Sunday, November 4, 2007
A Brownie Lesson
I recently acquired a copy of Alice Medrich's Chocolate and The Art of Low Fat Desserts and was eager to try out a recipe this weekend. The cookbook itself is quite lovely with beautifully photographed, mouth-watering creations that simply look, well, not so low fat. I wasn't sure where to begin with this cookbook as everything from the chocolate marble cake to the walnut truffle cookies sounded divine. There's even a few non-chocolate recipes in the book too like lemon bars and a cranberry tea bread (as in Christmas gifts)! So, I started where any good baker would: with the brownies. Alice writes that these brownies are "gooey" yet at the same time have less fat than your run-of-the-mill brownie. There are only 5 tablespoons of butter in the recipe (as opposed to perhaps 2 sticks of butter in the more traditional kind), and instead of using bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, Alice uses Dutch process cocoa powder. I was determined to bake a brownie that looked as delectable as the chewy-gooey brownie she had photographed in her book. Unfortunately, things didn't really turn out as I hoped. For one thing, my brownie was not chewy or gooey. It was more on the cakey side which is not how I like my brownies (I know there are many of you who like a cakey brownie, and that's fine, but not my preference). The brownie was also a bit on the dry side and though quite chocolaty in taste, didn't really have anything special in flavor for me. So what happened? Well, I believe I made a couple mistakes which, after reading more on the "art" of baking in the low fat ilk, makes more sense now. One thing I did was I cut back on the sugar. The recipe called for 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar and thinking I was making a wise decision, I used only 1 cup. Alice writes that sugar "contributes to moistness and moisture retention", and in a recipe where the fat is already lowered, the role of sugar becomes even more prominent. The second mistake I believe I made was to overmix the batter which can contribute to the tough texture of my brownie. Lastly, I think I overbaked the brownies. The baking time for these brownies ranged from 20-25 minutes and even though I baked for twenty minutes, it was still a bit too long for my oven. I have to say though, the brownies were not a complete failure. They are still okay if I don't think of them as a "brownie" but maybe as a chocolate tea cake. Plus, I learned quite a bit from my brownie misadventure. I learned that baking itself, whether low fat or not, truly is an "art" as well as a science, and the next time I attempt one of Alice Medrich's recipes, I better follow it to a tee!
Fudge Brownies (by Alice Medrich)
1 cup AP flour (sifted)
1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons butter (or stick margarine)
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules or espresso dissolved in 1 teaspoon water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; place oven rack in lower third of the oven. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil or parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Using a whisk, stir the first four ingredients together in a large bowl and put aside.
3. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and then stir in the sugar, mixing until combined (will be a grainy consistency). Next, add the egg, egg whites, vanilla, and coffee or espresso. Beat with a wooden spoon (approx. 40 strokes), scraping down the sides of the pan if necessary. Add the dry ingredients and mix for another 40 strokes or just until mixed.
4. Pour mixture into the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for approx. 20 minutes depending on your oven (as I mentioned, even 20 minutes was too long for me so you may want to start checking your brownies at close to 18 minutes--insert a toothpick into the center of the pan and if it comes out a little gooey, it's done).
5. Cool in the pan, on a baking rack. Once cool, grab the parchment or foil and remove the brownies from the pan. Cut into 16 squares.
notes: the brownies can be stored at room temperature, well wrapped for up to 2 days; can freeze them for up to 2 months.
calories per brownie: 134
fat: 4.6 grams