownies were this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie pick from Di of Di’s Kitchen Notebook.

Lovely as they sound – and taste – these brownies are also now known as “the brownies that hate me” and I’m forced to write the following:

Dear French Chocolate Brownies,

What did I do to you? Was it the fact that from the onset I adamantly refused to give rum raisins a chance? I know that you are quite likely more than happy not being fiddled with, and that my constant adjustments are probably quite annoying, but, my apologies to the Raisin Council, I don’t like raisins. Ever. At all.

Yes, yes, I understand I could have substituted something else. I don’t enjoy dried fruit in my baked goods and if I am going to make a recipe and commit ingredients, I want to want to eat them.

I know that you were probably quite disappointed with the loss of the opportunity to get all rummy and fired up. I’m sad to miss that opportunity as well, but it just couldn’t be helped.

Though your end results were very delicious, the stigma of trying to make you and running into
personal failures two times in a row is for me a bit too difficult at this time to continue our relationship. I am sad to say, that until I get up the courage, I will not be coming back to you.

It’s not you. It’s me.

Sincerely,
Holly

You see, the first time I made these brownies, I wanted to make them in individual muffin cups and save them for picnics and lunches and such. Great idea, right? Well, not with this recipe. As reported by many others, this recipe puffed. A lot. That was fine, but the center ended up being a good inch or two lower than the sides. They were still delicious though, but the texture just wasn’t my favorite for a brownie. They were good in their own right, just not what I hoped for.

The second time around I decided to try again to see if I got a different result by making the batch in one square pan, as originally written, minus the raisins. Again, the batter was nice and thick and tasted wonderful. Again, they puffed up nicely, but then they got really high on the sides and really sunk in the middle.

So, why don’t you see any pictures of attempt number two. Well, I intended to take a picture, but everyone ate (and loved) them while I was off feeding the baby. I will say that the fact that these were still devoured quite quickly is definitely a testament to the deliciousness of the recipe itself. Especially since the brownies had been wrapped in a towel for transport and subsequently stepped on by Aidan. He may only be four years old, but he has big feet – so, he pretty much flattened and destroyed the entire pan – which again, since they were covered, everyone still ate even though I told them what happened.

Great brownies then? Yes. Do I have some severe malfunction or curse when trying to make this recipe? Apparently so. I am not leaving this recipe due to its lack of goodness – just because I’m afraid if I make it again I will burn down the kitchen or something. Maybe, one day, when I’m not so nervous about it, I’ll give it another go. I realize that there is really nothing to be afraid of in this recipe but, for some reason, I just can’t seem to get it right. Make sure to check out how all the other TWDer’s faired with this recipe!

So, I drowned my sorrows in this Cherry Gelato recipe from the new issue of Gourmet instead. I needed a confidence boost after my brownie fiascos. This was supposed to be all cute and pretty with brownies cut from the second pan, but, well, you already know what happened to those. This gelato was easy to make and tasted extremely awesome. Use really good almond extract because the flavor really does shine through under the cherry flavor. Enjoy!

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French Chocolate Brownies
– makes 16 brownies –
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours

Ingredients
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 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.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you’re using it.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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cherry Gelato
(Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, June 2008)
For gelato:
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup turbinado sugar such as Sugar in the Raw
2 Tbsp cornstarch

For cherries:
1/2 lb bing cherries (1 1/2 cups; do not substitute frozen), pitted
2 Tbsp turbinado sugar
1 tsp pure almond extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Equipment:
an ice cream maker

Preparation
Make gelato:
Scrape seeds from vanilla bean with tip of a paring knife into a small heavy saucepan. Add milk and a pinch of salt and bring just to a boil, then remove from heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together sugar and cornstarch, then add 1/2 cup hot milk, whisking until smooth. Whisk into milk in saucepan. Bring to a simmer, whisking, then simmer, whisking, 3 minutes (mixture will be thick). Immediately pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl set in an ice bath. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Remove from ice bath and chill, covered, 1 hour.

Prepare cherries:
Pulse cherries, sugar, and extracts in a food processor until finely chopped, then chill, covered, 1 hour.

Make ice cream:
Stir cherries with their juices into gelato mixture and freeze in ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours.

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

rainbowbrown June 3, 2008 at 6:40 am

Oh no. Stepped on? Oh no. I’m so sorry… Stepped on?? *giggle* That’s so sad. 😉

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steph- whisk/spoon June 3, 2008 at 7:21 am

oh, poor squashed brownies! but that gelato definitely came out just fine–i’d write that one a love letter!

