Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Confessions of an Ad Hoc Brownies Recipe Tester

Bless me almighty Chef Thomas Keller, god of precision and all-things culinary, but I have sinned. I have tried your brownies recipe from your “Ad Hoc at Home” cookbook — a James Beard award winner, thank you very much — and I cheated. Please do not strike me down.

I know that you’re all about being organized and sourcing the right ingredients, and believe me I get that by flipping through the pages of your beautiful book (well, actually mine since I paid for it), but I am only human.

I started by shifting the dry ingredients: ¾ cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (I did use the E.Guittard brand you recommended), and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. But I confess, I do not have a shifter so I basically just shifted these ingredients through a hand strainer.

Then I melted half the butter in a small saucepan. And even though my cholesterol shuddered at the thought of using three sticks of butter (which I’ve learned from you equates to ¾ of a pound), I followed your instructions to melt the butter slowly and then pour it into a bowl containing the remainder of the butter.

But the warm butter didn’t really melt the remaining butter. So I basically had to mush it up with the back of my wooden spoon in my attempts to get the creamy texture you described.

Then I mixed the three large eggs and 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar, but I have an old hand mixer with metal blades and not the fancy stand mixer fitted with a paddle that you requested. I forged ahead, though, and added the ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (I wasn’t about to pay $10 for a small bottle of vanilla paste), and then on low speed blended in the dry ingredients and melted butter, alternating as I went.

Then I threw in the chocolate chips. I think they were 6 ounces. I didn’t use E.Guittard’s 61 to 64 percent chocolate because they didn’t have that at my local Safeway, so I resorted to using Ghiradelli’s bitter chocolate, which was only 60 percent. And I don’t have a kitchen scale but the bag said 11.9 ounces, so I threw in half the bag, which I figured was close to 6 ounces.

When my batter was ready, I poured it into my pan. But I confess that I don’t have the fancy 9-inch square silicon mold that you wrote in the recipe and had to just use what I did have: an 8-inch square non-stick metal pan.

I cooked the batter for 45 minutes (at 350 degrees) like you said, and sure enough, the edges were overcooked or slightly burnt, like how you warned in your recipe (because I didn't use the silicon mold). But I allowed it to cool and when ready, flipped the pan over to release the big dark cake and sliced them to resemble the photo in your lovely cookbook.

I did, however, dust the top with powdered sugar per your instructions.

So here’s my end result. Despite all the shortcuts or lack of proper ingredients or equipment, they didn’t turn out half bad. The brownies were darker than what I imagined, but I guess that’s your way to make chic brownies, and they were more cake-like than chewy. Still, they were good, especially when cold as the chocolate flavor was more pronounced and the goo of the chocolate chips created a nice surprise.

Chef Keller, I hope you can forgive me that I didn’t follow your recipe precisely. I did 10 Hail Marys, and offered my brownies to the needy (aka my co-workers), so I hope that makes up for my transgressions.

Past brownie recipes:
Espresso-Shortbread Brownie Recipe
Peanut Butter Brownies Recipe


foodhoe said...

lol, you lazy scoundrel! it didn't sound like you took shortcuts, in fact, you probably had to work harder without all the fancy equipment! I like fudgy chewy brownies, so better you than me... and now I'm waiting for you to make the famous pineapple upside down cake!

Kim said...

Very funny! Thanks for the chuckle first thing in the a.m.

Paranoid Android said...

What a deliciously funny post! I do admit that I am a sloth when it comes to cooking and using the excuse that I do not have all the ingredients or equipment in hand.

Been stalking your blog a while now, and loving what you are doing here.


Carolyn Jung said...

I think TK would be proud of you!
My husband has made this recipe a couple of times, and he's not even a regular baker. But a recipe this good just brings out the baker in all of us. ;)

Carla said...

Looks like your brownies still turned out yummy, despite the minor changes. Three sticks of butter?? Yikes! I can barely bring myself to use one whole stick. I bet you could taste the difference though!

Hermina said...

I think you did the right thing, you followed your heart when you made the cake! Recipes are a guideline and the rest if up to you!!!!
The brownies look amazing and I will definitely bake them some day!

This is my first time visiting your blog and I will be back!!!!!!

Single Guy Ben said...

Thanks everyone!! It did turn out pretty good, but we all know it's more the three sticks of butter than any of my skills. LOL.

Paranoid/Hermina, thanks for coming out of the sidelines and commenting for the first time! welcome!

Nate @ House of Annie said...

I think they do test these recipes against home cooks like yourself so that there's wiggle room for adjusting as you've done.

Still, you really ought to get a kitchen scale. They're not that expensive!

JulieK said...

Where do you work? I need a coworker who brings in homemade treats. This post cracked me up. I am a willing taste tester any time you need one!