Saturday, March 14, 2015

Let's make some brownies!

Many have said the most difficult part in baking is the precision in measurement. Well no doubt there are solid grounds for that reasoning since baking is more of a science and there are certain rules that need to be strictly followed, especially for stuff like bread or certain types of cakes. But there are baked goods that are more forgiving than the others - and brownies is one of them. Of course every small things you changed will still make a noticeable difference in the end products, but in brownies, those differences are often acceptable. Maybe that's why I love making them at home since there's less pressure on getting everything right all the time.


Another reason is brownies require only a limited set of ingredients which we have stock at home regularly. And it only took a short time to prepare and bake - no need to wait for dough to rise, batter to get cooled etc etc. You can get one from start to finish (including cleaning up) within an hour max. And with a combination of butter, chocolate, sugar and egg (and a little bit of flour) as the primary ingredients, it's almost fail-safe.

Fleur de sel with vanilla - perfect for making brownies!
Anyway this is probably one of the hundreds of different variations of brownies recipe you would find online. Should I use chocolate or cocoa powder (or a combination of both)? 70% vs 63%? Butter in the pan first or chocolate? Baking powder or not? Some swore a specific way to mix the batter yield the chewiest brownies on earth - I saw one that said I must whisk clockwise for 40 times or else I am screwed. For me, I usually just made use of whatever I got at home, and wasn't even too particular about steps as long as I didn't overbeat the batter before baking (that would make the brownies a bit too tough) I also like to throw in a little bit salt in to bring out the sweetness - I once even tried to use soy sauce too. Just be careful not to put too much in.


There's nothing wrong with having brownies on their own - best when they are fresh off the oven - but I love to pair with a generous scoop of icecream, best if it was homemade, of course. My favorite flavors would be plain vanilla or salted caramel. This is my favorite salted caramel icecream recipe, just in case you ask.



Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients (yield one 8-inch square cake pan or 24 mini-square brownie pans)

8 oz or approx 200g of the best chocolate you could find (I usually use Valrhona 70% dark chocolate)
6 tablespoon of butter
3/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of fleur del sel
(Optional) 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

Okay, the question of baking powder. Some swore brownies with baking powder is no brownies (just a chocolate cake), but sometimes I threw some in especially if I am looking for more a "cakey" texture, something softer and not as filling than a fudgy one. I am not making a fuss about authenticity here.



Procedures

1. If your chocolate came in a big block, chop it up first - that will assist in melting.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Grease and flour the cake pan with softened butter or cooking spray and set aside. Optionally line the pan with parchment paper or foil for easier removal after finished (no need for silicone pan)
3. Using a double boiler, or saucepan over simmering water, or if you dare, just saucepan over very low heat very carefully, melt the butter and chocolate without burning them by constantly stirring until they are completely melted and mixed.
4. Remove the saucepan from the heat source, rigorously stir in the sugar until the batter turned into a slightly crumbly texture, then mix in the eggs and vanilla extract. If you are using baking powder, mix it in with the flour first. Finally stir in the flour and salt  until everything just combined and turned smooth- do not over-stir.
5. Use a ladle or just pour the batter into the cake pan, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Check with a toothpick stuck to the center - if it comes out clean it's done. Cool completely before removing from the pan and cut into whatever shapes you want them to be served.
6. Optionally, if you would like to reheat at a later time, pop it in microwave for a quick 20 seconds.


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