Fine Cooking recipe: November 2008
For the Brownies:
6 oz. (12 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into half-inch pieces; more softened for the pan
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. table salt
3 3/8 oz. (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 oz. (1/4 cup) natural cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped (OPTIONAL ;)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan.
Put the butter and chocolate in a medium heavy-duty saucepan over low heat and stir constantly until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until well blended. Gradually whisk in the sugar and then whisk vigorously until well blended. Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk in the flour and cocoa powder until blended. Stir in the pecans and then scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it into an even layer with a spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it, 20-22 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and, if necessary, gently press down and puffed areas with a spatula to make the top level. Let cool about 5 minutes.
For the Topping:
Make the caramel first:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
Fill a cup measure halfway with water and put a pastry brush in it; this will be used for washing down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization.
In a heavy-duty 2-quart saucepan, stir the sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup cold water. Brush down the sides of the pan with water to wash away any sugar crystals. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan, until the mixture starts to color around the edges, 5-8 minutes. Gently swirl the pan once to even out the color and prevent the sugar from burning in isolated spots. Continue to cook until the sugar turns medium amber, about 30 seconds more. (Once the mixture begins to color, it will darken very quickly, so keep an eye on it.)
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the cream -- the mixture will bubble up furiously. Once the bubbling has subsided, add the butter and gently whisk until completely melted. Whisk in teh vanilla extract and salt. Pour the caramel topping over the brownies, using a spatula to spread it evenly over the entire top Let the brownies cool on the rack for 45 minutes and then refridgerate until the caramel topping is set, at least 1 hour.
For the Garnish:
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
Combine the chocolate and heavy cream in a small saucepan over low heat and stir constantly until melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate unto a small piping bag fitted with a 1/8-inch plain tip. (Or put it in a small zip-lock bag and seal the bag. Using scissors, snip off a corner of the bag to make a small hole.) Drizzle the chocolate over the brownies in a zig-zag pattern. Sprinkle the choppedd pecans over the top. Refridgerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
Served chilled or at room temperature. (Well-covered brownies will keep at room temperature for up to 2 days and in the refridgerator for up to 5 days.)