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Manggy June 3, 2008 at 8:34 am

Gosh, sorry about the brownies (and the stepping!) 🙁 However, I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with puffing and sinking and cracking… It’s rustic! Francais! Hee hee 🙂 I do love raisins, but I don’t like rum. So I would probably not add them either.

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Andrea June 3, 2008 at 11:16 am

So sad you weren’t happy with this brownie recipe. My pyramids came out fine but until now I didn’t own up to some rather tragic looking canneles (all the raisins sank to the bottom which when tuned out gave me awful looking tops). They still tasted good and the boys inhaled them.

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Engineer Baker June 3, 2008 at 11:42 am

At least they were covered when stepped on? I’m glad everyone liked them!

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LyB June 3, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Ooooh, cherry gelato, that sounds gorgeous! It would have been delicious with the brownies. Sorry about your mishaps, at least you had a great excuse to have a great big bowl of cherry gelato! 🙂

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rebekka June 3, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Puffed or not, the texture of your brownies looks incredible. Cherry gelato!? That is exactly what I wish I had to accompany mine (which had cherries in them.) Gorgeous!

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Bumblebutton June 3, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Glad you had some success with your gelato. And are you SURE the brownies were covered?!!! No matter–baby feet are very sweet.

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Steph June 3, 2008 at 2:05 pm

You’re hilarious. I love the letter, such a nice touch! The brownies and gelato look delightful!

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April June 3, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Great post! Sorry you had mishaps with both batches! The gelato looks wonderful though!

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kimberleyblue June 3, 2008 at 2:28 pm

I’m sorry they didn’t turn out as well as you would’ve liked. But hey – the gelato seems like a great consolation prize!

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BAKE-EN June 3, 2008 at 2:28 pm

OMG, I that is so funny you’re son stepped on the brownies. I can only imagine how cute a picture of “that” footprint would have been 🙂 Great post. I’m sorry your relationship with these brownies is over.

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Anne June 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm

Great store- I can totally picture my little guy stepping on them too (right now he loves to grab the pan off the edge of the counter, you have to be fast with helpers around!). I bet the tasted good, hopefully next week’s tart will work out for you! 🙂

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CB June 3, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Bummer about your brownie mishaps. The brownie cups are an adorable idea! Way to persevere! and yes… bibliothèque just seems to roll off the tongue! HAHA!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

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annmartina June 3, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Oh, just think how good brownies would have been w/cherry gelato. Like a chocolate covered cherry. But, I know the feeling. Some recipes are just cursed.

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Mara June 3, 2008 at 5:35 pm

oh that ice cream looks amazing…!!! oh is it gelato? even better! these definitely do not ‘travel’ well, i made tarts hoping they’d get all cute and puffy, not so much. but yummy regardless!!

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lemontartlet June 3, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Tell everybody that having a child step on them is the newest chic baking technique in France.

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The Kitchen Vixen June 3, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Ha! Did they have a foot print in them after? At least everyone enjoyed them;)

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Jess June 3, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Sorry they didn’t work for you…but oh, that cherry gelato looks amazing!

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Melissa June 3, 2008 at 6:39 pm

I would have liked to have seen a picture of the stepped on brownies 🙂

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Mary Ann June 3, 2008 at 7:12 pm

they still look good! Love your letter

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Jayne June 3, 2008 at 7:46 pm

I burst out laughing – your brownies were STEPPED ON! That’s certainly different! And despite all the frustrations, the brownies still look yummy in your pictures! So does that gelato!

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Susie Homemaker June 3, 2008 at 9:18 pm

poor brownies…making them twice….wow! i’m sure they tasted yummy – and that gelato is now on my list to try! (and I don’t really even like cherries!)

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Annemarie June 3, 2008 at 9:49 pm

I HATE it when stuff goes worng like that. Glad they tasted good, even after the squashing!

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Di June 3, 2008 at 10:48 pm

I had to laugh at your letter and the fact that the second batch got stepped on. I can so imagine something like that happening around here… These weren’t my favorite brownie recipe either, but they were still pretty tasty.

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Christine June 3, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Oh the poor brownies! The cherry gelato looks delicious I am going to have to try your recipe!

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Heather June 3, 2008 at 11:32 pm

I’m sorry you had troubles! Maybe next week will be better!

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Kayte June 4, 2008 at 12:15 am

Still giggling about all this…and dreaming of that cherry gelato…..

