Suzi's Blog

Double Chocolate Pecan Brownies

brownies

“Dessert is up to you,” Suzen said. She was on the bus coming from New York City to the Catskills. In three hours, we were due at a dinner party. She had promised that we would bring dessert. On this particular bus line, they frown on people spending too much time on their cell phones, or having their iPod blasting away. Or baking anything, even brownies. So, dessert really was up to me.

“Brian,” she added, “don’t screw it up. Measure.”

Oh, the pressure. I wanted us to bring something glorious to this dinner party and I knew that both God and Suzen would be judging me. Where to turn?

The wonderful new book Cake Boy by Eric Lanlard is becoming the place I know I can find redemption. It has outstanding cakes, as the title would imply, but there are other things here to help a man facing duress. I scanned the book, checking both titles and headnotes. And it was this headnote that let me sigh with relief: “These lovely, rich, nutty, and chewy brownies are an ideal indulgent snack, as well as making the perfect dinner-party dessert.”

Rich. Brownies. Perfect dinner-party dessert.

This actually is a perfect dessert. It is, unfortunately, mistitled. It’s called Double Chocolate Pecan Brownies. But it’s not Double, it is Quadruple:

  • Bittersweet Chocolate
  • Cocoa Powder
  • White Chocolate
  • Milk Chocolate

Ah, why quibble over words. That picture above shows the dreamy texture of the final product. No frosting or icing is necessary. Some vanilla ice cream on the side is a wise suggestion by Eric.

Cake Boy is a beautifully produced book: numerous and excellent photos, clean fonts on top of luxury paper, very well-tested recipes designed for the home cook. Eric crafted this book for you, and Cake Boy can only be termed a success.

Double Chocolate Pecan Brownies

Yield: 12 large brownies [enough for 6 or 5 or 4 or me]

Ingredients:

  • 1 ⅝ sticks [¼ pound plus 5 tablespoons] unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 6 ½ ounces best bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup pure cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces white chocolate
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • 1 cup pecan halves, chopped

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a shallow brownie pan or regular square pan [8 ½ inches] with extra butter, and line with parchment paper

Cut the butter into cubes and add to the bittersweet chocolate. Melt in either a microwave or in a double boiler. In the microwave, heat for about 1 minute, remove, stir, and reheat for another 30 seconds if necessary. If using a double boiler, do not let the simmering water touch the bottom of the pan containing the butter and chocolate. Remove from the heat. Stir to dissolve any lumps and allow to cool a little.

Tip the flour and cocoa powder into a sifter held over a medium bowl.

With a large sharp knife, chop the white and milk chocolate into chunks on a board.

Break the eggs into a large bowl and tip in the sugar. With an electric mixer on maximum speed, whisk the eggs and sugar until they look thick and creamy. You’ll know it’s ready when the mixture becomes really pale and about double its original volume.

Pour the cooled chocolate mixture over the eggy mousse, then gently fold together with a rubber spatula. Add the sifted flour and cocoa mixture, and gently fold to using a large metal spoon. Finally, stir in the white and milk chocolate chunks and chopped pecans until they are dotted evenly throughout the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. The brownies are cooked when you get a nice cracked and crunchy crust on top, but still with wet fudgy middle.

Leave the whole thing in the pan until completely cold, then removed, peel away the paper, and cut into square using a sharp knife.

Source: Cake Boy by Eric Lanlard

James Peterson’s Compromise Brownies

brownie

With our economy struggling and Congress bickering, it seems impossible to get people to compromise. About anything. For example, there are those who devoted to having their brownies cakelike. And, equally, some people will fight to defend their rights to a fudgy brownie.

If you are baking brownies for a party, and you bring only one style, you are certain to offend someone. What to do? Renowned food guru James Peterson has a wonderful new cookbook, Kitchen Simple, that has the solution. He says this brownie can satisfy either the cake or the fudgy camps. Suzen and I baked these, and Peterson is right.

These brownies have a very different consistency. It is rich and fudgy but retains a cake-like feeling. How does Peterson do it? He has found the perfect substitute for sugar: it is something called chocolate.

I’m serious.

If you look at most brownie recipes, the ratio of sugar to flour is 2:1 or 3:2. More sugar than flour. In this recipe, there are equal amounts of sugar and flour. But a lot of chocolate. For an 8” square pan, the typical brownies recipe calls for a few tablespoons of cocoa powder or perhaps 4 ounces of chocolate. Here, a full half pound of bittersweet chocolate is employed. The effect is dramatic, as you will discover when you sample these brownies.

Actually, you won’t sample these. You will eat them all.

Author James Peterson is recognized for his superior cookbooks. His Sauces was an instant classic and will be read and be forever used by foodies. Kitchen Simple is a carefully crafted book. Peterson calls it his collection of essential recipes for everyday cooking. It’s the perfect cookbook for a new bride [or groom].

Reading and using this cookbook will give you an unofficial BA in culinary arts. Beyond the recipes, there is an important philosophy conveyed throughout the book: the best food comes from you and real ingredients. Not cans and chemicals. Here is Peterson’s introduction to the Soup Chapter:

Judging by the popularity of canned soups, many of us are intimidated by making our own. Perhaps this is because of our images of long-simmered concoctions that site all day on the back of the stove. In fact, many soups can be made with 10 minutes or so of actual applied work. True, they may need to cook for 30 minutes or a little more but that’s all. While most of us think of soups as first course, when served with plenty of bread a typical soup is perfectly adequate as light main course. Consider a soup and salad to be the perfect dinner.

 

Suzen and I agree.

James Peterson Compromise Brownies

Yield: one 8” square pan [so you can cut it into 9-16 pieces]

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup [1 ½ sticks] butter
  • ½ pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts [optional]

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter an 8” square baking dish.

Combine the butter and chocolate in a microwave bowl and microwave for 30 seconds on high. Stir until smooth. If the chocolate has not completely melted, microwave for another 15 seconds.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Sift over the flout, stir, and then stir in the nuts.

Spread the mixture in the baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before cutting the brownies and serving. If you like, dust with powdered sugar.

Source: Kitchen Simple by James Peterson