Saturday, December 8, 2007

Faking It

Did she, or didn't she?

I am in love with a cookbook. Well, two cookbooks actually, but
for the purpose of this torrid tale, I will refer to the one which
is currently my bedside companion.
With the holiday season (and all its chaos) upon us, I haven’t had much time for night reading. When time allows and the spirit is willing, unfortunately, the eyelids grow weak and weary.
The one advantage to such spontaneous slumber is that I often dream about the subject matter appearing on the same page as my drool.
In this case, I am referring to brownies; sinful, chewy, decadent brownies.

I am no stranger to these bodacious bars. Although I prefer not to keep track, I would guess that I have produced as many brownie failures as I have successes. Perhaps it is unfair to call some of them failures because most of my experiments have been eaten with great pleasure—but not the type of gastronomic pleasure I seek; the kind that renders you either totally speechless or screaming for more.

As I battled fatigue and speed-read through
the “shortbread-bars” section of
Rosie’s All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book, I entered the long-awaited, albeit short chapter on brownies. I felt an immediate connection to the author
(Judy Rosenberg), as I read about her laborious quest to develop a recipe for a “fudgy, yet not too sweet, brownie.”
I thought I had settled on her recipe for “Rosie’s Award Winning Brownies” to serve as my next kitchen conquest, until wearily, I turned the page.
My tired eyes widened as I read the recipe for what she
calls “Chocolate Orgasms.” She proudly refers to these as the most famous dessert at Rosie’s Bakery and she playfully suggests “Okay, Daddy, now you can admit it—you were wrong, this is a great name.”
Perhaps Daddy’s mortification by her mature-subject moniker for such innocent confections should have been my first clue that this recipe, like so many hopeful honeymoons, might just promise an experience it can’t deliver.
But admittedly, my curiosity was aroused and Chocolate O’s
(which I now affectionately call them to preserve my integrity as a mom serving baked goods to minors) were at the top of tomorrow’s to-do list.
Thankfully, I had all of the necessary ingredients on hand, but that little voice in the back of my head (the one I so foolishly try to ignore) told me that I should probably pick up a few more bars of quality dark chocolate.
I ignored the voice and like so many other lessons in my life, this too would remind me that a woman’s intuition is rarely ever wrong.

In my empty house on a cold Wednesday afternoon, I blasted my favorite carols and set out to make two batches of Chocolate O’s. My intent was to make one batch sinful and dark, and another, with my picky son in mind, less bitter and slightly sweeter. The recipe was a two step process, requiring the production of a chocolate glaze to be applied once the brownies cooled completely. I was intrigued by the glaze recipe because it called for evaporated milk, a product I have always considered both mysterious and vague.
When I mixed the first bittersweet batch, I knew immediately the brownie would be richer for the addition of three eggs instead of the usual two. The batter came together easily and a finger-lick test told me it had good flavor. I realize now that my instincts were correct and the addition of a few ingredients would likely have piqued this brownie’s performance, and forced its flavor meter to rise
from good to sublime.
But like the sharp instincts of my pre-marital, dating-young-adulthood, I ignored them, forcing me to suffer the unpalatable consequences of hasty decision making.

I mixed the second batch with a bit more chocolate of the milk-chocolate variety and placed both pans, side by side on the middle rack of my oven.
My timer was set for exactly twenty-five minutes.
My anticipation was nothing short of blind-date anxiety, and I needed to keep myself busy and distracted as the clock painfully ticked in what felt like slow motion.
I set out the tools and ingredients for the glaze and as I searched for my lonely can of evaporated milk, I happened upon a half-eaten bag of chocolate covered espresso beans (another dirty little
secret of mine).
An adulterous idea immediately presented itself but would remain only a fantasy until my relationship with this new recipe had its fair opportunity for success.
As the recipe instructs, I performed the toothpick test at exactly twenty five minutes and removed what appeared to be a soupy, chocolate coating clinging to the frilly-tipped instrument. Clearly, the brownies needed additional baking time and this is precisely the moment during new-recipe-experimentation when beads of perspiration form on my forehead and my right eye begins to twitch. No further instruction was offered for under baked brownies, so I was left to fly solo with little evidence of Utopia on the horizon.
After three grueling timer re-sets in one-to-two minute intervals, I finally decided to remove the pans from the oven and place them on cooling racks.
The tops appeared to have a thin crust as suggested, and the centers were no longer gelatinous. Now it was just a waiting game.
I set the timer for one hour as instructed and cleaned up all evidence of my chocolate tryst.
I was nagged by the recurring thought that my final assessment would require at least twenty-four hours worth of non-existent patience, based on the recipes recommendations that full flavor develops only after such an agonizing wait. I knew I would taste the results before then, but my judicious decision would hang over this passionate crime until the sun rose again.

