The leaves here are quickly progressing from summery greens to bright reds, yellows, and oranges. The air is getting pretty darn cold at night. In fact, the heat kicked on for the first time yesterday. I had dinner at a friend’s house this week and she made butternut squash chili and hot apple cider with cloves and cinnamon. I ventured out of the city to Volante Farm the next day and enjoyed my first apple cider donut this season, fresh out of the oven, and bought a few more miniature pumpkins. My UGGs have come out from under the bed, along with my warmer winter scarves and tights. A few days ago a friend and I nailed down our menu for the Thanksgiving meal we’re co-hosting for our families. I’ve already begun work on my final projects for this semester’s classes, and I’m about to buy a plane ticket to California for the holidays. Turns out, it’s October.
One of the things I love most about any change of season is the way your cravings change, too. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You and I may crave different foods each season, but we’re both craving something. Winter turns to spring and you turn in the soup pot for the salad bowl. Spring turns to summer and all you can think about is devouring juicy watermelon while sipping a cold Corona on a sandy beach. Then summer turns to fall and suddenly you find the soup pot has made its way back onto the stove. You start to crave full-bodied red wine, hot chocolate spiked with Baileys, and steaming mulled cider. Your cereal bowl becomes filled with hot oatmeal topped with maple syrup and cinnamon. You retire your stone fruit dessert recipes for anything containing pumpkin or apples or chocolate.
This is precisely where I found myself about a week ago. Craving something warm and gooey and chocolatey. I remembered a recipe I’ve wanted to try since I bought a certain cookbook three years ago. Three years ago. I’m still trying to figure out why it took me so long to make this recipe. I suppose the answer to that no longer matters because as soon as I got brownies on the brain, I couldn’t let the idea go. I had to make them. I had to have them. And thank goodness I did, because now you can make them.
The Baked Brownie
From Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
These brownies are just as good as they’re hyped up to be. Oprah apparently loves them. America’s Test Kitchen apparently loves them. And now I love them. They’re incredibly rich with warm and nutty dark chocolate. They’re slightly cakey with a delicate crumb, yet dense and fudgy. At the risk of stating the obvious, I’ll say the key to these is the chocolate. Because the chocolate is the star, it’s incredibly important to use high quality chocolate and cocoa powder. I chose two artisan chocolate makers, which made this one expensive batch of brownies—but it was worth every penny. I used Taza Chocolate’s 70% semi-sweet baking squares and Scharffen Berger’s unsweetened cocoa powder. These brownies keep well, wrapped in plastic at room temperature, for 3-4 days. And if you heat them up slightly, they’re nearly ethereal.
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. (I suggest lining your pan with a large piece of parchment paper. No greasing necessary.)
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
3. Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.