Friday, September 23, 2011

Emergency Birthday Brownies

Ok, you need to tell me if it's your birthday. Seriously. Preferably a day or two in advance. You may have noticed that in the month of September, I bake cakes. If you want in on the birthday-slash-pirate fun, you have to let me know. I am not that good at cakes; I mean well, but I don't have the skills. I need advance warning. Time to plan a strategy (at the very least, I need time to hunt down and borrow a cake carrier).
New Guy, proudly displaying an
Emergency Birthday Brownie...uh...
Emergency Birthday Mudpuppy Porter.
Same difference.

Not that I won't bake you birthday brownies at 10PM, because clearly, I will. I just did. But I swear, New Guy said his birthday was in November. I distinctly heard November. But we were in a noisy bar, and I heard wrong. He said September. Three days after the Tall Acoustician, exactly a week past the Kitchen Physicist herself (oh, you just know that I am already scheming for next year's Big Birthday Week...wheels they are a-turnin'...menus they are a-plannin'...).

Anyway, it was purely an accident that I discovered New Guy's well-kept birthday secret. Ok, it was Facebook. And it doesn't really matter how I found out, just that I did. And I went into Birthday Brownie Overdrive. Because New Guy is, well, literally the new guy. He's only been here 6 weeks. Somebody has to bake him birthday brownies.

When I called him, he stated unequivocally that he would prefer Emergency Birthday Brownies to Emergency Birthday Cupcakes. Which suits me just fine, since I will always be able to throw together a pan of brownies from what's in the pantry. Cupcakes would have required an Emergency Trip to the Kroger (and the Roof Guy was still on my roof until almost 8PM, fixing the skylight). Plus, these have to be transported all the way to Jonesboro before we can eat them. They will be making the trip (along with a large contingent from the UCA CNSM) to tailgate and watch the Bears take on the ASU Red Wolves. Go Bears!

Anyway, this recipe is the direct descendant of Hershey's Ultimate Brownies. I started making these in high school, and they never fail. I have tweaked just a bit, but not too much. And I don't frost. They are ultimate enough without buttercream (besides, last week was an Insane Ombre Pirate Buttercream Extravaganza). What I really love about this recipe is that you already have everything you need in the pantry. So go make some. Now.

Everything you need except the boiling water.  You don't need a
visual of the boiling water, right? Did not think so.
What You Need
  • 60g (¾ cup) cocoa powder
  • 1 TBS espresso powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 140g (175 ml or ⅔ cup) melted butter
  • 150 ml (½ cup) boiling water
  • 160g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 200g (1 cup, packed) dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g (1⅓ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 150g (scant 1 cup) semisweet morsels
  • 150g (generous 1 cup) toasted pecan pieces
What You Do
Cut these into sensibly-sized bites. A piece the
size of your palm is not sensibly sized.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease or spray a 9x13 baking pan.
  2. Measure the cocoa, espresso powder, and baking soda into a large heat-safe mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in ⅓ cup melted butter until mixture is very smooth. Add boiling water, and stir until thickened.
  4. Whisk in remaining butter and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla.
  5. Mix in the flour until just blended. Fold in morsels and pecans.
  6. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester pulls almost cleanly (moist crumbs are ok, but not wet batter).
  7. Taste these with a sip of Knob Creek, neat. Thank me later.

What You Eat
Cut the pan into 24 pieces. Don't argue, just do it.
Calories 215 Protein 2.7g Vitamin B6 1.6%
Fat 12g Vitamin A 3.6% Folate 4.6%
Saturated Fat 4.9g Vitamin C 0.08% Vitamin B12 0.78%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.7g Calcium 2.2% Pantothenic Acid 1.7%
Monounsaturated Fat 5.1g Iron 6.7% Phosphorus 7.9%
Cholesterol 28mg Vitamin D 1.7% Magnesium 7.9%
Sodium 78mg Vitamin E 1.5% Zinc 4.8%
Potassium 95mg Thiamin 6.3% Copper 12%
Carbohydrate 27g Riboflavin 4.5% Selenium 6.9%
Fiber 2.0g Niacin 3.0% Manganese 23%
Sugars 19g

What You Learn
These look more cakey than they are. They are
a perfect balance between cakey and fudgey.
  • Look at me, all metric! I have decided to assume the affectation that weighing the ingredients is better than measuring them volumetrically. Technically, this is absolutely true, but anyone who bakes semi-regularly knows that most recipes have some inherent elasticity and it won't ruin everything if there's a few extra grams of flour or you're a few grams short on butter.
  • The cocoa + butter is effectively about 4 squares (a bit more) of unsweetened chocolate, melted. I don't always have unsweetened baking chocolate in the pantry, but I always have cocoa. Natural or dutched does not matter in this recipe, but I used natural.
  • A ⅔ cup of butter is not a convenient measure. One stick is ½ cup. You can use one stick of butter, and add a neutral oil (like canola) to make that extra 1/6 of a cup. I do it all the time. No one will ever know.
  • The espresso powder does not inflict any coffee flavor on the finished product; it just gives the chocolate more nuance.
  • That's what the brown sugar is for also. The brown sugar just makes these brownies. These brownies will have a nice depth without giving you an overload of bitter chocolate. Personally, I love an overload of bitter chocolate, but not everyone sees it the same way. This gives a good balance.
  • I am always trying to use whole wheat flour in everything...only I just didn't. Not this time. I have a bag of AP flour that I am trying to use up, so I used it.
  • These are also not-quite-fudgey, not-quite-cakey. I have never met a brownie I did not like, but too fudgey and you might as well eat fudge. Too cakey, and why didn't you just bake a cake to begin with? Split the difference.
  • No frosting. Seriously, do not frost these brownies (or any brownies for that matter). I happen to think that this is axiomatic, but I know that not everyone agrees. I am lobbying the Culinary Arts Committee for the Correct Construction of Chocolate Confections to have this rule incorporated into the official baking bylaws.
  • I just tasted this particular pan. With a sip of Knob Creek. Holy cow.

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