Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chocolate Truffle Brownies: The Water Bath!

Whenever I try to make the dark, dense, fudgey type of brownie, I get frustrated!  The outside edges get overcooked-- dry, crunchy and weirdly "risen" in an unattractive way.  Then the center is mushy, undercooked and unappetizing.  They don't cut and serve nicely either.  The center pieces are too fragile and the outer ones are super uneven and hard.  I talked to some other brownie bakers and they said they had the same problem.  What's with these recipes?  How do other people make nicely formed, uniformly baked homemade fudgey brownies?  Not all recipes have this problem.  I've noticed that the brownie recipes using baking soda or baking powder bake pretty evenly, and the old-fashioned recipes that aren't super dense with chocolate and butter seem to "behave" better, too.  I know some people like the crunchy edges of the brownies and they are tasty, but they usually get cut off and eaten by the cook because they just don't make a good showing in public.
I kept thinking there must be a better way, and then it came to me:  The unleavened brownie mixture: butter, egg, sugar, chocolate and just a little flour is more custard-like than cake-like.  Custards are always baked in a water bath to prevent the outer edges from getting overcooked before the center is "set".  Maybe that's it!  Bake the brownies in a water bath!
I couldn't wait to try this out!  It worked!  The brownies baked very evenly-- soft but set all around and in the middle!  No uneven sinking or rising!  
Well, before I could pat myself on the back, I had to check to see if any other baking "genius" had thought of this and sure enough, I am not the first by any means to give this a try!  Still, if you haven't heard of this method, I thought it was worth passing along!  I tried this method with a "basic" brownie recipe and a fancier one I developed to taste like a chocolate truffle and both recipes came out evenly baked so that they cut and served very nicely.  The only downside to this method is it will take longer for your brownies to bake.  You need to have the temperature at 325F no matter what your recipe calls for originally.  Try the method on your own recipe or if you're looking for a deep, dark, fudgey brownie with a chocolatey frosting, you might try this one.  I wanted them to taste like the chocolate ganache inside a truffle with the yummy chocolate coating on the outside, so I used heavy cream instead of the usual butter.  So far, this is what I've come up with, and my friend Terry, an admitted chocoholic, approved of my experiment!
Chocolate Truffle Brownies (makes 20 brownies)
1 cup heavy cream
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, cut up
2 eggs
2 cups sugar
1.5 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
boiling water
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla 
about 2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325F.  You'll need a 9x9 square pan and another pan that it can fit into, like this:

I used a roasting pan, but it doesn't have to be that much bigger.  
Put the chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl.  Put the cream in a microwave safe cup and microwave until it bubbles up (watch it!).  Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes.
In the meantime, line the square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.  Spray with PAM.
Stir the softened chocolate with a whisk until it's all melted into the cream.  It might not look very smooth-- don't worry.  Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and whisk well.  Add the eggs and whisk until everything is smooth.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth again.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  Set the pan into the larger pan and put it in the oven.  Pour boiling water carefully into the larger pan until it comes about halfway up the side of the brownie pan.  Be careful not to get water on the brownie batter.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the aroma of chocolate is in the air and the batter is "set" in the center.  A toothpick stuck in the center will come out almost clean and when you press on the center it will seem firm-ish (not hard).
Take the brownie pan from the water bath and cool on a rack until cooled.
For the frosting, microwave the cream as before and pour over the chocolate chips.  Stir until the chips are melted and combined with the cream.  Add the vanilla.  Beat in powdered sugar until the frosting is very thick, creamy and spreadable.  Frost the brownies, then refrigerate until the frosting is set.  If you let the brownies get good and cold, you'll be able to lift them out of the pan with the parchment or foil liner and they will cut cleanly.  Yay!


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