Sunday, April 23, 2017

Truffled Walnut Brownies

Truffled Walnut Brownies - made April 8, 2017 from Baking by Flavor by Lisa Yockelson
This was one of the first brownie recipes I ever made from Lisa Yockelson’s Baking by Flavor, one of my favorite baking books. It’s funny since I call it my favorite baking book yet I don’t seem to go back to it that often lately. But I’ve made multiple recipes from it over the years, most of which have turned out well so it’s one of the books I won’t part with, no matter how many times I purge my bookshelves.
My niece is holding a fundraiser this month for the mentor program she’s involved in. She’s mentoring a high school junior who goes to school and works part-time. Among her mentor duties, my niece is helping her "mentee" apply for other jobs (her mentee's current job has a tough schedule for her to meet while also going to high school) as well as gearing her up to apply for college next year. My niece is committed to raising $1000 in April to contribute to the program as $1000 funds 1 mentee/mentor relationship. Being the smart young up and comer who knows her audience, she baited her fundraising hook with “hey, if you donate at least $25, my aunt will make you a goodie bag with your choice of brownies, chocolate chip cookies and/or snickerdoodles.” Yes, I’m the aunt to whom she refers.
The first week, she raised $550, more than halfway to her goal, from 11 donors. She was very organized in tracking which donor wants which combination of the three treats on offer which made it easy for me to do my part of the order fulfillment. Snickerdoodles were easy since I was (initially) only going to do my favorite recipe for those. For chocolate chip cookies, I allowed myself the freedom to explore more recipes for Levain Bakery copycats. More posts on those experiments to follow in the coming weeks.
Alas, the brownies, where I normally live in my creative space because you know how I feel about plain brownies, she tied my hands. Whut?? Since we were catering to a varied audience and didn’t know who liked or didn’t like this, that or the other, she asked for me to make plain brownies. Gulp. Plain, did you say? Okay, fine but that kinda kills my baking soul not to do stuff like my Nutella crunch topping or swirl dulce de leche through the brownie or frost it with Nutella and sprinkle toffee bits over it or give it an Oreo cookie crust or – okay, fine, plain it is.
Which is why, although the recipe says “truffled walnut brownies”, there are no truffled walnuts anywhere in here. Even when I had originally made this recipe long, long ago, I hadn’t used walnuts anyway but pecans. This time around, I left out the truffled anything entirely. I still kept them in the recipe in case anyone wants to make these as Lisa Yockelson intended but even without them, these made a good moist, fudgy, rich brownie. They’re not too thick but the normal brownie thickness. I prefer them a little thicker myself but I had to keep reminding myself I’m not the one eating these.
You may be tempted to bake these too long. A crust does form on top as the brownies bake and a toothpick poked at the corners will come out clean while the middle will still have raw batter. Resist the urge to take them out too early. You want to bake them until a few moist crumbs appear on the toothpick test when you stick the toothpick near the center. But don’t wait until the center toothpick poke comes out “clean”. As long as you let the brownies cool to room temperature, they will set properly and give that fudgy texture, as in “baked fudge” fudgy texture. If you underbake them too much, they’ll be too mushy and not have a dense texture so much as a too-squishy one. And of course, don’t overbake them.
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsifted bleached cake flour
1/3 cup unsweetened, alkalized cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ lb (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
5 ounces (5 squares) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
5 large eggs
2 cups superfine sugar
2 ¾ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Truffled walnuts
1 cup walnut halves and pieces, lightly toasted and cooled completely
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted, cooled to tepid and blended with ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon unsweetened, alkalized cocoa sifted with 2 teaspoons unsifted confectioners’ sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Film the inside of a 10”x10”x2” baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Sift the all-purpose flour, cake flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
  3. Whisk the melted butter, unsweetened chocolate and bittersweet chocolate in a medium-size mixing bowl until thoroughly blended.  
  4. Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl for 1 minute.  Add the superfine sugar and whisk for 1 minute or until just combined.  Whisk in the tepid melted chocolate-butter mixture.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Sift over the sifted ingredients.  Whisk slowly until all particles of flour are completely absorbed, taking care to catch any pockets of flour along the bottom and sides of the bowl.  The batter will be thick and heavy.
  5. Make the truffled walnuts: In a medium-size mixing bowl, toss the walnuts with the melted butter-vanilla extract mixture.  Sprinkle over the sifted cocoa-confectioners’ sugar and toss thoroughly.  The nuts will look a bit glossy.
  6. Mix the truffled walnuts into the brownie batter with a rubber spatula.  Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan, taking care to spread it evenly and into the corners.  Smooth over the top with a rubber spatula.
  7. Bake the brownies for 30 to 33 minutes or until softly set (but not at all liquid).  Cool the brownies in the pan on a rack for at least 4 to 5 hours before cutting into squares with a small, sharp knife.

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