Serious Eats: Sweets
Chocoholic: Perfect Brownies
These brownies are not a mocha-macchiato-molten-center brownie, a death-by-triple-truffle brownie, or a cheesecake-chocolate-crack brownie. They're just a good 'ole basic brownie. No hoopla, nothing fancy, but soul satisfyingly good. These are the kind of "I want to knock everyone's socks off but don't want to look like I've tried too hard" type of brownie. Yes, it's unpretentious. And yes, it's seriously chocolaty and furiously fudgy folks. A chocoholic wouldn't let you down.
Growing up, my benchmark brownie was off the back of the Baker's unsweetened chocolate box. And I was extremely lucky to have a mom who was willing to make 'em from scratch rather than take the easy road with a box of mix. Half cakey, half fudgy, these were the end-all brownie for me until I realized, one day, that the Baker's recipe was just way too sweet. (But I won't blame them, my taste buds probably just changed).
Since then, I've spent most of my pastry chef life in search of my brownie mecca, trying out and tweaking dozens of brownie recipes, never satisfied. An unending quest for the elusive brownie balance of chocolate, sweetness, and cakey-fudgy texture. I'll tell ya, it's not easy. Too much chocolate wrecks the texture. Same goes for too little sugar. Too much flour and you muddle your chocolate flavor; too little flour and forget about sliding out neatly sliced squares. You might as well scoop it out of the pan with a spoon.
Using the Baker's recipe as a guide, I fiddled around with the ingredients to nail this perfect basic brownie. The original recipe calls for just unsweetened chocolate and a mountain of sugar. The result is a brownie that's a bit too sweet and one dimensional. (I tried just lessening the sugar but it made the texture too dry). To achieve a fuller chocolate flavor, I used a slightly sweet and intensely chocolaty bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa), with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder and a bit of salt (always a good idea when you want to enhance chocolate flavor). The slight sweetness of the 70% chocolate let me cut back on the added sugar while keeping the texture just as moist as before. To keep the brownies from being too cakey, I decreased one of the eggs to just a yolk (sorry, cake fans).
These chocolaty brownies emerge from the oven with a crusty top of crunchy walnuts, and a moist, fudgey texture within. Finally—brownies perfect enough to not have to hide behind a superfluous veil of flavorings and gimmick.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore and is currently at work constructing her new blog, shophousecook.com .Follow Yvonne on Twitter.