December: Bittersweet Brownies and, yay!!

And just at the nick of time.

I finished what I set out to do when I started my 2012 Cooking Challenge on the last day of the year. Twelve months, thirteen recipes, the last of which was Dorie Greenspan’s Bittersweet Brownies.

And yes, I had to cram this in to make sure that I completed what should have been an easy enough challenge. I picked this recipe because it was easy, I had all the ingredients available at home and because I wanted to try out another brownie recipe after my attempt at Ina’s Outrageous Brownies didn’t come out absolutely perfect. I’m stubborn like that.

And sometimes, persistence pays out:

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As you can see from the picture, I had no issues with the texture of these brownies whatsoever. They came out perfectly, and I could slice them without the edges crumbling to pieces.

Taste-wise, these were great, too. Despite the recipe’s name, these didn’t taste as bitter as I expected them to be. Ina’s actually tastes darker and more bitter.

And if you asked me to choose between the two, I couldn’t.  Well, ok, maybe I’ll go with Dorie’s recipe because I know I can make that perfectly. But my pride aside, you really can’t go wrong with any of the two recipes. They both are chocolatey, moist and delicious. I guess it will just be a matter of taste or mood or what kind of chocolate you find in your supermarket. In the mood for something darker, with fudgy and oozy bits of chocolate chips in the brownie? Then go for Ina’s. Could only find bittersweet chocolate at Rustan’s? Then Dorie’s would be perfect.

Ah, if only all of life’s options always turned out so well.

November: Outrageous Brownies

It’s December 30th and here I am, still scrambling to finish my cooking challenge. With Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies, I am left one recipe short with one day left in the year. Let’s see what I can scramble to make tomorrow, but for now, let’s get to the brownies.

The original recipe in Ina’s Barefoot Contessa cookbook is huge, requiring 4 sticks of butter, a little over 2 pounds of chocolate and a 12×18 inch baking pan that I don’t think would even fit in my oven. Not to mention the recipe calls for unsweetened chocolate, which is hard to find in Manila.

Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Foolproof, has a variation of this recipe which conveniently only uses half of the batter, saving me the trouble of doing the computation myself. I’ve also been able to find locally made unsweetened chocolate (Goya, who knew?), so I finally had everything I needed to make these babies and see if they really are as “outrageous” as Ina claims them to be.

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Taste-wise, these do not taste like the brownies we’re used to. Probably because of the coffee powder used, the chocolate taste of these brownies is deeper and richer, even if there are only 3 oz of unsweetened chocolate to 8 of semi-sweet. I love that they taste of darker chocolate, but this might not be recipe to use if you want a sweeter, milk-chocolate-y taste.

Texture-wise… Well. I may have messed things up in that department a little. Weirdly enough, while the brownie wasn’t dry or sandy at all, it was still very crumbly. Is that possible, for something to still be moist but be crumbly? I guess it is, since that’s how these turned out. I don’t know what it was. I took them out of the oven even if the toothpick wasn’t coming out completely clean yet, even if they already baked longer than the 35 minutes recommended by Ina. Maybe it was because I used a glass pan instead of a metal one? Whatever it was, I ended up with this after slicing up the brownies:

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Brownie… clumps? I wouldn’t call them crumbs, because they were bigger than that. As you can see, there was a lot of them. And as you can also see, I couldn’t bear to throw them out. I hate things (especially good butter and chocolate) going to waste, and I figured this was a problem (if you could call it that) a little ice cream couldn’t fix.

So despite the initial annoyance at the texture of the brownies did not come out perfect, I guess ending up with yummy ice cream topping is not something I should be complaining about. Two desserts from one recipe is not such a bad outcome for an afternoon.

October: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

One of my pet peeves about baking recipes is the fact that they all seem to require different sizes of pans. For instance, for the chocolate cakes I’ve baked, I’ve had to buy 8 inch pans and 9 inch pans. When I came across a recipe calling for a 10 inch pan, I flat out ignored it. The thing with baking is that, while you can use a smaller or bigger pan than what the recipe requires, you’d also have to tweak your baking time and/or temperature correctly, or you’ll risk burning or undercooking what you’re making.

And this is why it took me so long to make Dorie Greenspan’s Espresso Cheesecake Brownies. I thought long and hard about just using the 8 inch square pan that I already have. When I did finally decide to spring for the 9 inch pan the recipe required, it took me a while to find one. Anyway, I finally did get one (the last one in the store!) and made the brownies this weekend:

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I didn’t make the sour cream glaze in the recipe because I really didn’t want to a sour cream AND confectioner’s sugar layer to something that already had chocolate, cream cheese, sugar and eggs. And, I also didn’t have enough sour cream on hand. Hehe.

I would make a couple more changes for the next time I make them. First, I would double up on the instant coffee powder I used for the cheesecake mixture. The recipe called for instant espresso powder and I substituted the same amount of instant coffee powder. Yeah, someone didn’t do their research. Second, I would probably increase the brownie mixture by half because I think the brownie layer is just a tad too thin and I also need more of the batter to swirl on top.

But don’t get me wrong, these were yummy. I just need a little more batter to swirl and for the coffee flavor to be as intense as Dorie  meant to it be.