Friday, October 16, 2009

Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Icing

Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Icing - October 13, 2009

There are many brownie recipes out there and I feel like I’ve tried them all or at least most of the variations. Most people have pretty strong preferences for their brownies and I’m no exception. A “good” brownie is moist, fudgy, chocolatey, and nutless (unless they’re on top and caramelized in some fashion). I don’t like cakey brownies and dry brownies aren’t worth a tooth mark in them.

I had high hopes for this recipe from Magnolia Bakery because when I was in New York , I had a fantastic brownie from Magnolia. It was moist, fudgy and covered with a white chocolate layer sprinkled with nuts on top. I’m not excessively fond of white chocolate but it worked as a great contrast to the fudgy “true” chocolate of the brownie itself. This is a different brownie since it’s covered with cream cheese frosting instead of white chocolate but I figured Magnolia would know how to make good brownies and have good brownie recipes. Hmmm. There may be an exception to every rule. My first hesitation with this recipe was when I saw cake flour being used instead of all-purpose flour. Cake flour is great when you want soft or light-textured cakes. In a brownie? For the kind of texture I like in my brownies, maybe not. But I’ll try any new recipe at least once and will give it a fair shake. I’m an equal opportunity baker after all.

The second off-putting aspect of this recipe was the size of pan it required. Most brownies are made in a 9 x 13 pan at the largest. This called for a 12 x 18 jelly roll pan. They mean serious volume with this brownie. Conceivably, I could have cut the recipe in half and adjusted the pan size but to be truly accurate with the recipe, I would’ve needed a 6” x 9” pan or a pan that totaled to 54” in its dimensions. I don’t have such a pan so I decided to make the recipe as is. I had a bunch of meetings the next day and coworkers I could give it to anyway so I figured none of the brownies would go to waste. But I did “cheat” anyway and baked the brownies in a 9 x 13 pan and an 8” square pan, eyeballing the amount of batter I spread in each pan so they’d each have the same level of thickness. I also cut the frosting in half since I only had 8 ounces of cream cheese on hand, not the full pound the frosting recipe called for. I had mocha frosting left over from the devil’s food cake recipe I’d made the night before so I used that to frost the 8” pan and used the cream cheese frosting for the 9 x 13” pan.

So how’d they turn out? I can’t say I’d give them a glowing review. The texture was kind of funny to me – not the typical denseness of my preferred fudgy brownie but it was both dense and light at the same time, more like a cross between a flourless chocolate cake and a cakey brownie. Kinda weird. Of course, it could also be due to the fact that I’ve been baking (and eating) a lot of sweets lately and I’m getting pretty jaded. If it isn’t absolutely fabulous, then it’s just “okay” to me. To other people, it was great. I had people fighting over the ones I handed out today and I got several emails and IMs thanking me and telling me they liked it. But I’m my own worst critic on many things, including what I bake. This recipe didn’t pass muster with me and I’m not likely to make it again. They are too many other brownie recipes to try or too many good ones to re-make.

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising flour)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
9 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

1 pound (2 eight-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease a 12 x 18-inch jelly roll pan.
3. To make the brownie: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, the baking powder and the salt. Set aside.
4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Lightly beat the eggs, then add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Add the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and mix until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of pan comes out with moist crumbs attached.
5. To make the icing: In a medium-size bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese and the butter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract. Gradually add the sugar and beat until well incorporated.
6. Let the brownies cool completely, then ice with cream cheese icing.
7. As an optional icing, try this fudge frosting: In a small saucepan, combine ¾ cup heavy cream and 12 ounces semisweet chocolate and place over very low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in ¾ cup confectioners’ sugar until dissolved. Allow to stand until firm.

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