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
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.