Real Simple is one of my very favorite magazines. While thumbing through this month’s issue, I was delighted to see a recipe for brownies. The picture looked delicious (what picture of brownies doesn’t?), and I have made recipes from Real Simple before, so I was pretty excited to give it a go.
The recipe is called “Espresso Brownies” simply because it calls for 2 tablespoons brewed espresso (you can substitute 1 rounded teaspoon espresso powder and 2 tablespoons water like I did, though), but as we all know, espresso is a key ingredient in many great brownie recipes. Espresso doesn’t necessarily make baked goods taste like coffee, it just brings out and intensifies the chocolatey flavor. So I sort of think the name of the recipe is misleading, but whatever.
Real Simple’s Espresso Brownies adapted from Lindsay Hunt’s recipe
Makes 16 brownies
3/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons brewed espresso, at room temperature (or use the mix I mentioned above)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semisweet because that’s what I had on hand)
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with 2 criss-crossed pieces of parchment, buttering in between the pieces to help them stick and leaving an overhand on all sides. Butter the top of the parchment.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
Combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugars, eggs, espresso, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 – 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan.
Holding the paper overhand, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
These brownies were really good. Before I had a chance to say anything to him, M announced how delicious they were and said they might be as good as the Baked brownies. That’s pretty impressive! I liked them quite a bit, too, but they didn’t melt in your mouth quite the way the Baked ones did. They were pretty moist (6/7), definitely chocolatey (10/10), and didn’t require much in terms of messiness preparing (3/3). This leaves a total score of 19/20, tying with the Supernatural Brownies. Nicely done, Real Simple!
Since before I was born my parents did the same thing on New Year’s Eve: drive to my aunt and uncle’s house where a few families gathered to celebrate the last day of the year. These families were all great friends from way, way back. My uncle met four guys when he was in college getting his degree in psychology and they have stayed great friends – all of their wives are friends, too. And my aunt and mother grew up together – their mothers roomed together during WWII. Subsequently, my aunt’s daughter and I are very close now. Like I said, way, way back. When I was born, I was included in the fold and have spent almost every single New Year’s Eve at my aunt and uncle’s. My extended family gets together, celebrate, share delicious food, and count down until midnight.
My aunt and uncle always put out all the stops when it comes to feeding us. Weeks of planning and preparation are involved and the results are always amazing. They know how much I enjoy baking, so my contribution to the party is dessert! My aunt reads the blog (Hi, Aunt Jill!), and suggested I make my favorite brownies. I was happy to do it (I also made a French Apple Cake that was to die for), but I had to decide which was my favorite: The Supernatural or The Baked? In order to make my decision, I made both. And the best one was, drum roll please….
THE BAKED BROWNIE!
The Baked brownie knocked it out of the park, to be honest. I actually think it is the espresso powder, and I didn’t originally want to include recipes that called for espresso powder. I was wrong. Dead wrong. While The Supernatural is a delicious brownie, The Baked has a deeper, richer chocolate flavor and is a bit denser, which I appreciate. In my original post on The Baked, I mentioned it only for 18/20 because it fell apart a bit too easily – this was remedied by cooking it a bit less. I was also incorrect in stating that The Baked were missing something that The Supernatural possessed – it is most definitely the other way around. Basically, I needed to do a side-by-side taste test to really know which was better. M, who pretty much likes anything that tastes good, even said The Baked was better. So there you have it, folks.
So, as an update to my Brownie Face-Off, here are my rankings as follows:
- The Baked Brownie (Rated 20/20, revised from 18/20)
- The Supernatural Brownie (19/20, revised from 20/20)
- Deep Dish Brownies (I didn’t give this one a number rating, just said it was 3rd after The Supernatural and The Baked)
- Fudge Brownies (19/20)
- Chocolate Chunk Brownies (15/20)
- Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies (10/20)
- Black Bean Brownies (10/20)
So, what does all this super-serious, deep-divining brownie investigation mean? That The Baked Brownie is the best so far. I still have a lot of brownies to test before my quest is finished – my aunt even gave me a chocolate cook book with a pretty tempting brownie recipe in it. But The Baked is the one to beat!
