Friday, November 14, 2008
Its almost thanksgiving and Cranberries are everywhere.Cranberries always entice me with their bright red color come every winter, but I never knew what to do with them. God they are mouth puckering, brain searingly sour! Chocolate and lots of sugar are the perfect foil to these tart berries.
Cooking from a recipe in a cookbook is sometimes like the story of the elephant and the six blind men who try to describe it. Its impossible to 'read' a recipe correctly unless maybe you are familiar with that flavor profile. Ive made this particular brownie recipe twice, first sticking exactly to it and the second time with tons of modifications. The original recipe yields an intensely chocolaty and bittersweet, the cranberry adaptation is sweet to my tastes. Both in my opinion taste really good with a sprinkling of Kosher salt. SALT? you might ask, DID I READ THAT CORRECTLY? Salt and sugar are like a classical yin yang and a little bit of salt brings out the sweet chocolatyness ( yes i know this word does not exist!).
This recipe is (only slightly) modified from from Sweet stuff : Karen Barker's American desserts by Karen Barker.
Another very good idea Karen Barker had is in the back of her book , the Bakers bookshelf( page 353). Baking is more a science than art, the mixture of oven temperature, sugar and egg and butter demands some precision - more than usual in day to day cooking. For me this means that I can never come up with an original baking recipe, sure I can tweak here and there, but nothing original. So there are a couple of books that I go back to, time and again - Flo Braker and Nick Malgieri for Cakes, and the Bakers dozen book for almost everything els.
So without much ado, here is the recipe for really chocolaty walnut and cranberry brownies. Ive put in my substitutions in italics. If you do decide to make the raisin version instead you could also plump the raisins in bourbon or scotch as Karen Barker suggests for an all adult version of the brownie
8 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped ( I used semi sweet)
16 tbsp butter ( works out to two sticks of butter)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp kosher salt
11/4 cup flour
11/2 cup raisins ( I used fresh cranberries)
11/2 cups lightly toasted brazil nuts( I used walnuts)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips( I used white chocolate chips)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degree F. Butter a 9 x 12 x 2 inch brownie pan. Something close to this is fine too. Line the bottom with parchment paper, and butter the paper.
2. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler( If you use Bakers chocolate like I did, chop up the chocolate and butter into similar sized bits, so that they melt at a similar rate. To make a double boiler, use a bowl balanced on top of a pan with simmering water)
3. Combine the eggs with the sugars in the bowl of a mixer with a whip attachment and beat until the mixture is very thick, light and fluffy( about four to five min)
Add the vanilla and the salt and mix to blend. Add the reserved chocolate butter mixture and mix to blend. Add the flour and mix just till combined scraping the bowl. Add the cranberries., Walnuts and chocolate chips and mix till distributed. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly.
4. Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes, until the brownies are barely set. The top will appear slightly puffed and will start to develop a few hairline cracks. Do not overbake.
5. Cool the brownies and place them in fridge to chill until several hours. Remove carefully from pan and cut into small squares with a sharp knife to serve with icecream or whipped cream.