Tuesday 3 June 2008

I'm back... with French chocolate brownies to show for it

After what has to have been the best month of my life - M & I got married (twice, no less) and then had a heavenly honeymoon in Bhutan - I'm back to London and to the baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie, that was started by the wonderful Laurie. Usually, the rules are that TWD bakers must participate at least 2 out of every 4 weeks, but Laurie very graciously granted me a month's absence for my wedding with no questions asked. So, now I'm back, and more into this group than ever, if that's even possible!

Since I've only been back for 2 days, I'm glad that this week's challenge, French chocolate brownies, was much less involved than some of our other challenges. Still, simple doesn't mean compromising on taste.

I know some of you probably think that my brownie looks a little lonely on its plate in the photo. But as I was thinking what to top my brownie with, I finally decided that a great brownie needs no embellishment. Sure, brownies can sometimes be made better with ice cream whether as the base to a brownie sundae or as the fold-ins into a vanilla ice cream (brownie chunk ice cream), but the true test of a good brownie is one that holds its own and that you want to gobble down even with nothing extra on the side.

This, is one such brownie. Along the spectrum of cakey to fudgey, I think this brownie falls nicely in between. I found the brownie to have an incredibly tender crumb that was wonderfully moist at the same time. I was afraid that the rum-soaked raisins would overpower the chocolaty taste that I love in my brownies, but the rum flavour was extremely subtle and gave the brownie a more intriguing after taste.

Thanks to Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook for a great choice! Its my turn to pick a recipe in 2 weeks and I can't wait!

French Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/3 cup raisins, dark or golden
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp dark rum
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp; 6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 12 pieces
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil, place the pan on a baking sheet, and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cinnamon, if you're using it.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum, let it warm for about 30 seconds, turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum. Allow the flames to die down, and set the raisins aside until needed.

Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Slowly and gently melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring so that it melts. It's important that the chocolate and butter not get very hot. However, if the butter is not melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you've got a couple of little bits of unmelted butter, leave them—it's better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole. Set the chocolate aside for the moment.

Working with a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until they are thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Lower the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter, mixing only until it is incorporated—you'll have a thick, creamy batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix at low speed for about 30 seconds—the dry ingredients won't be completely incorporated and that's fine. Finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raisins along with any liquid remaining in the pan.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is dry and crackled and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and allow the brownies to cool to warm or room temperature.

Carefully lift the brownies out of the pan, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. With a long-bladed knife, cut the brownies into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side, taking care not to cut through the foil.

Makes 16 brownies