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Rebecca June 4, 2008 at 1:58 am

OMG, cherry gelato? I’ll be right over. 😉

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Hygeian Stew June 4, 2008 at 2:02 am

Your brownies survived a stepping on, and still were all gobbled up? I’d call that success!

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Lisa Thibault June 4, 2008 at 3:01 am

My husband said these looked like chocolate Yorkshire Puddings when they came out of the oven so I feel your pain. I cheated and cracked off the puffed up part! They look tasty and the gelato – nice!

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Prudy June 4, 2008 at 3:18 am

I loved your letter to the brownies. It’s amazing how much can happen while you are feeding a baby. The gelato looks marvelous…

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bakingwiththeboys June 4, 2008 at 4:08 am

Stepped on? I will have to remember that as a potential hazard when the boys are in the kitchen. I think I will be trying that gelato. Looks fab!

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StickyGooeyCreamyChewy June 4, 2008 at 4:08 am

Hehehe! I’m sorry about you brownie issues, but your letter was really funny. Sometimes a particular recipe just doesn’t agree with us.

Now, that gelato looks to die for! I just picked up that issue and haven’t even looked through it yet, but guess what I’ll be making!

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Grace June 4, 2008 at 8:31 am

it would take a lot more than a four-year-old’s foot residue to keep me away from something made with chocolate. just pile on the gelato and no one would be able to tell (and the brownies would be even better)! 🙂

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briannalee June 4, 2008 at 12:12 pm

lol, sorry about those brownies 🙂

I have to say, you are my hero! I LOVED cherry gelato!! YUM!!!

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Katie B. June 4, 2008 at 1:08 pm

What’s a little feet between friends? As tasty as these brownies were, I can totally see why the footprint didn’t deter anyone!

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Mevrouw Cupcake June 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Ice cream always makes everything better doesn’t it? I can’t wait to try your cherry gelato recipe!

Just a thought, did you maybe not beat the eggs and sugar long enough?

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Rose June 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

The gelato looks great! I’ll have to try that!

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eatme_delicious June 4, 2008 at 6:58 pm

Aw sorry to hear that your brownie experience wasn’t so great! They look great though and the fact that everyone ate them right up is a testament to how good they are, which is the important part right? I made sure to spread my batter out to the edges of the pan because I was scared of having a sunken/lower center. I ended up with my brownies having an event height all across, but I’m not sure if that’s why.

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Shari June 4, 2008 at 7:18 pm

The cherry gelato looks delicious. Too bad about the brownie curse! 😉
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

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Gabi June 4, 2008 at 8:34 pm

I’ve had that happen before- drat!
But hey you are phemomenal because who else would have cherry gelato?

I’ve returned the award favour by passing on a Yummy Blog Award to you- you rock!!!

Here’s the link:
http://www.thefeastwithin.com/2008/06/04/the-year-of-blogging-deliciously/

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Jacque June 4, 2008 at 10:06 pm

A “Dear John” letter… to a brownie… hilarious!

They do look delish, along with the gelato, mmmmm.

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Dianne June 4, 2008 at 11:39 pm

That cherry gelato looks great!

Sorry the brownies didn’t turn out how you had hoped.

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Garrett June 5, 2008 at 5:48 am

Well…at least the cherry gelato turned out great! I could really go for some good gelato right about now.

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Jenny June 5, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Well that is the firs time I’ve ever read a letter to a brownie. Well done.

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Cafe Johnsonia June 5, 2008 at 7:12 pm

I can’t stop thinking about the cherry gelato…

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Jaime June 6, 2008 at 1:25 am

cherry gelato – yum!

kudos for giving the recipe more than one try… i am laughing at how everyone ate the brownies even though aidan stepped on them! hahahha

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PheMom June 6, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Yes. It is true – these are brownies good enough that they are still devoured when stepped on. Thanks to all for your support through my baking woes! I forgot to mention in the post that I am fairly certain that the problem is that my oven temperature is off. I plan to buy an oven thermometer and step up to make these again.

I’ll let you know how the saga continues. Thanks again for laughing along with me!

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Joy @ Joy Of Desserts June 6, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Oh my, such tribulations for these poor little brownies. I wonder what they were doing on the floor. Or should I wonder what a 4 year old was doing walking on the table or counter? 🙂

This was a fun post to read, Holly, and you should enter your gelato in my Ice Cream Round Up on July 18th. It sounds and looks so delicious. All the details are on my blog if you’re interested in participating with this or any other yummy ice cream recipe.

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Lynnylu June 7, 2008 at 11:24 am

The heck with the brownies-your cherry gelato rocks, however, they look fine to me.

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