Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

Sounds like a good title for a show. Guess the folks at the Food Network knew what they were doing when they came up with this one. I hold that opinion because I just happened to catch a random episode of it recently (while I was doing all of that endless Thanksgiving prep) and saw the segment where the “Sweet and Salty Brownie” from Baked was featured.

Sweet and Salty Brownie? Woohoo, right up my alley! I immediately jumped online to find the source of this. I had to get my hands on that recipe.

The geniuses of this creation are Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito who own the renowned Baked in Brooklyn (Red Hook) and another one in my beloved Charleston S.C. I couldn’t wait for Amazon to deliver their two cookbooks to me, so I ran out to my local (sadly, big box) bookstore and bought them right then and there. Sometimes it’s all about immediate gratification, yes?

As you know, I have a pretty extensive cookbook collection and have sworn off buying any new ones. Well, until these two came along: “Baked – New Frontiers in Baking” and “Baked Explorations.” So much for my resolve. I picked up the latter (because it had the brownie recipe in it) and began reading. I will tell you right now that I haven’t been so inspired by a cookbook in a very long time. It made me want to start baking on the spot. You can be sure I will be baking my way through this thing and screw the calories!

Of course, I started with those brownies. Oh. My. God. They are (as advertised) sweet and salty but also intensely chocolate-y, smooth, unctuous, crunchy with salt and altogether orgasmic. Yep. They are that good.  Seriously.


For the caramel filling:
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
¼ cup sour cream

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and corn syrup with ¼ cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 350-degrees or mixture is dark amber in color. Keep a close eye as it can burn in an instant. Remove from heat and slowly add the cream. Be careful as it will bubble up then add fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream and set aside to cool.

For the brownie:
1 ¼ cups all purpose, unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa (preferably Valrhona)
11 oz. bittersweet chocolate (60 – 72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with heavy duty foil to overhang sides. Grease or butter well.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa.

In a large pan over very low heat, add chocolate and butter and stir until melted and combined. Add both sugars and whisk until combined. Remove heat and let cool then whisk in eggs, one by one. Add vanilla and stir until just combined. Do not overbeat or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over chocolate. Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not overmix.

For the assembly:
1 ½ teaspoons fleur de sel
1 teaspoon coarse sugar (I used Turbinado)

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth top with an offset spatula. Drizzle the cooled caramel sauce over and use an offset spatula to smooth it over the batter, taking care that it doesn’t come into contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Scoop the remaining batter over the caramel layer and smooth gently to cover caramel.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Do not overbake. You can test by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. If it comes out with a few moist crumbs, it is done.

Remove brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel and coarse sugar.

Cool completely (I would recommend refrigerating overnight) then remove from pan and cut into squares.

Store in refrigerator. These will keep for up to a week, which is not a good thing if you are trying to count your calories. They will be calling your name every time you open that refrigerator door. Trust me, I know about that.

This brings up an interesting question, though.  What is the best thing you ever ate?  Could you limit it to just one thing?  For me, I'm thinking it might be the first risotto I ever had while sitting outside at a lovely cafe in Venice a million years ago.  Oh, but what about the "Coffee and Doughnuts" at the French Laundry?  Or the fois gras, right out of the wood-burning oven at my friend's farm up in North Georgia?  Or the crudo tasting at Esca in NYC?  Or even the bread pudding in my own kitchen ... or these brownies?

Food for thought...

1 comment:

  1. Liz, my friend, that is a great question, but a difficult one to answer since I can't remember what I had for dinner last night.

    But, a couple that do stand out are the first time I had Pasta Carbonara which was in Rome and a wonderful steak in Prague.