Scharffen Berger Brownies!
As you may recall, as part of the epic zaniness that was the BlogHer Food ’10 Pity Party, I was the recipient of a fabulous prize! Scharffen Berger Chocolate was kind enough to take pity on us pitiful non-conference attendees and donated two beautiful baskets full of chocolate swag and I was one of the lucky winners.
If you are unfamiliar with Scharffen Berger (and you might be if you live here in the Northeast as Whole Foods seems to be the only retailer here that regularly carries it), it is a high end chocolate made here in the United States in small batches. It was the only one of its kind when it started out in the 1990’s and is widely thought of as the best chocolate made in the United States. In fact, it has been compared to the finest chocolates made in Europe by David Lebovitz, who quite literally wrote the book the on chocolate.
And there it is, in all of its chocolaty splendor! When the basket arrived, I barely wanted to touch it because it was just so pretty. There were chocolate chunks, chocolate bars, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder, baking cups and even a big hardcover book with recipes and the Scharffen Berger story called The Essence of Chocolate. It stayed on my counter unmolested until about 10:00 that night when I had to slip that gorgeous book out and take it to bed with me. Sweet dreams, indeed.
I was strong. I did not open the chocolate. Although I really, really, really wanted to rip open those dark chocolate chips, I restrained myself, knowing full well that “just a taste” could easily turn into, “whoops, there goes half the bag.” No, this chocolate was meant for some serious baking, not for mindless snacking. So, I waited. I bided my time. I was about to make brownies a week and a half ago but it was the day before Halloween and I didn’t want them to be lost and forgotten in the mad dash of leftover Halloween candy consumption. Finally, on November 4th, I could wait no longer.
The aforementioned gorgeous book does indeed have two different brownie recipes in it – one cakey and one fudgy. But, I decided what I really wanted was to make the brownie recipe I usually make and just substitute the Scharffen Berger cocoa powder so I could compare it. And my usual brownie recipe is pretty freaking awesome. In fact, I even won a brownie bake-off at work with it. I could barely imagine what high end cocoa powder might do to them!
I prepared the brownies in the usual way, using Alton Brown’s “brownie sling” method with overlapping parchment paper, and dusting the edges of the pan with more cocoa, although I used the cheap stuff for that job. I did not want to waste the precious powder, especially after out of curiosity I looked it up at their online store and found out that little can retails for ten bucks. Yikes! I skipped adding chocolate chips as I sometimes do, as I wanted the cocoa to get the star billing.
I do need to get a new oven thermometer because I am convinced mine runs a little lower than it should, but I have a tendency to knock them right off of their hanging places and lose them to the bottom of the oven to later be covered with spilled and crusted goo that will not wash off and render the instrument unreliable as well as unreadable. Which is my way of saying I usually end up cooking these brownies quite a bit longer than the recipe calls for. But this time seemed different. These brownies refused to set up in the middle, even after a full hour of baking. I don’t know if this could be an effect of this special cocoa powder or not, but eventually I decided I couldn’t just leave them in there forever and I like them fudgy anyway, how could it hurt?
I waited patiently for them to cool though I know full well we always like these brownies even better the next day, when they have had time to fully settle into dense fudginess. As it neared 10:00 PM, I pulled the sling out of the pan and attempted to cut them with a pizza cutter as I usually do. And that’s when things got a little messy. The center of the brownies was extremely sticky, gooey and damp. Many of them fell apart into little lumps, which I lovingly smushed back together into little brownie balls. Of course, I couldn’t help but taste some of the lumps and wow. Just wow. It was the most intensely chocolaty, deep, dark, fudgy brownie goodness I ever ingested. I set the cut up brownies into a pan for storage and waited until the next day to truly appreciate their brownie greatness.
By the next day, all was well. The gooiest, lumpiest, most patched together Franken-brownies had all congealed into actual normal brownie-like chunks and they were edible without fork or spoon, a definite plus. But we all agreed in my house, as well as our lucky guests on Friday night, that they were indeed, the best brownies ever.
So, thank you Scharffen Berger for taking pity on us pity partiers and making me feel oh, so much better for not having attended the conference in the first place. And thanks again to Chris & Karen, the fab folks over at The Peche for drawing my name. The chocolate goodness will be enjoyed to its fullest at my house!
Alton Brown’s Cocoa Brownies
I have not changed much about this recipe other than to make the method a little bit clearer. Scharffen Berger brand cocoa is not required but if you make the splurge, I think you will be quite happy with your choice.
• Soft butter, for greasing the pan
• Cocoa powder (cheap!) for dusting the buttered pan
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 8 ounces melted butter
• 11/4 cups Scharffen Berger cocoa powder
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup flour, sifted
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper as wide as the pan and long enough to leave an inch or two of paper hanging over two edges. Butter the bottom of the pan a little to help the parchment paper stay in place. After fitting the parchment paper into the pan, butter the bare edges of the pan and dust with a little cocoa powder.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and cocoa powder and whisk until combined and any lumps in the cocoa powder have been removed.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars as well as the melted butter and vanilla and mix to combine. Slowly add the flour/cocoa mixture, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl several times.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes ( or more, depending!) Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. (Mine never came out clean.) When it’s done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it’s mostly cool. Pick up the entire slab of brownies out of the pan with the brownie sling and cut into squares with a pizza cutter or sharp knife.