Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I have been on a quest for years to find the best brownie. May sound silly, but I bet every home baker has that same quest without even realizing it. In other words, you make a brownie recipe, decide, eh, could be better, and choose a different recipe next time. Sounds familiar, right? Why would you make the same recipe again if you don't think it's perfect? It's not like brownie recipes are hard to come by. And since I am a baker, my test kitchen is particularly frequently in use. I say all that to say, I've tried a LOT of brownie recipes in my lifetime. Similar to that all-American classic chocolate chip cookie, finding the perfect brownie is a momentous occasion. It's a very big deal. It means no more searching for recipes to test. It means bragging rights that you've discovered the best there is. And it also means a new standard for brownies you didn't know existed but now that you know, you'll be a far pickier eater moving forward.
I am about to reveal to you what I believe is unequivocally, hands down the best brownie, bar none (pun intended! ha!). I suppose you could be grateful to me for all the time I'm saving you, but somehow, I don't think you'll be able to call this the best without first having tried a dozen so-so recipes. I challenge you to go through your cookbooks, make some of the brownies out of them, and then come back to this blog post and make this recipe. Your thank you will be a lot more sincere.
It's worth pointing out, too, that this is a very subjective topic. I must have some chutzpah to call this the best brownie. Who do I think I am? Some people prefer their brownies fudgy, some chewy, some cakey, some dark chocolate, some not so dark, some rich, some less chocolaty, and of course there are those who fight over the edge pieces because they enjoy the crisp sides with the softer center. So to clarify my calling this the Best Brownie on Earth, that is a true statement for me and probably others who like rich, dark, chocolaty, fudgy brownies.
But I admit, making such a bold claim puts it all on the line for me. You might try out this recipe, completely disagree with my superlative of a title, hate the brownie, never trust my judgment again, and never return to Happy Go Marni. I hope that's not the case, in fact, I'm confident after one bite you'll love me forever, but I'm willing to take that risk. Yes, this is the recipe on which I've decided to gamble away my credibility.
The recipe comes from the Tartine cookbook. Tartine is an amazing bakery in San Francisco. Funnily enough, my dad, who has had the Tartine brownie both made in my kitchen and made at the bakery, thinks mine is better (which is saying a lot!). That's probably because the brownie recipe in the Tartine cookbook is not exactly the same as what they sell in the bakery. That, or I do a better job at following their recipe than even they do. Ok, or maybe it's because he's my biased dad. :-)
You'll notice that the recipe calls for a ton of chocolate...and by a ton, I mean a pound. That's right, a whole pound for one 9x13-inch pan. Don't skimp and think you can skip a few ounces. And please don't waste your time on cheap grocery store brands. The chocolate you choose for the recipe ends up defining the brownie. Last time I made these, I spent about $15 on Valrhona chocolate. Only the best for dear old Dad!
Whenever I visit my parents in the Bay Area, I try to whip up a batch to give them. Living near SF, they can have the bakery's version whenever they want, but it's not every day they get the cookbook version specially delivered from L.A.
So without further ado, here's the recipe to this earth-shattering, life-changing brownie. I hope you love it as much as I do.
Updated: I really must give credit where credit is due. A huge shout out and thank you to my Uncle Gary and Aunt Francie who gave me the Tartine cookbook as a birthday present a few years ago. Muah! You two have made my life a whole lot sweeter!
The Best Brownie on Earth
Recipe by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson in Tartine
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
2 cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups nuts such as walnut or pecan halves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x13-inch glass baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. If the heat from the butter does not fully melt the chocolate, put the pan back over the heat for 10 seconds and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.
Sift the flour into a small mixing bowl. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until the mixture thickens and becomes pale in color and falls from the beater in a wide ribbon that folds back on itself and slowly dissolves on the surface, 4 to 5 minutes. Alternatively, use a mixing bowl and a whisk to beat the ingredients until the mixture falls from the whisk in a wide ribbon. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture. Add the flour and fold it in quickly but gently with the rubber spatula so that you don't deflate the air that's been incorporated into the eggs.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish and smooth the top with the spatula. If you are using nuts, evenly distribute them across the batter. Bake until the top looks slightly cracked and feels soft to the touch, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Using a sharp knife, cut into 12 squares, or size desired. The brownies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 week.
Kitchen Notes: You can't use a cake tester to judge doneness for these brownies. Becaues the batter has a high percentage of chocolate, the tester comes out wet even if the brownies are done.
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Melt the butter...
Break up a pound of bittersweet chocolate...
Melt the chocolate with the butter...
In a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar, salt, and vanilla...
Sift the flour and set aside...
Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg/sugar mixture...
Gently fold in the flour...
Batter is ready for the oven!
Notice I left a quarter of the pan nut-less for my anti-nut sister...
Best brownie on Planet Earth!