January 20, 2009
Among the many blogs I read enthusiastically is one called Coco&Me: its author, Tamami, sells homemade cakes and chocolates at Broadway Market in East London on Saturdays, and she describes her blog as "the diary of a market stall holder."
Beautifully illustrated with photos of her displays and confections, it is full of the sort of details I crave when I read about someone's life and craft: the number of truffles she rolled for the last market day before Christmas, the influence of rainy weather on the sales of lemon tarts, and the delicate art of offering samples.
Tamami-san is just as generous with her tips and recipes -- sharing trade secrets is not a decision professional bakers take lightly, so this is all the more commendable -- and I had long ago bookmarked the post in which she reveals the secret to her popular Luxury Brownies.
I finally got around to trying the recipe last week for Maxence's birthday party, though I ended up tinkering with it a bit (you're shocked, I know), lowering the amount of sugar and fat, replacing part of the butter with almond butter, and adding a touch of salt. I also changed the order of the steps, sticking to the M.O. I use for the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate cake; I am terrified of adding raw eggs to a warm mixture, lest they curdle.
Despite my oven's vigorous attempts to sabotage the operation -- I am plotting the acquisition of a shiny new one (yay!) so it is more mean-spirited than ever -- the brownies turned out exactly the way I'd hoped.
The chocolate flavor is intense, thanks to the combined action of melted chocolate and cocoa powder, which makes this a true chocolate lover's brownie -- not a tautology in my book, as I often find brownies to be too strong on the sugar and too weak on the chocolate.
I garnished mine with a mix of organic nuts sold under the name of mélange du professeur -- "professor's mix," presumably because of the nuts' brain-friendliness -- that contains hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and walnuts, but pistachios, pecans, and/or dried fruits would be good, too. Note that the texture and flavor improve over time, so plan to make this a few hours or even a day in advance.
- 120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons) butter, diced
- 230 grams (8 ounces) good bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
- 140 grams (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) flour
- 40 grams (1/3 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
- A good pinch of salt
- 80 grams (1/3 cup) whole almond butter (this is like peanut butter, but made from unblanched almonds; available from organic food stores) (see note)
- 250 grams (1 1/4 cups) unrefined cane sugar
- 4 eggs
- 200 grams (7 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups) mixed nuts, chopped just a little bit (you still want large-ish chunks)
Note: If you can't find almond butter, or prefer not to use it, just up the butter amount to 200 grams (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) total.
Yields 20 to 24 servings.
Preheat the oven to 180° C (360° F) and line a square 20x20cm (8-by-8-inch) baking pan with parchment paper.
Melt the butter and chocolate together* in a double boiler (or just a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water), stirring regularly to ensure even melting. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In the meantime, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
Whisk the almond butter and sugar into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs in one by one, whisking well after each addition. Incorporate the flour mixture, working gently with a spatula, until no trace of flour remains; do not overwork the dough. Save a handful of nuts for decoration, and fold the rest into the batter.
Pour into the prepared pan, level the surface, and sprinkle with the nuts you've set aside.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the sides and top are dry to the touch and cracked in places. Let cool completely before cutting, and ideally, leave to rest at room temp, covered with foil, for a few hours or overnight before serving.
* I once read (in Confidences Sucrées if I remember correctly) that Pierre Hermé advises against this, because butter and chocolate don't have the same melting point (he didn't specify which melted first, but from what I can tell, butter melts at a lower temp). I still proceed this way for simplicity's sake, but I always think of Pierre as I do so.
Adapted from Coco&Me's Luxury Brownies.
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