Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bittersweet Brownies

I joined Tuesdays with Dorie with the expectation that I would become a better baker, that I would enjoy working through a massive cookbook with many fabulous recipes, and the self discipline that comes with that would be a bonus.

Somewhere on the road of Become a Better Baker my journey changed, almost imperceptibly. See, I never set out to form friendships. Indeed, I liked the behind-the-scenes nature of the closet blogger. An insanely private person, I had no desire to get close to people.

Yet in spite of my best attempts at standoffishness I found friends, yes friends, whom I've never met. That is until about a week ago.

Enter Nancy of The Dogs Eat the Crumbs and the Nancy pan. Nancy was on the West coast and we arranged to meet up. In an opportune twist, Nancy hadn't baked these brownies yet, and neither had I, so she came to the house and we made them together.

It's always interesting to meet someone whom you know and yet don't. The voice, the face, the mannerisms all fill out the impression you have of that person. Nancy already had my sincere admiration (she seemingly never sleeps, rarely misses a week baking with the group even when traveling, and is among the kindest and most solicitous of a very kind group of gals) but getting to know her was like staying up late talking with a friend at summer camp.

Baking together was a joy (especially for me since Nancy is a champion nut chopper). We traded tips and ideas as we attempted to focus on the recipe and remember to take photos. Because we're coming to the end of the book, we were less concerned about being perfect and more comfortable enjoying the process.

It is bittersweet that our days of Baking From My Home to Yours are coming to an end. I have loved this book, loved 95% of what I've made from it, but the sweeter gift has been the friendship of a group of women whom I love and respect.

And so it was that the recipe that I had chosen for this week became the perfect metaphor. The sadness of finishing the book and knowing that many of the TWD bakers will be going their own way was sweetened by the friendships that have eclipsed the book. Bittersweet indeed, yet the perfect opportunity for two friends to share a brownie.

Bittersweet Brownies - from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Printer friendly recipe

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (we used Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chips)
1 1/2 cups/150 grams sugar (we cut it back to 125 grams)
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup/140 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 cup pecans, chopped (my choice, optional)

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet. (we used parchment paper, which doesn't need buttering)

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Put the butter in the bowl, top with the chopped chocolate and stir occasionally until the ingredients are just melted - you don't want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water.

With a whisk, stir in the sugar. The mixture might get grainy, but it will even out. Whisk in the eggs one by one, then add the vanilla and whisk enthusiastically to smooth the batter. Finally, gently whisk in the espresso powder, if you're using it, salt and flour, stirring only until incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the pecans (if using) on top of the batter and lightly press into the batter, just enough to anchor the nuts.

Bake the brownies until the top is dull and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, usually about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool the brownies to room temperature.

When they are completely cool, turn out onto a rack, peel away the foil and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into 32 slender rectangles, each roughly 2 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches.


Valerie Gamine said...

I can't think of a better way of ending TWD than actually being able to bake alongside a fellow member!

Leslie, I adored these brownies! They flew under the radar for far too long..and I think that they were comfortable in that spot. :)

Your brownies are beautiful, especially with the pecans!

Tia said...

yummy pix . makes everything better with pecans!

Cindy said...

What a 'bittersweet' post. I will miss TWD. I look forward to Tuesdays. It's good to associate with wonderful people. Thank you!

Nancy/n.o.e said...

I'm so glad you invited me to bake your TWD pick with you - I had so much fun! These brownies were good, especially with the pecans.

steph- whisk/spoon said...

what a lovely post! and how nice that you got to make these with a friend. i didn't make this this week, but will get to it soon!

Joy said...

Beautiful story! And your pictures are perfect - two forks - and just beautiful pictures in general!

Unknown said...

I love your pics Leslie, and I love that you and Nancy made these together. What fun! Thanks for hosting this week, these brownies were a winner at my house for sure.

dharmagirl said...

what a (bitter)sweet post, leslie! what fun to bake together...and what gorgeous photos. oh, and those pecans...mmmm. jealous. i'm waiting for a fresh shipment of new season pecans from alabama:)

Hindy said...

Wonderful story! It's lovely that you two got together.
Great recipe too.

alvarosa said...

Thanks for this pick! Even though the choice was already very limited you managed to pick something I (and most others, too, as their posts show) liked a whole lot!

Cakelaw said...

Gorgeous brownies - and glad that you got so much more from TWD than you hoped for.

lola said...

I enjoyed your post so much. How lovely that you and Leslie could bake together. Your photos are beautiful. I wasn't able to leave my comment on LYL, but wanted you know that I baked along with the amazing group of TWD bakers.

spike. said...

I love that you got to make this recipe together! wonderful. It is one of my favorites from the book.

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Kayte said...

Well, I FELT like I was there since Nancy and I were texting about it all before, during, and after...lol! Oh, someday... Thanks for this pick as Mark loves chocolate weeks at TWD (or anywhere actually) and it was fun to get to make something you chose. It's been the greatest group for meeting people, hasn't it? We've all been together for so long now we truly feel like a long-distance family! Your brownies look very nice and all those nuts on top are just plain fun!

Kiersten @ Oh My Veggies said...

How fun to bake with a friend! I would love for someone else to crack the eggs for me. :) These brownies look fabulous!

Unknown said...

Wonderful post, wonderful pick...and how good those pecans look on top of the brownies!

cocoa and coconut said...

Brownies are a favourite of mine..and with lots of nuts in the batter..oh..just heavenly!

Welcome to our crazy blessed life said...

Thanks for this pick Leslie! The friendships are a sweet as the recipes! :)

Katrina said...

Great post, Leslie! So fun indeed to meet bloggers/friends! And you know I love your pick--the last chocolate available. Well, I suppose except for the chocolate blueberry ice cream coming up. I thought these brownies were great!

Anonymous said...

Leslie, it's so cool that you got to meet another TWD-er AND bake with her!

This was a stellar selection - we've made lots of brownies over the past few years, but this recipe is definitely at the top of my brownie list.