Monday, April 8, 2013

chocolate tanker brownies

A friend recently gifted me with a 1 pound solid hunk of chocolate. It was not a massive chocolate bar or post-Easter chocolate bunny, but rather a monster hunk of chocolate from a chocolate tanker truck. Yes, it turns out that those enormous tanker trucks sometimes seen on freeways not only carry milk and other liquids, but also occasionally pure milk chocolate (!) As the story was related to me, when this chocolate tanker truck made it's delivery and pumped out all the goods, the tanker remnants were up for grabs. The driver, a friend of my friend, hauled them out. My friend ended up with some 5 plus pounds of it and bequeathed me a portion.

I am delighted by this story for many reasons. Beyond the sheer willy-wonka quality of it (chocolate being pumped out of a truck!) is this idea of a resource being shared. Being raised in a small subsistence community in southeast Alaska, a regular part of life was gathering and sharing goods (salmon, berries, etc.). I like to think of my hunk of chocolate in a similar (big city) way and am so pleased that it found it's way to me.

It is a wonderful problem to have too much chocolate. For a couple of cool late winter evenings, I whipped up mugs of decadent hot chocolate. This still left the large majority of chocolate and I decided the perfect home for it was in Ina Garten's outrageous brownies.

As I get older, I learn that almost all of what my mother said to me growing up is completely true. The one glaring exception to this is her advice on brownies. My mother (a former home economics teacher, skilled baker and all-around resourceful person) advised me that making brownies from scratch was not worth it. She said that all baked goods are best when homemade, with the glaring exception of brownies. As a result, for years, I made box mix brownies. (To be clear, I did dress them up by studding with gorgeous hazelnuts, but yes, I confess to box mix brownies.)

My big sister was the first one to shatter this falsehood. On one of our rambling weekend phone calls she shared she had made Ina's outrageous brownies and they were, in fact, outrageously good. I countered with 'but Mom says it's not worth making your own brownies' and my sister assured me these were worth it.

So, I made the outrageous brownies and the spell was broken. The chocolatey depth of them is ridiculous. I think it is owing to the fact that they contain over 2 pounds of chocolate but only 1 1/4 cup of flour. These brownies are not messing around. And a tanker truck full of chocolate is not messing around either and therefore, these two belong together.

chocolate tanker brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12x18x1-inch baking sheet.

2) Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly.

3) In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

4) In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture.

5) Toss the walnuts (if using) and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter (tossing in flour first helps to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan). Pour into the baking sheet.

6) Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large squares. (20 squares would be enormous brownies. I get about double that out of this batch.)

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