Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Old school brownies.

Brownies with black raspberries and Chambord whipped cream. © Ryan Schierling
Who doesn't love brownies? 

Granted, there are a few of you who would trade one for a lemon bar any day of the week, but I'm a chocolate-lover, and brownies – with their gooey-cake middles and crusty tops – are about as delightful a thing as I can ever imagine happening to chocolate in the span of thirty minutes. 

When it comes to old, familiar foods, the goodness is always going to come in equal part with nostalgia around here. For me, there is one brownie recipe, and that is this one

Brownies are one of two desserts that I recall being quintessentially attributable to my dad. The other is the Fruit Cocktail Cake I wrote about last year. Both recipes share the qualities of being expedient to make and requiring very few ingredients. But, while the Fruit Cocktail Cake was usually a planned dessert, brownies always seemed a spontaneous gesture of joy and decadence conjured from ingredients already in the pantry. I know my mom made them too, but I've forever associated these brownies with him because "Dad in the kitchen" was always something of an event.

A few months ago, my folks surprised us by sending the actual cookbook these were always baked from – the Grand Diplome Cooking Course, Vol. 1. There might have been a couple of other recipes or instructions in there that were referenced over the years, but it's clear from the stains on the page that brownies were the purpose of this book's existence in our household. It's a working document, as manifest by the notes in my mom's handwriting for quick reference when using cocoa powder instead of squares.

Brownies, Grand Diplome Cooking Course, Vol. 1. © Ryan Schierling
It is special to me to have this one taking its place among our other cookbooks in the house.

I like to make these with the darkest chocolate I can find in the cupboard, and frequently I end up making use of the cocoa powder option instead of the melting chocolate (or some combination of the two).

I don't usually make them with the chopped pecans, but when finished with a drizzle of caramel sauce, those nuts add up to some no-messing-around goodness. For Christmas I'll be baking these with a little crushed candy cane, or serving them with a scoop of peppermint ice cream. But my current serving obsession is just plain dark chocolate brownies with Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) whipped cream and fresh blackberries. The cooling lightness of the not-too-sweet whipped cream and the juicy depth of the blackberries is just one of those kinda awesome combinations with brownies.

I'm not terribly finicky about the texture of my brownies. In fact, I rather like that I can bake portions of the same double batch in a pan and in cupcake papers and get a range of textures from somewhat cakey to gooey. Much has to do with batter thickness, the pan size and form. As long as they've formed that "dull crust" and are not over-baked, I'm a happy little chocoholic. My dad used to bake these successfully in an 8"x8" glass casserole dish. I prefer a metal pan, and a handy trick for getting them out of the pan is to line it with parchment paper so that you can just lift the whole thing out and cut them when they've cooled. Sturdy little paper baking cups are another fun way to bake up decorative individual servings.

Brownies (from Grand Diplome Cooking Course, Vol. 1)

2 squares (2 oz.) unsweetened chocolate 
OR 6 tablespoons cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons shortening
(3 level tablespoons cocoa + 1 tablespoon shortening = 1 square (1oz.) unsweetened chocolate)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional – omitted for these bites.)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Set oven at moderate (350º F) and grease the pan. (Or line pan with parchment as described above.)

Melt chocolate in a pan over hot water. Cream butter until soft; gradually add sugar and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Sift flour with salt and stir into mixture. (If using cocoa powder, add it to butter mixture prior to adding flour.) Stir in nuts, melted chocolate and vanilla.

Spread mixture in the prepared pan* and bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a dull crust has formed.  Cool slightly and cut into squares.

"Brownies should have crusty tops and rich, crumbly centers."

8” square pan / makes 16 2-inch brownies.

Black Raspberry Whipped Cream 

1 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, sifted (or to taste)
1-1/2 teaspoons Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) or black raspberry syrup
A little pinch of salt

Whip heavy cream, adding sifted confectioners' sugar (to taste), black raspberry liqueur or syrup and salt about three quarters of the the way through the process. Whip until it the cream reaches stiff peaks.

Spoon the whipped cream on the brownies or put it in a piping bag for ease of storage and application. Garnish brownies with whipped cream, top with fresh blackberries, and serve.


  1. Ooooo, that whipped cream will be made in my kitchen very soon.

  2. oh my, divine. brownies are the food that will be on my death bed with me, and these might take the cake.


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