Julia Child’s best ever brownies, are indeed, the best ever
…Sorry, but they are. Even as a cakey brownie fan, I am won over.
Despite their very average appearance, these brownies have made me seriously consider buying Julia Child’s Baking with Julia or Mastering the art of French cooking. Okay, so these are mere additions to a list that already includes several books that would drive me crazy (due to the imperial measurements and the fact that I’d be just too darned lazy to bake some of the most intricate, yet also most delicious looking, recipes). Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano, and there’s that baking book I saw at Scorpio the other week…
Sorry, I digress. Back to these brownies. They are the fudgiest brownies I’ve ever had, yet somehow they don’t have that sticky, goopy, gluey, excessively milky thing going on. Sure, they’re soft and squishy at room temperature, but when refrigerated they are not far from chocolate fudge. Despite this they are still definitely brownies, and if you have them on the day they’re baked you’ll be reminded of this fact due to the crispy top (does anyone else get excited about crispy topped brownies?).
So, how are these different and why do they deserve a different post to the brownies I made a few days ago? Well, importantly, they are thicker, more smack-you-in-the-face fudgy, and don’t even mention the possibility of nuts. They unabashedly call for 225g of butter (yes, you read that correctly), and 2c of sugar. The nutritional analysis alone is enough to induce heart quivers. All that has not stopped me from sneaking off with little cubes of it (and I dare not eat much more at a time) throughout the day. Normally I would rail against excessive recipes like these, I would cast them to the mental bins full of cheeseburgers in a can and deep fried snickers bars. But look at them!
They’re just too cute and chocolatey looking to be evil! Descriptive fervour aside, how easy are these to make? Unless you’re going to crack walnuts by hand like I did, Dorie’s brownies are much easier to make (and only require dirtying one pot or medium sized glass bowl in addition to the baking pan). However, if you have some spare time on your hands, I’d say it is definitely worth the extra bit of effort (and erm…three times the amount of butter), and it also makes more (remember you can freeze brownies).
Julia’s recipe calls for a 9×9″ brownie tin, but since I only have an 8×8″ tin, I made a few extra brownie cupcakes. The cupcakes turned out a lot cakier and I liked this variation, but you could probably lob all the batter in the 8″ pan and have super thick brownies, just cook them for longer.
Julia Child’s best ever brownies
makes a thick 9×9″ load of brownies
adapted for NZ bakers
1 1/4 c plain white flour
225g butter (I used salted and that was fine, I just omitted salt)
1 tsp salt if using unsalted butter
170g 70% or higher cocoa content chocolate*
2c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs
*I used Whittaker’s 72% dark chocolate, but I think you could even use Lindt’s 80% chocolate or higher if you’re a dark chocolate fan. Remember there are a lot of other ingredients which decreases the cocoa ratio in these.
Center a rack in the oven. Very lightly grease only the bottom of a square 9″ baking tin, and set aside.
Melt the butter and chocolate together with one of the following methods:
1. Place a medium large glass or metal bowl in a saucepan of hot water from the tap. Let the chocolate and butter sit in the bowl for about five minutes while you prep the other ingredients. It will have melted slightly, stir to combine and facilitate further melting. If the water gets cooler than body temperature, place the saucepan on low heat until the saucepan is hot to the touch but is touchable, then turn off heat and keep stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and incorporated. You’ll need to be patient as this will take a long time, but this method will ensure you don’t overheat the chocolate and it becomes acrid tasting in the final product. It will also mean the chocolate isn’t too hot when you add the egg mixture later.
2. Place a medium large heat proof bowl (with the chocolate and butter in it) over a saucepan half full of water, and bring the water to a very gentle simmer. Once the water is simmering, reduce heat to low. Stir the chocolate and butter constantly to fully incorporate.
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F)
Remove the bowl from the saucepan (wipe the bottom dry). Mix in 1c of the sugar and the vanilla. In a separate bowl (preferably a narrow shaped one) whisk the other 1c of sugar and the eggs JUST to combine. Gradually whisk half the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, stirring every now and then to ensure the eggs don’t set from the heat.
Beat the remaining half of the egg mixture for about 3-5 minutes until paled, doubled in volume, and thickened like a pancake batter. Fold gently into the chocolate mixture.
Once the eggs are almost fully incorporated, sift in the flour and salt and fold in gently. Pour the batter into the 9″ tin.
Bake 23-28 minutes, during which time the batter will rise a little and the top will go dark and dry. Check the brownies at 23 minutes, wobbling the pan gently. The mixture should still wobble but only a little, and the whole top should be dry. If you press the centre with the side of a knife (ie. not the blade), it should give a little but not be like a wet batter. If you don’t mind them a little cakier, let bake for an additional 5 minutes after this stage.
If you want these cut neatly: let them come to room temperature after removing from the oven, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Then cut very carefully (if using a non stick pan, press the blade of the knife down, bring the knife back out, move along, and press down again, and so on. Don’t move the blade along the bottom of the pan) into cubes. Then place the pan on your cooktop for thirty seconds to a minute on the lowest heat setting possible, so that the bottom of the pan is about body temperature. Starting from the outside, gently remove brownies with a spatula or knife. You may need to destroy one cube to get the rest out nicely. By destroy I mean eat.
By the way, I wouldn’t dust these with icing sugar or serve them with ice cream. Save room for another piece, I say! To maintain maximum fudginess, keep refrigerated.
Next up: I am going to be trying Julia’s omelette based on this video of her making it. Sigh. Watching that video really gives me a major crush on Meryl Streep.
Okay. Brownies induce obsessive behaviour. You have been warned.
EDIT: If you think these use a lot of fat and sugar, check out this Butterscotch Pecan Cake from Martha Stewart. The cake uses a whopping 708 grams of butter, but as if that weren’t enough, it also asks for 1 1/2 c cream, 567 grams of cream cheese, 5 2/3 c various kinds of sugar, and just to top it off, 1/2c corn syrup. That said, do I want a slice? Hell. Yes. Maybe over the course of a week, but still.