I know, right? Of all the things we could have attempted in its gourmet catalog, we chose perhaps the most humble of all chocolate recipes. But can you blame us? What a pure and simple way to showcase chocolate! Besides, we both hadn't had brownies in far too long. Then the real debate began: should we make cakey or fudgy brownies? With or without walnuts? We are both chocolate purists, so without walnuts was an easy decision. Cakey vs. fudgy, on the other hand, was a bit more difficult to decide; the book had one recipe for each. The cakey recipe seemed a little too cakey, while the picture of the fudgy recipe just looked like fudge. Is it too much to ask for something in between? We ended up chickening out of using the book's recipes and turned once again to my trusty old epicurious.com for inspiration. As luck would have it, there was a brownie recipe that claimed it could be cakey or fudgy, depending on how long you cooked it. Well, thought we, it looks like we can get the best of both worlds after all! We'll only baked them 5 minutes longer than the minimum time to achieve brownie nirvana. And off we went...
Sadly, brownie nirvana will have to wait for another day. The brownies, while completely delicious, perfectly rich (but not gaggingly so), and chocalatey, were quite cakey. They got a bit fudgier after fully cooling down (but who wants to wait for that, honestly?), but the end product was still a very cakey brownie. It was with much sorrow that we all gobbled up the brownies with several glasses of milk and had seconds and thirds. I think I've uncovered a new mission in life: The Quest for the Ultimate Brownie, or, if you prefer, Brownie Nirvana.
adapted from "Gourmet" magazine, Oct. 2003
Don't let my sad tale of woe deter you - these brownies are still quite amazing. Bake them the minimun amount of time (or slightly underbake them) if you want to try for fudgier results, and let me know how it goes.
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
8 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (2 inches deep) and line bottom and sides with parchment paper, then butter paper.
Melt butter and chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl, then pour in chocolate mixture, whisking until combined well. Whisk in flour mixture, then stir in walnuts and transfer batter to baking pan.
Bake until top is shiny and set and sides have begun to pull away slightly (a wooden pick or skewer will not come out clean), about 35 minutes, for fudgy brownies; or until wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour total, for cakey brownies.
Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack. Invert onto a cutting board, remove paper, and cut into squares.