Monday, March 16, 2009

The Brownie Experiement

I received my 2 tons of Callebaut cocoa powder Thursday of last week. Actually, it was really 11 lbs but 2 tons sounds funnier. Anyway, I didn't waste any time to start what I've now dubbed my "Brownie Experiment." Would you believe out of 8 different dessert-specific books, there was only 1 traditional brownie recipe? Every other recipe was some sort of spin on the plain brownie (raspberry brownie, swirl brownie, caramel brownie, brownie cheesecake, etc.). Not that those recipes aren't good (at least sounded good) but I really just want a plain brownie recipe without having to buy it in a box.

After 2 hours of searching, reading, and more searching, finally settled on 3 different recipes out of the vast variations, some calling for melted chocolates, others for a combination of chocolates and cocoa powder. I chose the ones that just use cocoa powder, well...because I have 11 lbs of cocoa powder.

The first recipe I made was Alton Brown's Cocoa Brownies. All I can say is these were the worst brownies we've ever tasted. Yes I followed the actual recipe from the episode (which differs from the one posted on FN), no I didn't overmix the batter, no I didn't overbake it. The taste was so bad that I chucked it right into the garbage. Didn't even contemplate bringing it into work to feed the vultures. (Come on, it couldn't have been that bad.) Really, it was that bad. Even if I could get pass the cakey texture (which I didn't like at all), there was no sweetness to the brownies whatsoever. It tasted like a cocoa powder cake. Yuck! The only thing it had going for it was that it was moist. Funny part was that I couldn't even use the Callebaut cocoa powder because AB called for natural cocoa powder! Maybe that's a good thing since it would have been such a waste of good cocoa powder. Not that I think dutch-processed would have improved it. Nothing could have saved the brownies, not even a medicinal herbal addition. Not that I would know anything about those sort of things (really).

Such a dismal outcome made me decide not to even bother with the other 2 recipes. The conclusion I came to was that most of these brownie recipes had too much egg resulting in a cakey like consistency. Hey, if I wanted chocolate cake, I would bake a chocolate cake, okay? Any recipe that called for more than 2 eggs was immediately dismissed. But that left me nowhere. Well, hell, now what?

What was I really looking for in a recipe? If I had to list all the things I want in a homemade brownie, what would it be? Chewy, slightly crispy and firm on the outside, moist, a good balance between chocolate and sweetness (maybe a bit on the sweet side), maybe even decadent to the point where if you have anything larger than a 1" x 1" square, you'll need a tall glass of milk to eat it. Okay, maybe not that decadent.

So what came to mind? I know, some of you are yelling at your monitor right now what you think came to mind. And if you said Betty Crocker, you just won yourself a year's supply of cocoa powder! Just kidding but I do have a pan of AB's brownies that I can send to you (oh wait, those are in the trash).

Can it be? After all that money spent on Callebaut cocoa powder and I'm longing for a pan of BC's brownies? It shouldn't really be a surprise since I grew up with Betty Crocker's Brownie mix, as so did The Mister. We love BC's brownies, chewy and chocolaty (not cocoa'ey, there's a huge difference) and even a little crispy on the sides, moist on the inside. And how do I recreate BC brownies from scratch? I mean is it worth it to make it from scratch when I can just buy BC supreme mix for $2/box? Well, I gotta find some way to use up all that cocoa powder, don't I?

A search of BC recipes didn't result in anything that sounded different than all those other cakey recipes. So thus started the experiment, I am going to come up with my own BC version. I looked up the ingredients and instructions for BC brownies: flour, sugar, egg, oil, dutch cocoa (woohoo!), water and a bunch of additives and other stuff. Okay, that's a start.

So with flour, sugars, dutch cocoa, eggs, oil, butter, I was ready. Coming up, the result and taste test of Brownie #1. (What? That's it? That's like all preparation and no H!) Trust me, stayed tuned. It'll be worth it. And if not, I'll send you a consolation block of AB Cocoa Brownies.

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