In a world of uncertainty, there is always the finite principle that chocolate will always make life better. No matter how fucking deep the shit spiral goes.
In my personal opinion, the only thing better than straight chocolate, is a brownie. And strangely enough, until last night I had never made them from scratch before. I was a little intimidated, scared of what might come.....while cakes and cookies, custards and candy have always made sense...something about the texture has always spooked me. I like a squidgy brownie, a dense delicious brownie. Ghiradelli always did a damn fine job, so I never really thought to adventure further. That was until the beginning of this week, when I had to think of something perfect to bring my Philosopher's Mother, when we visited to attend his Grandmother's funeral.
Brownies. It seemed perfect, and so I got to poring through my cookbooks. At first I endeavored to recreate Thomas Keller's, but the sheer amount of chemistry needed made my already addled brain spin. Nigella's was poetic, but I felt too lazy to convert. And then my dearest Ina, the Barefoot Contessa came to my rescue. And though I did not follow her recipe to a tee...it produced some damned delicious brownies. Totally fudgy and dense, they stand as a kind of ideal. They're also incredibly rich. A tiny square served to satiated the hormonal beast within me just fine.
This is my version, but most of the credit goes to Ina...I'll notate any big changes here.
1 pound salted, sweet cream butter. (Ina like most bakers calls for unsalted, but I like the extra salt content.)
28 oz of semisweet chocolate chips. 12 oz reserved. (Most bags come in 12 oz. portions, 3/4 of a cup equals about 4 ounces to round out the pound.)
6 oz unsweetened baking chocolate.
6 extra large eggs at room temperature.
3 tbsp instant coffee.
3 tbsp vanilla bean puree (Ina calls for extract.)
2 1/4 cups white sugar.
1 1/4 cups AP Flour, 1/4 cup reserved.
1 teaspoon salt.
A sauce pan.
Inglourious Basterds, or a comparably long movie.
And away we go.
Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit, and seriously butter and flour a 12inch by 17-18 inch by 1 inch high baking sheet. Set both aside.
In a double boiler or a bowl set on top of simmering water add the pound of butter, 16 ounces of semisweet chips, and 6 ounces of unsweetened chocolate. While that melts into a dark, delicious pool pull out a big bowl and a whisk. Combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and coffee granules and set aside.
Once the chocolate has melted set that aside as well so that it can cool down, in a second bowl combine a cup of flour, the salt, and baking powder. Combine with a whisk if you're lazy like me, or sift if you feel like adding something to your clean up. In a third bowl toss the 12 oz. of chocolate chips in the 1/4 cup of flour.
The chocolate mixture is ready to be incorporated when you can stick a finger in and it doesn't burn you, or it's just warm. Add a little bit at a time to prevent the eggs from scrambling, and once the egg mix is tempered feel free to dump the rest in and just combine. Try to forget it, ..essentially the batter needs to come to room temperature before you can proceed which is a wholly painful and testing sort of time period. So...go watch the movie, you may need to extend past the movie time in which case I'd recommend either The Brothers Bloom (because it's fantastic) or Chocolat should you want to get in the mood for things to come.
When the batter has come to room temperature, combine in the flour and then add the floured chocolate chips.* Pour into your pan and then place into the center rack in the over. Bake for 20 minutes then thump it against the oven rack to "let the air escape from between the batter and the pan". I'd test it now too, dip a toothpick in and see if it comes out clean...then check again every five minutes until it does.
Let the brownies cool completely, refrigerate and cut into the desired amount of squares. Ina calls for 20, but these are so rich I went for 30 something.
*There are two types of people in this world, those that like nuts in there brownies and those that don't. I don't....it gets in the way of the squidginess. However if you're one of those that prefers them, Ina calls for 3 cups of walnuts which you ought to toss together with the chocolate chips and flour. But feel free to experiment with whatever else you'd like and I'd recommend toasting them prior due to the thickness of the batter.