When the hour was finally up, I mixed the ingredients for the glaze and divided it in half. I reserved one half for my son’s batch of brownies and I carefully administered my own rebellious enhancements to the darker batch.
In my opinion, such clandestine confections deserved a bit
of kitchen foreplay.

I poured the glaze over the un-cut brownies and
set them aside for cooling.
When I could wait no longer, and the glaze appeared to have hardened, I sliced them into meager portions (based on the written guarantee that a little goes a long way). I tasted a cut-end from the darker batch and decided that a little more creativity in the kitchen (and elsewhere) would make for a more memorable experience. I carefully wedged a chocolate covered espresso bean in the center of each dark brownie and placed half of them in my carry-to-work container, sealed it, and set it aside for tomorrow’s much anticipated unveiling.

When tomorrow finally came, I shared a brownie with my husband and not surprisingly, his reaction was anticlimactic at best. He agreed that the brownies were delicious and moist but not the best ones I’ve made to date.
When I divulged the recipe’s title, rather than risk inadequacy,
he took another bite, just in case.
I weighed his first assessment, fully aware of the fact that he is not the every-man when it comes to brownie tasting. His opinion is a bit biased, based on his extensive experience-- simply because he lives with a woman who should likely spend less time in the kitchen testing recipes, and more time in…

Well, anyway, the true test for this brownie would be distributed to coworkers who would purposely be left in the dark about its original title and would be introduced to these as Chocolate O’s
(depending on subsequent reviews, that title could be upgraded to Chocolate O, O, Ohs).

As Thursday’s winds blew, I readied myself for another day of
shoot-the messenger customer-service. I carefully packed the experiment and threw in a bunch of necessary napkins for frosted-finger negotiation. I stopped at a local dairy drive through to purchase a much needed accompaniment-one half gallon of cold milk, and headed to work.
I thought it best to leave the evidence of my chocolate affair in my car until I was sure that no high ranking officers were lurking about.
When I entered the building, I expected my usual, inquisitive greeting from my greatest fan of home baked goodness. But there was no interrogation, as he was seated at his desk, deeply involved in the finances of one leopard-coat-wearing customer.
As I set up my work station, I casually mentioned to the co-workers on either side of me that a secret stash of brownies sat on the passenger seat of my car, ready for the taking.
I made no mention of their naughty name, and not-so-patiently awaited my culinary fate.

When word of my illicit goods reached the lobby, an impromptu trip to Starbucks was organized with foolish disregard for my simple, yet spot-on recommendation that these needed only a cold-milk chaser.
A short while later, when the elected employee made his return from Starbucks I seized the opportunity to exit our stiflingly hot building to retrieve the notorious container from my car.
Brownies are one of those confections that even the most disciplined dieters find impossible to resist. And so, it was only a matter of moments before the lid was off, and brownies were making their way onto napkins (some, half-eaten, found their way into desk drawers until intrusive customers finally made their exits).

As expected, there were no obvious reactions to validate the claim made by the brownie’s torrid title.
However, one caffeine-laced, sugar-high, brownie-induced co-worker, in a state of pure chocolate delirium, reacted at first bite by professing his undying love for me.
A cheap high from illicitly acquired praise allowed me to coast through the remainder of an otherwise monotonous Thursday.
This was clearly enough to put the recipe for these
brownies in the repeat file.

Which finally brings me to the oft-unanswerable, age-old question of whether or not one particular woman could be accused of faking it?

Did Rosie really seduce innocent customers at the hands of this sultry recipe, or were there perhaps, ingredients or procedures omitted from its original version for the sake of publication?
While the brownie is a good one in its own right, it hardly lives up to its promiscuous promise.
Was this tempting treat with the titillating title, merely a fake?
Dare I believe that the creator of these confections, and the author of two beloved cookbooks cheated on her loyal readers for the sake of her own gratification?

Truth be told, I haven’t yet reached my official conclusion on this recipe, simply because it is too early in our relationship.
What I can say with certainty however, is that like most women, this brownie definitely improves with age.
There was a noticeable change in texture and chewy-ness that resulted from a not-so-patient, twenty-four hour wait for the flavor to develop.
And as more time lapsed, the brownies actually tasted better.
It gives me great hope that perhaps with a bit of tweaking and creativity, the sinful possibilities of these seductive brownies are endless.

Oddly enough, I did notice that those who sampled these brownies and most enjoyed them were, by majority, tasters of the male variety.
Perhaps in this case (and others), what’s good for the gander doesn’t necessarily satisfy the goose. And so the goose must find alternatives which allow for a more positive outcome.
In my opinion, the stimulating effects of both espresso and dark chocolate made for a more memorable and more pleasurable brownie experience.
So, the next time this goose is loose in her kitchen, she just might whip up a new, improved brownie that will render her gander speechless, or maybe even screaming for more.

