|Renato (left) and Matt|
I would have to say that Andrew is not ‘a gusher’. He is not a person who cares much about celebrity. And because we live around an awful lot of them, a Seinfeld sighting or showing a property to a colossal media star is water off his back. (I, meanwhile, have gone practically catatonic at the sight of Martha Stewart at our local nursery.) So you can imagine my surprise when we were doing our Williams-Sonoma Artisan’s Market for Monte’s Ham. They were staging this artisanal food event and they’d lined up some wonderful local New York talent (if I do say so myself)–none more illustrious than Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito of “Baked”, the Red Hook, Brooklyn Bakery . Before I knew it, Andrew was introducing himself to the two guys and waxing poetic over how much he loved their recipes and their cookbooks, how many recipes he’d used from their first “Baked:New Frontiers in Baking” (2008)Explorations” and how much he looked forward to working with their new one “Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented” (2010) And on and on and on…
Matt and Renato could not have been nicer. But then, they really are very talented and very smart. We’ve featured several of their desserts before–Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Pie, Lemon Lime Bars and Lemon loaf—but today in our 12 days of Christmas recipes I wanted to share their recipe for Brownies. What could make a more perfect gift than a beautiful box of brownies? Now there are numerous kinds of brownies—ranging from practically molten inside to lovely chocolate cakes, from brownies with dried cherries to brownies with nuts and even brownies with chocolate chips in them. Matt and Renato’s recipe is for purists. It is a dense, chocolate-rich and slightly fudgy brownie absent any nuts or additions of any kind. And, when I went to write this, I discovered that the “Baked” Brownie was awarded “Best Brownie” by both America’s Test Kitchen and the Today Show. So here’s the recipe including Matt and Renato’s note about making a great brownie verbatim:
A great brownie is easy to make, but here are a few pointers: (1) Use a dark unsweetened cocoa powder like Valrhona. A pale, lightcolored cocoa does not have enough depth. (2) Make sure your eggs are at room temperature, and do not overbeat them into the batter. (3) Check your brownies often as they bake. An even slightly overbaked brownie is not a Baked Brownie.”
Recipe for “Baked” Brownies
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa powder together.
Put the chocolate, butter, and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.
Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.