If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.
They may look like brownies to you… but they’re Dark Shadows to me.
Since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, here’s a perfect Valentine to give your amour. It’s chocolate, of course, because chocolate is said to have aphrodisiac properties. Going back to the Aztecs, there’s been a link drawn between the cocoa bean and desire. But even if you’re cynical about that connection, see if you don’t find this description irresistible: ” The following recipe is what happens when chocolate is used to its fullest capacity: dark, rich squares of buttery sweetness, wrapped in underpinnings of vanilla, are interrupted with miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips.”Take it from one who has eaten one of these superb treats: they’re almost as good as you-know-what.Not quite. But almost.
The description of this magnificent sweet is a direct quote from the creator of “Dark Shadows”, Lisa Yockelson, the author of Baking Style (Wiley 2011) where the recipe first appeared. A few months ago, I shared the story of Andrew’s first encounter with Ms. Yockelson.Called “Andrew’s Jillion Dollar Sharing Cookie”, it was the tale of how Andrew went to a book signing, mostly to see the renovations made to an apartment on Central Park West.It was there that Lisa Yockelson’s book, “Baking by Flavor”(Wiley 2002), was having its debut.Somehow this encounter led to a massive renovation of our entire house as Andrew took up baking with a vengeance.
Christmas cookies at our house
I am still reeling from his record-breaking Christmas bake-off of 2011 when he produced over 1000 cookies in 14 varieties.But it hardly stopped there. He also made three different cakes on four different occasions.You can see Ms. Yockelson’s influence is unbroken.And the arrival this holiday season of her latest book “Baking Style” (Wiley 2011) set off another flurry of incredible treats including “Dark Shadows”.
Jonathan Frid, the first Barnabas Collins
“Dark Shadows”, you may remember was a strange gothic daytime soap opera. (Or you may not remember it at all since it ran from 1966 until 1971.) Werewolves, zombies, witches, warlocks were all regulars on the show. Due to its daytime schedule, 1225 episodes were shot. That is far more any other science fiction/ fantasy series. Far more than the entire Star Trek franchise put together! It really took off when a vampire character was introduced. Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) appeared a year into its run and, from then on, the series was must-see TV for millions of daytime viewers. Johnny Depp was said to be so obsessed with Barnabas that, as a child, he wanted to be him. Apparently this obsession will finally have its day as Director Tim Burton is resurrecting Dark Shadows as a movie to be released in May of this year. And guess who is playing Barnabas? Johnny, of course. But I made that awfully simple for you.
Strangely, there’s no reference to how “Dark Shadows”, the brownie, actually got its name from Yockelson. In a chapter called “Intense Bold”, with a subsection called “Tipping the Scale on Chocolate”, there’s a full lick-the-page photograph so irresistible it’s no wonder it was the first thing in “Baking Style” Andrew had to bake. As one who consumed these incredibly rich treats, I have to say that these super fudgy bars had the most intense chocolate flavor in recent memory. As the baker, Andrew was taken with Ms. Yockelson’s description of this recipe as “a jewel of a formula and, will deliver raves greatly out of proportion to the kitchen work involved in its preparation”. But what of Barnabas and the other Ghosts of “Dark Shadows”? Well apparently their connection will remain a mystery. The recipe however will not. Here it is:
Recipe for Dark Shadows from Lisa Yokelson’s “Baking Style For the Buttery cocoa batter:
2 cups unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
1 cup unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsifted bleached cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to tepid
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to tepid
8 large eggs
2 1/4 cups superfine sugar
1 3/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
Seeds from 1 small vanilla bean, scraped clean
For the Cocoa and confectioners’ sugar topping, for sifting over the baked bars:
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder or confectioners’ sugar
Serving: 20 large squares or 40 bars
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Film the inside of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan with nonstick flour-and-oil spray. Or, line the inside of the baking pan, lengthwise and width-wise, with sheets of release-surface aluminum foil, pressing in the foil release side up and leaving 2 to 3 inches of foil to extend on all four sides. Film the inside of the foil-lined pan with nonstick oil spray.
For the batter, sift the cocoa powder, all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.
Toss the chocolate chips with 3/4 teaspoon of the sifted mixture in a small mixing bowl.
In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk the melted butter and melted chocolate until combined.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs just to mix. Add the superfine sugar and beat for 30 seconds to mix, but not add volume. Blend in the light brown sugar. Blend in the melted chocolate-butter mixture, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds, mixing slowly with a whisk until thoroughly incorporated. Once again, avoid vigorously beating the mixture. Resift the cocoa-flour mixture over the chocolate-butter mixture. Whisk slowly to form a batter, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula to keep the batter even-textured. The batter will be thick. Work in the chocolate chips.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a flexible palette knife.
Bake the sweet in the preheated oven for 40 to 44 minutes, or until just set. The edges of the baked sweet will puff slightly and there may be a few hairline cracks on the surface; this is to be expected.
Cool the sweet in the pan on a cooling rack. It is absolutely critical that you refrigerate your Dark Shadows for 1 hour at a miniumum, or until firm enough to cut. If you have used the foil liner, lift the block of bar cookies out of the pan by the edges of the foil. Using a very sharp knife that you’ve warmed under very hot water, cut the sweet into 20 squares, or cut each square in half to create bars. Use a long, heavy chef’s knife. (Peel away the cut squares from the foil.) Remove the squares or bars from the pan, using a small offset metal spatula. Or run amok, and break the big block into odd-shaped pieces and fragments. Store in an airtight tin. Just before serving, whisk the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder in a small mixing bowl to combine well, then sift the topping over the tops of the squares or bars. Or, sift plain confectioners’ sugar over the tops of the squares or bars.
Because this recipe is all about the chocolate, it really relies on the quality of the chocolate you use. Valrhona and Callebautare both highly recommended.
Make sure that the light brown sugar is sieved to remove any hardened lumps, for these will not melt and will firmly punctuate (in an unattractive way) the baked sweet
If available, miniature bittersweet chocolate chips can replace the semisweet variety
In the topping, a combination of confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder adds a finishing flurry to the sweet as well as a secondary level of chocolate flavor; cocoa powder alone would make a simple–but significantly more intense–topping (use about 5 teaspoons to sift over the top in a sheer layer), but confectioners’ sugar alone can also be used.