And I would never lie about that.

Until Next Time,
Make Life Delicious
Share Your Food


After this post, I just might need a cigarette—but I don’t smoke.
So, perhaps I will just go light a brownie.

Here is the recipe for Rosie’s Chocolate Orgasms as they
Appear in
Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter Fresh-Cream Sugar-Packed No-Holds- Barred Baking Book—one of my absolute favorites.
My other favorite by the same talented author, Judy Rosenberg, is called
Rosie’s Bakery Chocolate-Packed Jam-Filled Butter-Rich No-Holds Barred Cookie Book.
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on either of these books, don’t let go. Her recipes are that good.

My notes and recommendations appear after the recipe, but follow your own inner voice to create a brownie that works for you.

Chocolate Orgasms

3 ½ Ounces Unsweetened Chocolate
12 TBS (1 ½ Sticks) Unsalted Butter at room temperature
1 ½ Cups Sugar
¾ tsp. Vanilla Extract
3 Large Eggs at room temperature
¾ Cup plus 2 TBS all-purpose flour
½ Cup plus 2 TBS chopped walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 inch square pan with butter or vegetable oil.
2) Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. Cool the mixture for 5 minutes.
3) Place the sugar in a medium size mixing bowl and pour in the chocolate mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, mix until blended, about 25 seconds. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4) Add the vanilla. With the mixer running on medium low speed, add the eggs one at a time, blending after each addition. Scrape the bowl with a spatula after the last egg and blend until velvety.
5) Add the flour on low speed and mix for 20 seconds. Finish the mixing by hand, being certain to mix in any flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Stir in ½ cup nuts if using.
6) Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan (if using nuts, sprinkle the remainder atop the batter)
7) Bake the brownies on the center oven rack until a thin crust forms on top and a tester inserted in the center comes out with only a moist crumb, 25 to 30 minutes.
8) Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a rack to cool for 1 hour before cutting the brownies. Serve the next day (it takes a day for the flavor to set).

1 ½ Ounces unsweetened chocolate
¼ Cup evaporated milk
1/3 Cup sugar

Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water.
Pour the evaporated milk into an electric blender or small food processor and add the sugar and melted chocolate. Blend the glaze on medium low speed until it thickens—about 50 seconds (the sound of the machine will change when this process occurs).
Using a frosting spatula spread the frosting evenly over the surface of the cooled brownies allowing them to sit for at least an hour before cutting. The glaze will harden a bit and will be less shiny when set.

My Notes:
For starters, I am a firm believer that a small pinch of salt in any baked recipe helps the flavor pop. So, the next time around, I will likely add about ¼ tsp of kosher salt.
As I mentioned, I added espresso to the glaze mixture. I believe the brownie itself needs a bit more punch as the flavor is great, but not spectacular. So, I would add about one teaspoon of instant espresso powder to the melted chocolate mixture, before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. I’m inclined to believe that more dark chocolate is always better so, I would add at least another ounce or two of good quality (60% cacao or more) dark chocolate. Adding more than that might alter the density of the batter and thus throw off baking time, so be cautious if you are adventurous.
While I am a fan of nuts, I don’t believe they have their place in such a decadent brownie, so I chose to omit them for this recipe.
I would consider adding a bit of Kahlua or other coffee liqueur to the glaze mixture if these were being served to adults only.
I used my mini food processor for the glaze. The mixture seemed a bit too thin so, I added a bit more sugar and an ounce more of unsweetened, melted chocolate. It set up nicely once it cooled but these brownies would not fare well as individually wrapped snacks. A good, airtight container will allow the flavor to develop while preserving moisture.
The thought occurred to me (because I’m still dreaming about last weeks blondies) that brown sugar might have its place somewhere in this recipe.
Since the vanilla extract did little for this brownie recipe, I might consider splitting the sugar measurement between white sugar and brown sugar for depth of flavor and increased moisture.
Where baking time is concerned, you are on your own. Since ovens differ greatly, I encourage you to pay close attention during the last five or ten minutes of baking time. In my opinion, an under-done brownie is far better than an over-done brownie (under-baked always offers the opportunity for an overnight refrigeration which makes them passable for fudge). You don’t want to take the pans out of the oven when the centers are still soupy but a moist crumb on the tester is essential. They will continue to firm up as they cool.
The addition of chocolate covered espresso beans was a big hit with co-workers. I’m not sure these would fare well if baked into the actual brownie, but placed on top of each brownie just before the glaze set, made for a flavorful addition.
Have fun with these. They are most definitely worth your time and a bit of kitchen experimentation.
Be patient, as they really do improve over time.


1 comment:

midge said...