Tuesday, June 3, 2008

French Chocolate Brownies (TWD)

This weeks Tuesdays With Dorie selection French Brownies comes to us courtesy of Di at Di's Kitchen Notebook . Now, I don't know of anyone who doesn't appreciate the rich decadence and deep chocolatey flavor of a brownie. From these brownie aficianados, there are definite opinions on texture (cakey vs. fudgy), type of chocolate (semi-sweet vs bittersweet), and additions (choc chips, nuts, or no additions). Let's start by saying that I am of the cakey, bittersweet, no addition camp.

For me, the most important ingredient in any brownie recipe is the chocolate. I always try to find the best quality chocolate, as it will dictate the flavor of the final product. I love using the Valrhona brand, and there is always a block on hand at my house for these baking occasions! BTW, this was the first time I attempted taking pictures during the preparation work...the key word here is "attempted", as I didn't fare too well with blurry pictures and messy hands. This was a lot harder that I assumed, so I commend all of you who do this on a regular basis!

The technique for this recipe is definitely different from a traditional brownie, as it requires beating the sugar and eggs in a mixer before folding in the other ingredients. I suspect that the light, flaky, cakey texture results from this process. The only substitution I made to the original recipe was to switch out rum raisins with cognac soaked dried cherries.

I used a 9" tart pan in lieu of an 8" square pan, and ended up with a thinner layer. I don't know about everyone else, but I had challenges unmolding the brownie from the pan, as the texture was so delicate. Still, there is something really charming about the cracked top and rustic "free form" of this brownie.

The verdict? I really liked the light cakey texture and the deep chocolatey flavor. It wasn't overwhelmingly rich like other brownie recipes ...for me that is a wonderful thing! Also, I really enjoyed the addition of the dried fruit. The tartness and slight chewiness of the cherries serves as a nice contrast to the deep chocolate flavor and tender crumb of the brownie.

Dorie suggests that this brownie goes well with some accompaniments like whipped creme fraiche or whipped cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce --- or all three! I served this brownie with vanilla whipped cream and a homemade chocolate malted ice cream (I will post separately on the ice cream), and I have to say that the combination was heavenly! If you're interested in trying this out (which I wholeheartedly recommend), the recipe is below. Also, check out what my fellow bakers are doing at Tuesdays With Dorie.

French Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 16 brownies

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.


steph- whisk/spoon said...

brownie ice cream with homemade chocolate malted ice cream--are you kidding?!? that is perfection!

noskos said...

Those are some great looking brownies!

The Food Librarian said...

These look great! Love the ice cream too!!

Engineer Baker said...

Chocolate malted ice cream?!? Cognac and cherries?!? I wish those shipped well...

Prudy said...

The brownies with the homemade ice cream are making me envious! I'm so anxious to break out the ice cream maker. Great job!

April said...

The brownies look delicious! The ice cream sounds wonderful too~

C.L. said...

DROOL! Beautiful!

Mara said...

wow a HOMEMADE malted ice cream?! can you post that recipe?! what a decadent treat...my teeth are rotting out just looking at that last picture. btw that butter in chocolate picture looks kind of like mine hhehee...great minds.

CB said...

Cognac cherries! How fun. Tip about taking prep pictures? Lots and lots of paper towels. You should see my apron... messy! HAHA! Great job!
Clara @ I♥food4thought

ostwestwind said...

What a great combination, homemade ice cream, I am with you.

And your step by step instructions are just perfect.

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Anne said...

Yum, the cherries and ice cream sound so good!

Melissa said...

You must live near me if you're going to Surfas. I'll just say I'm near LAX on the coast :)

SiHaN said...

Yum! those look so incredibly good! i ate mine plain and unadorned. Ice-cream sounds good though!

The Kitchen Vixen said...

wow that sounds amazing! i have to get an ice cream maker!

Di said...

Wow, that last picture looks delicious! I'm glad you enjoyed these.

Heather said...

Great job! They look delicious!

Anonymous said...

Chocolate malted ice cream... Mmm. I bet that was amazing with the brownie! Great job with the pictures. I think they look lovely.

LyB said...

I've been looking at so many gorgeous variations of these brownies, I can't wait to make them again and try some new stuff! Yours sound delicious!

Rebecca of "Ezra Pound Cake" said...

Homemade chocolate malted ice cream? I'll be right there! ;)


Cecilia said...

The pictures look good, especially the ones featuring brownie + ice cream + whipped cream. What a sinful combination!

I didn't experience any problems taking the brownies from the pan because I used buttered foil. The foil really helped out.

Anonymous said...

Your brownies look amazing and that icecream sounds delicious!

Jayne said...

Beautiful job! And your process pictures look just fine to me!

Liliana said...

Your brownies look so delicious!
Good combination with the whipped cream and chocolate malted icecream.

Great photos!

Mevrouw Cupcake said...

Yum, yum, yum! I'm with you, cakey and bittersweet is a preferable brownie, although I think additions can be okay, depending on what they are. The rum raisins really surprised me and I'm officially a fan now!

Shari said...

I like how clear you are about what you like. Your homemade malted chocolate ice cream sounds delicious!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

Garrett said...

Hah, it's definitely difficult to get the camera going in the middle of the baking process - especially when you have roommates staring at you like you're insane. Just keep a nice dry place out of the way so your camera is safe, with some paper towels nearby to wipe your hands before handling the camera. These brownies look great by the way, and the ice cream is a great touch!

Renee said...

You've been tagged!

Jaime said...

hahaha - i guess my brownies were VERY "rustic" then :)

your brownies look great, esp w/the ice cream. i used cherries too and loved them.

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