In another installment of The Brownie Face-Off, I will be testing out the Deep-Dish Brownie recipe from Food Network Kitchen’s How To Boil Water. The book was gifted to M and me by M’s mom when we moved into our current house. It has lots of good, basic information, as well as a bunch of easy recipes. I haven’t tried any of them yet, except for this brownie recipe. Because obviously.
Anyway, this brownie recipe, while fairly basic (and, as it turns out, almost the exact same as The Joy of Cooking‘s, so I won’t be making those), is pretty tasty. I’d score it 3rd after The Supernatural and The Baked (which are tied at this point and continue to vex me – which one is best? WHICH?). It is moist, pretty chocolatey, and easy to make. They’d be great for kids’ bake sales and parties, as this recipe has no fancy/weird/hard-to-find ingredients that one might find offensive.
Deep-Dish Brownies adapted from How To Boil Water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
Position rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with foil or spray with Pam.
In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate and butter.
Stir in the sugars, salt, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs and beat vigorously until fully incorporated. The batter should be thick and glossy. Add the flour and stir gently just until it disappears into the chocolate.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is crispy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean, 40 – 50 minutes (I found 40 minutes to be perfect for a bit gooier brownies).
Cool the brownies in the pan on the counter or on a rack if you have one.
Breaking out a cookbook again for this edition of the Brownie Face-Off! This time around I’m working from Saveur: The New Comfort Food. In it is a recipe from the amazing Katharine Hepburn, whose work I greatly admire and enjoy. Hopefully she’s as good a brownie baker as she is an actress!
According to my cookbook, “A version of this recipe accompanied an interview with the actress Katharine Hepburn in the August 1975 issues of The Ladies’ Home Journal. This brownie recipe, which calls for a smaller than average amount of flour, produces incredibly chewy bars with a full but mellow chocolate flavor.”
We’ll see, cookbook, we’ll see….
Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies adapted from Saveur: The New Comfort Food by James Oseland
Makes 9 brownies
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
- 2 ounces. unsweetened chocolate
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts (I omitted this, because nuts in brownies is gross and for gross people. No offense, gross people).
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8×8-inch pan with butter. Line pan with parchment paper; grease the paper. Set the pan aside.
- Melt the butter and the chocolate together in a 2-quarter saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (Note: I did this in a double-boiler and it turned out fine).
- Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to make a smooth batter.
- Add the flour, salt, and – if you’re using them – the walnuts. Stir until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 – 45 minutes.
- Let cool on a rack. Cut and serve.
The end result was… okay. Katharine Hepburn was a fabulous actress, but she wasn’t so great with the brownies. It is only mildly chocolatey (a meager 2 ounces of chocolate will do that) and pretty bland. Definitely not a contender in the Brownie Face-Off. They were easy to make and pretty chewy and moist, seeing as how there isn’t much flour in them, but in the end, the flavor really ruined it for me. 10/20.
So! I finally finished A Dance With Dragons, the fifth and last published book in the A Song of Ice and Fire book series by George R.R. Martin. I really, really, REALLY enjoyed this series and really, really, REALLY enjoyed not having to wait in between publish dates to excitedly start the next book in the series. And now I have to wait until, supposedly, some time next year for The Winds of Winter (the sixth book) to come out. Hurry up, GRRM!
Tonight is also the season finale of Game of Thrones, the TV adaptation of the book series. After last week’s Red Wedding episode, I’m really hoping something awesome will happen tonight (having to do with Joffrey, ahem), but I’m guessing they’ll wait until next season for that very special episode.
In celebration of finishing the books and tonight’s episode, I have prepared lemon cakes from the cookbook A Feast of Ice and Fire, gifted to me by my fantastic friend Adam. In the books, GRRM goes into great detail describing food – some sound amazing and others… not. The talented ladies from the popular blog The Inn at the Crossroads created this lovely cookbook of the yummy snacks and meals written about in the series. M is still finishing ADWD, and when he does I am planning on making a whole ASOIAF-themed meal, but until then, I decided on these treats. One of the characters in the book, Sansa, is pretty obsessed with lemon cakes. She gets all hot and bothered whenever they’re mentioned. And with good reason, too, apparently, they are DELICIOUS. Not too sweet (unless you put the glaze on them, which I did for about half of them), they are mildly lemony and zesty. They aren’t really cake-like, either – definitely more of a chewy cookie.
