Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Midweek Roundup: "These Brownies Are Killer!"

Photo by Aimee
Food Geekette Blog

Here is what I learned from reading the Alpha Bakers' blogs this week:  people have very definite, very particular ideas about what makes a perfect brownie.  And sometimes it doesn't include all the things that Woody included in his brownie.  But sometimes it does.

Aimee had her doubts about whether any brownie could be "good enough to be worth all this trouble."  But then she decided that, although making them was "a pain," it was "totally worth it for these brownies."  In fact, she decided this might be her first recipe "for fair baking next year."  I love the idea of Woody's brownies gathering up ribbons all over the country.

Faithy, our sweets lover who doesn't like sweets that are too sweet, is on to Woody.  She said that as soon as she saw his name in the title, she figured it would be "a super rich brownie....just like that lemon cake [Woody's Luxury Lemon Cake] in HCB."  So rich that she cut the squares into triangles because "a little goes a long way."  She liked the buttercream, but still thought she'd omit it next time because she "likes [her] brownies less sweet."

Jeniffer, not satisfied with the black and white color scheme, made hers an Art-Decoish black, white, and aqua--composed with the help of Peppermint Crisp Bars and her young friend Stuart, who has been patiently waiting to help the chef when she got to a chocolate recipe.  Stuart did not want the bourbon, but he did want the chocolate.  Jeniffer's review was a bit more refined: "Great tasting brownie.  Great tasting white chocolate custard frosting.  Just not the two together."

Vicki did another version of that equation:  brownies + buttercream + ganache = "But wait, there's more!"  Vicki was longing for a Q&E recipe, and when she saw "brownies" on the list, her heart soared.  Then she realized they were not Q&E brownies, and her heart sank.  Fortunately, she has a freezer stocked with things like leftover Dreamy, Creamy etc. frosting, and it relaxes her to make ganache, so she was all set.  Even though she was missing her grandchildren, at least she had brownies.

Kim was one of the aforementioned brownie perfectionists.  For her, a brownie is "plain."  Something that's dense, shiny, crackly, and heroic."  Yet she had to admit that for most people, Woody's fancied-up brownie "could do no wrong."  She gave them to unexpected guests and to the people in her husband's office--"everyone loved them."  What to conclude?  Maybe just that a lot of people like brownies that are "gooey and melty."  

Maybe "gooey and melty" was what Joan had in mind when she quoted Billy Crystal saying, "You look marvelous."    And they tasted marvelous too, if the contented look on the face of Joan's colleague is any indication of brownie satisfaction.

Hanaa, being Hanaa, made several changes.  She is always given a free pass to eliminate any nuts but almonds in a recipe since we don't want her to end up in an emergency room with brownies in hand.  But she made some non-allergy related changes too:  bread flour to give the brownies more structure (would love to see a side-by-side test with bread and AP flour), melted caramel candy instead of buttercream for a black-and-tan effect.  (I just read that it's no longer considered polite to order the traditional black and tan beer cocktail by that name because it brings up reminders of "the troubles.")  I made a mental note of that.  She also cut the recipe in half, but after she tasted them, wondered what she had been thinking.

Earlier in the week, Kim posed a scientific question on Facebook:  what was the purpose of the cream cheese in the brownie?  Rachel gave a non-scientific answer:  "Putting cream cheese actually IN the brownie is genius.  The result is a brownie that tastes cheesecake-like."  In other words, because it makes them taste so good.  So good, in fact, that Rachel probably wouldn't use the buttercream and ganache next time:  she'd just enjoy the pure, unadulterated brownies.

Katya too.  In fact, I was a little worried that Katya was going to cause physical damage to whomever it was that suggested putting frosting on the brownies.  Um, I guess that'd be you, Woody.  As she said, "Brownies need frosting like this country needs Donald Trump.  In.  No.  Way."  The only way Katya could bring herself to put frosting on the brownies was to convince herself that she was frosting cake, not brownies.  A twelve-year-old contingent pronounced "the white stuff" "good," but the ganache was "gross."  Well, what does a 12-year-old know?

Catherine was more worried about "sullying" her chocolate with nuts than with frosting, but decided that if they had to be sullied, it might as well be with hazelnuts.  But do you know what doesn't sully chocolate?  Bourbon.  Catherine had never used bourbon before joining the Alpha Bakers (we really are an educational group), but she's grown quite fond of it.  In fact, she might call it her "breakfast whisky" if she weren't opposed to the recent trend of trying "to legitimise any item for breakfast by putting the word 'breakfast' in front of it."  Like "breakfast brownie" or "breakfast galette."  Although she does approve of eating brownies and galettes for breakfast.  Even if she has to "walk to Utah" after such breakfasts.

Back to someone who likes Woody's Brownies in all their glory.  Patricia described them as "divine!"  She said, "The brownies would be fine on their own, but the added white chocolate buttercream and chocolate ganache take them over the top."  And this is a case where "over the top" is a good thing.  She added that allowing them to chill is "essential," and the only nit she had to pick was that she didn't like that you could still see bits of cream cheese in the finished brownie.  (Patricia, meet Hanaa, who was also bothered by that possibility).

Jen might reserve them for special occasions--like when you "need a fancy pants dessert for a dinner party or a potluck or just for a lazy Sunday, this brownie would fill the bill.  Woody took his mother's traditional bourbon brownies and swapped in Rose components to make something special."  Jen used cherries instead of pecans in the brownies (because their household just doesn't hold with nut-filled brownies), and Jen thought they might have been even better with kirsch instead of bourbon, to echo the cherry flavors.  But she also joined the group that thought these brownies might be even better without the white chocolate buttercream, or maybe with a sturdier buttercream.

Kristina could tell you whether the brownies with frostings are better than those without because she made both kinds.  But the "plain" ones she got rid of on the street, in a drug-deal-like transaction with a cop looking on, trying to decide whether he should be suspicious or just jealous.  The second batch, with all the extras, reminded her of Canada's national bar:  the Nanaimo Bar.  But which version is better?  Kristina "can confidently say that I prefer this over a chocolate brownie with chocolate frosting.  Or do I?  Gah!  Too many yummy slightly different things.  Can't compare."

So that's what we end up with.  Don't compare.  Just enjoy.

Nicola also made these, and posted a photo to Facebook, but as of two minutes ago, has not posted on her blog.

Next week:  Wonderful scones!  Quick and easy!  Who could ask for anything more?


  1. Hilarious Marie! I hope Woody was ready for his constructive 'feedback' from the Alpha Bakers. Congrats Aimee, those brownies looks like future prize winners.

  2. Great write up, as usual. I'm so happy I baked these brownies - worth every calorie-laden bite!

  3. It's very clear that supervising too many twelve-year-olds is giving me an overdeveloped sense of italics. But I would never hurt Woody. Also, I love white chocolate buttercream. I didn't actually eat any of the brownies but I licked up plenty of that middle layer (cleaning the sides, you know). Please save me from the philistine twelve-year-olds.

  4. Looking at this photo takes me back to these luscious brownies. This is a brownie that would be in a cafe with a perfectly drawn latte.