Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chocolate Walnut Brownies - but skip the walnuts

Chocolate Walnut Brownies - November 7, 2009

90% of the brownie recipes I've tried all list nuts in them yet 90% of the people I know, including myself, don't like nuts in brownies. I've yet to figure out this dichotomy but fortunately, nuts are easily optional in any brownie (or cookie) recipe and I substitute what I like instead. Sometimes it's chocolate chips, sometimes toffee bits, and often, especially around this time of year because I've stocked up on Halloween candy that went on sale after Halloween, I'll chop up Snickers and throw them in there. Yeah, technically Snickers have nuts but I can live with that because, hey, they're Snickers.

This recipe is another one from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book and I can never resist trying a brownie recipe from any new cookbook I have. I made two modifications to this recipe - first was the Snickers swap for the walnuts (can't abide walnuts anyway) and second, I made the brownies in an 8-inch pan instead of the 9-inch pan called for in the original recipe. I wanted the brownies to be thick and baking them in a smaller pan ensures that. Just watch the baking time to make sure you bake them long enough but not too long. I took these out when a toothpick inserted in a corner came out clean but one inserted in the middle still had moist crumbs (not raw batter) clinging to it. You can see from the picture that the brownie is moist and fudgy but not raw. As I've mentioned before, chocolate "sets" when it cools so there's no need to bake a brownie "until done". "Done" = dry and overbaked.

I liked this recipe as an easy-to-make brownie and it's perfect for using up leftover Halloween candy. You can easily use plain M&Ms instead of Snickers if you really don't want any kind of nuts or add chocolate chips or don't add anything and leave them simply plain. Regardless, they have a nice, fudgy, dense texture which makes for my favorite kind of brownie.

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour a 9 x 9 x 2-inch square cake pan.
2. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from the heat but keep warm.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla on medium speed until pale yellow in color, about 2 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and mix to combine.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
5. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, mixing on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the nuts by hand.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until sides begin to pull away from the pan and center is moist but not runny, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
7. When cool, loosen the edges of the pan with a knife and invert the brownies onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 brownies, measuring 3 inches by 2 ¼ inches, or serve straight from the pan.

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