Thursday, March 11, 2010

Le Brownies

I have a love-hate relationship with brownies. To me, they rank on the same level as chocolate chip cookies. It has the potential to be amazingly good, but the typical result is sadly mediocre. It's so American. So blasé. So over produced. Sometimes I cave in and grab a piece, thick with grainy frosting and smudgy in its plastic wrapper. It satisfies my sugar craving, but I always regret it later.

Brownies is one of those foods that's best cooked at home. I used to eat box mix brownies, fresh from the oven, at middle school sleep-overs. We would playing Mario Kart, trade school gossip that more often involved the math club than cute boys, and help stir the brownie batter. We ate the brownies warm out of the oven - I made sure we made it to the kitchen in time - with mugs of cold milk. My friend's mom would always urge us to have seconds, and I always did. Looking back, I suspect I had a greater appreciation for food than most people my age, or maybe my friends had more refined palates that rejected the industrial stuff.
Now that I'm older, I can eat as many pieces of brownies as I want without mortification (as long as I hide in the kitchen, hah).

I didn't mean to bake brownies today. I planned to make an elaborate multi-layered chocolate cake-lemon cream-whipped chocolate ganache affair, but all the recipe searching and scaling calculations wore me out. I wanted something simple, something comforting and familiar, something like Pierre Hermé's brownies.

These brownies are nothing like the ones I used to eat. It uses real chocolate and real butter. Lots of butter, actually. The butter is first creamed, then blended with melted chocolate, eggs, sugar, flour, and nuts. The batter comes together like a dream, soft and creamy and studded with pieces of toasted walnuts. After baking, it takes on a tight, velvety crumb and delicately crunchy crust.

It's not quite the all-American brownie. It's more polite and elegant, without the brash chewiness and in-your-face cocoa punch. Still, it was comforting, especially with a glass of milk.

I'm not going to say how many pieces I ate.

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