Brownies

With the exception of fresh fruit, my sister Rachael rarely if ever eats anything sweet.

Sugar’s not the greatest building block for the body but don’t ya just crave a taste now and again? Well, not my sister-she eats extremely well and never craves sweets.

I’d like to have inherited her sweetless gene, but I go weak in the knees at just the sight of a dark Belgian chocolate or freshly baked Franzipan, and my favorite, most relaxing past-time and hobby is baking.

But but but but, there is one sweet my sis usually won’t pass up, and that’s a really good brownie.

Her favorite is the classic Catherine Hepburn brownie-all moist, chewy, fudgy, and loaded with walnuts-more nuts than brownie, just baked walnuts with chocolate stuck to them, actually. With Valentine’s Day approaching it is officially brownie season in my kitchen once again. I try every brownie recipe I come across, in magazines, on the internet, from inside chocolate boxes, from friends, I’ve even bought cook books based solely on one good lookin’ brownie recipe.

Here’s what I’ve figured out to date: moist fudgy brownies require fewer eggs (usually only 1), cocoas and powders make a more cake-like chocolate tasting brownie, but not fudgy. Therefore if you want fudgy, using a good quality brick chocolate is the way to go.  Do not over-mix the batter, stir ingredients together (no electric mixer, no extra air) just until combined, and melt the sugar before adding to recipe (yep in a pan just as if you were making the topping for creme brulee, just don’t brown the sugar), and most importantly, do not seize(see below for details around seizing chocolate) the chocolate!  Seizing chocolate happens during the part of the recipe where you are melting it.  Melt your chocolate very slowly, what you want is chocolate soup, like leaving a hershey bar on the dash of your car in the sun, and you will improve your brownie. I know you’re supposed to be able to recover seizing chocolate with a little water, removing from heat of course, stirring until the glossy sheen comes back, but I don’t think I agree. Once chocolate starts to seize I think it’s done for when you’re making brownies.Maybe other recipes where the chocolate isn’t such a major contributor or lead factor you can stop seizing chocolate and use (so expensive you hate to throw out), but in brownies when I’ve tried to use recovered chocolate I think I detect almost a granular texture which ruins the whole brownie experience.

For sister this year I’m pouring my batter onto a large greased cookie sheet and when done and cool, I’m going to take a heart-shaped cookie cutter and make her a Valentines Day treat, I tried a practice run and it turned out great. There was leftover brownie on the sheet of course from the outline of the heart cutouts so I cut up into little cubes and made brownie sundaes for my kids- I put a few cubes in the bottom of two sundae dishes, added a little scoop of vanilla ice cream,  a little hot fudge!

*Seizing Chocolate-Maria’s notes

Basically burned chocolate is seized chocolate.   If while stirring melting chocolate in a pan and some of the chocolate you scrape from the bottom looks  dry and begins to smell  heavy or beginning to burn , you are seizing the chocolate.  This can also happen believe it or not by having water in the pan before melting or by not having a closed double boiler, or by boiling the water too rapidly in the double boiler, because steam or excessive moisture will seize chocolate.  The twist here is the cure for seizing chocolate is to add water (if chocolate not ruined by being burned).

Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies

* 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
* 2 squares unsweetened chocolate
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Melt together 1 stick butter and 2 squares unsweetened chocolate and
take the saucepan off the heat.

2. Stir in 1 cup sugar, add 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat
the mixture well.

3. Stir in 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt. (In the
original recipe, 1 cup chopped walnuts is added here as well.)

4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at
325°F for about 40 minutes.

this is the real Hepburn family recipe, I increase chocolate and
decrease egg to make them really fudgy.

12 Responses to “Brownies”

  1. Debi says:

    Maria~ I want a brownie right now, so bad!! Thanks for the wonderful recipe. Too bad I am at work otherwise I would be making them right now! I love the brownie heart idea- so sweet. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Maya says:

    Hi Maria – I just made the brownies for my family and they LOVED them. Great recipe – Thank you for sharing it with us. So glad to see you blogging now – I have enjoyed all your entries. Now tell your sis to blog – it has been a while since we have heard anything from Rach. Keep the great recipes and suggestions coming!!

  3. Julie says:

    This was a good read, Thank you! In the past I have had that seized chocolate problem but didn’t know why or how to remidy it. So for me, reading this litle bit about that was very helpfull. I too will be making the Hepburn Brownies for Valentines :)

    Julie
    Clackamas, Oregon

  4. Maria thanks so much for this great recipe and for the tips on chocolate I am so glad you are on this board so we can read all your blogs this is just great what a sweet thing you are doing for your sister I suspected she was not a sweet eater but I bet she will love your brownie hearts, keep your blogs coming Maria we love you.

  5. Lorraine says:

    Maria,
    I’m not a sweet lover myself, but my husband is a brownie lover and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner!! Thank you for the yummy recipe!!:) Lorraine

  6. Joanne says:

    Hi Maria,
    Im from Malaysia, and your sister Rachel had been with me (through television) when i was sick with Bronchitis for 3 months (a year ago). Eventhough i was weak but I’ll surely be watching when her show is on in Malaysia. I am not sure whether is the updated or not but i just love her talk show, and since now im fine and working, i dont have time to watch her talk show anymore. Please tell her that i like her a lot ya.
    I liked the Brownie recipy you posted here. I think i will try this coming weekend and let u know what i think ya! Thanks a lot for the recipe. Keep up blogging ya!! :-)

    Regards,
    Joanne

  7. james says:

    Your sis probably does a little cheating with the sweets and you don’t know it ! hehehe lol

  8. Joanne Monroe says:

    I am looking for todays recipe 0n Feb. 1. 2010 for the little wieners in the tortia wraps for super bowl sunday. I am a huge fam of you Rachael. Ty for all tyhat you do. You inspired me to re join weight watchers to lose weight and get healthy…it will be a long road…but I can do it.
    thank you again

  9. connie says:

    omg, if the brownies are anything like your coconut cake, i cant wait to try, i have made the coconut cake twice, it is the best cake i have ever made, timely and i have a hard time with the frosting, but it is the hit…so cant wait to try the brownies, would make them this weekend, but i have another request for you coconut cake…you need your own website, maybe you should put out a book…you rock….just like your sis…

  10. Liz says:

    Can you leave the nuts out? I’m allergic. Do I need to replace them with something?

  11. Barbara Fair says:

    I’ve never met a brownie I didn’t like!!!!! Any kind – any where!!!!

  12. Terese says:

    Chocolatttteeeeeee, rich but not too sweet and not cakey even without decreasing the egg and adding more chocolate. But, they are so moist and very crumbly, is that normal for these and what is the cook time on them if you spread them out on a baking sheet? Great article on seizing chocolate–than you.

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