Friday, February 20, 2009

The Great Brownie Showdown

(this is not a brownie)
I've been on a brownie roll lately. I'm on the quest for the Perfect Brownie. Why is this so difficult?

First, I made the Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies. These are kind of over the top. I didn't even add the chocolate chips -- they were extremely dark, rich and heavy. I mean, they were good, but they were a bit much. I also overbaked them slightly, which didn't help. We liked them, but they are not everyday brownies.

Then, I made the Baker's One-Bowl Brownies. These were highly recommended by many people. These did have the perfect texture: fudgy and slightly sticky, with a thin, crispy top and chewy sides. However, the flavor was a bit one-note. So much so, that I'm wondering if I did something stupid like left out the vanilla or salt or something. I didn't love them, but the texture was hard to argue with.

So tonight I made Mark Bittman's Brownies. I have to say, I think this might be the winner. I added vanilla and a tiny bit of almond extract (my secret ingredient). Great texture -- fudgy, dark, with a good chewy edge. I think this is definitely way up there. They're a tiny bit too buttery (is that possible?)

I'd still like to try Cook's Illustrated Classic Brownies, but I'd also be happy just sticking with the Mark Bittman brownie recipe.

One more note about brownies. I do have one special brownie recipe that I only make every once in awhile. This is James Beard's brownie recipe (I'm not certain that this link is the exact recipe that I use, I will have to check). This recipe is tricky -- it's very easy to simultaneously over- and under-bake them. This was the only brownie recipe I had while I lived in Finland, and we made every single permutation of these you can imagine, because we didn't always have the correct ingredients, and it was often so snowy and freezing, or we were so poor, that we couldn't get to the store to get the right ingredients. Also, we had to translate metric to cups and teaspoons, so... sometimes they were, um, interesting. One time, when we were really desperate, I even melted down cheap Easter chocolate candies and tried to make brownies out of them. (don't do that, by the way)

So now I only make these when certain friends come to visit (you know who you are!!). They are best eaten while watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Possibly accompanied by Queen. And maybe some rye crackers and cheese.

It's taking me forever to read my current book, but I'm enjoying it so much that I don't mind taking a little extra time. I'm also working on my projects and that's taking up my reading time. But I'll have some new stuff soon!

In the meantime, I suggest you make some brownies.


Tammie said...

ooh ohh. i'm not a brownie lover, but i highly recommend Ayun Hallidays brownie recipe in the book Dirty Sugar Cookies. It's unbelievable. It's not a typical brownie, it's more like a thick, gooey, chocolate chip cookie. Everytime I make them, the entire pan is gone within minutes.

(Plus, the book is pretty entertaining too.)

D'Arcy said...

I love you.

Stefanie said...

Yum, brownies. James makes these yummy brownies that have blueberry jam in them. Vegan brownies don't quite get the crusty outside and tend toward cake-y, but his blueberry brownies are the closest we've been able to come.