Elizabethan Lemon Cakes adapted from A Feast of Ice and Fire
Makes 24 cookies
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Grated zest from 2 lemons
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a large baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flour and granulated sugar. Cut in the butter, then add the zest and whole egg and yolks. Mix thoroughly until the dough is no longer sticky and can easily be shaped by hand.
3. Roll the dough into balls about 1 inch across and place them on the prepared baking sheet at least 2 inches apart, giving them room to spread as they bake.
4. Bake for 15 minutes until the tops of just slightly golden. Allow the cakes to cool for a minute before moving them to a cooling rack.
5. Mix the powdered sugar and milk to a smooth consistency. Once the cakes have cooled, use a spoon to drizzle the icing over the cookies.
Earlier this month our good friend Adam came for a visit. We spent the majority of our time at Emerald City Comic-Con and ate way too much food, but we also experimented with some unique red velvet recipes: Red Velvet Creme Brûlée and Red Velvet Milkshakes.
The milkshakes were only okay. They involve chocolate ice cream and red velvet cake mix, and that’s really all it tasted like. I did enjoy having an excuse to use my Vitamix, though, and show Adam how amazing it is in person.
The creme brûlée, however, was amazing. Since Adam was leaving for the airport in a few hours, I couldn’t do the proper thing and let it chill in the refrigerator for a few hours and then let it sit before serving. I instead put it in the freezer for 20 minutes and then we ate it right away. It was cold, but it was super tasty. When I have more time I shall make it properly. And eat it all myself instead of sharing because that’s how I do things when it comes to red velvet.
Red Velvet Creme Brûlée
Recipe via Sweet Peony
Makes 2 servings
Red Velvet Milkshakes
Recipe via The Little Kitchen
Makes 2 servings
2. Pulse or use milkshake setting on your blender. Serve immediately.
Not worth the waste of delicious chocolate ice cream, if you ask me.
I haven’t posted anything related to my Brownie Face-Off in quite some time, even though I’ve made brownies since posting about the Supernatural Brownies – though most of those brownies were just Supernatural ones. I have tried making black bean brownies recently, though, which I will be sure to post about soon.
Anywho, M had been “gently suggesting” that I bake for him recently. I have a whole cache of brownie recipes on my Brownie Face-Off Pinterest board, so I thought I should start getting to work on that.
As you know, if you follow my blog with ardent regularity (I’m looking at you, no one!), the bench mark upon which I grade my brownies is the Supernatural Brownie. It is uh-maze-ing. Life changing… that is if your life revolves around chocolate, which, lets be honest, mine pretty much does. Here are my Brownie Face-Off parameters:
- Moistness – I don’t like cakey brownies. The denser, the better!
- Chocolatiness – Must be ultra chocolatey to win my seal of approval.
- Lack of coffee – SO MANY recipes call for espresso powder in their brownies. I don’t like this.
- Ease – I don’t want anything ridiculously hard to prepare.
Being the organized lady I am, I am going in order down my Pinterest list. So, without further ado, I give you: Fudge Brownies.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (I omitted this because blecky)
- 1 pound bittersweet chocolate (I also used some semisweet)
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cups unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- Line a standard 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and
espresso powderinto a bowl and set aside.
- Melt the chocolate with the sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt in a double boiler or heavy-bottomed pan until completely melted.
- While still warm, transfer the chocolate mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds, then add the eggs, one a time, beating after each addition until well combined.
- Mix in the flour mixture you set aside, then raise the speed to medium and beat for another 30 to 45 seconds until the batter is shiny.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. If the batter is still warm, it will ooze into the cake pan. If it has cooled, use an offset spatula to smooth into place.
- Bake the brownies until they begin to pull away from the sides of the pan or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let brownies cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
- Ideally, cut them while still a tad warm, so as not to break the brownies too much. Serve immediately or keep in airtight container for up to 1 week.
At this point, I was too busy eating them that I forgot to take a picture of the final product, so here’s what they look like from the website I got the recipe from:
These brownies were really, really delicious. These are legit fudgy, too. But, are they are good as the Supernatural Brownies? M didn’t remember, but he liked that these had a bit of a crust on top, which he didn’t remember the Supernaturals having. I think the Supernatural Brownies are a tad better. So I will rate these a 19/20. Just cause they aren’t quite as amazeballs as the Supernaturals.
But still, go make these. TODAY. RIGHT NOW.