Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Barron's Brownies: Baking brownies in Paris

OK, the pressure was on. I was invited to a cocktail party for other American parents of 8th graders attending the international school near Paris that Julia's going to. There are three American classes, and the parents in Julia's class were asked to bring desserts. So I decided that Barron's Brownies would be perfect.
The Barron's part is especially relevant here, since many of the parents there work for posh multinational firms, and I felt that I needed to provide something especially American but also special and delicious. These brownies really did the job.
To ensure success, I brought supplies from home:

It was kind of a mistake to buy/bring the Sam's Club vanilla, but it was cheap and came in a plastic bottle. I put a vanilla bean in the bottle before I left, so hopefully when I get back to France, it'll smell better.

This is my mother-in-law's oven. We (the oven and I) don't get along. You may be able to notice that there are no temperatures on the dials--just cryptic numbers and settings. The booklet that comes with the oven has vague directions like "if you're making cake, set it on regular at 4-6." Whatever. I went for 5 and it seems to have worked, though the brownies were done about 10 minutes early. Next time I'm bringing an oven thermometer.

Look at those lovely giant lumps of French butter melting with the chocolate. I got all traditional: I melted the chocolate on the stove and buttered the pan with real butter.

Here are the blurry brownies, with teapot. I chilled and cut them into small squares so as to be more elegant, and I kept them chilled until the party. They were fudgy and chocolatey and delicious, and the walnuts really added a lot to the overall experience, I found--without that crunchy, slightly bitter edge, they might have been too sweet.
The brownies went over well--I noticed the hostess put aside a plate for herself, which is always a good sign. I probably didn't need to double the recipe as I did, but I think a lot of people enjoyed that sweet taste of home.

Here's what I made:
Barron's Brownies

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
8 oz. semisweet chocolate
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
Scant 2 c. (12 oz.) sugar
4 eggs
1/4 c. (1 oz.) sifted flour
8 oz. (2 c.) walnuts--halves and/or large pieces

Heat the oven to 325 and butter/spray a 9x13 inch pan. Melt the chocolate and butter together, either in a pan over medium-low heat or in the microwave (remember to stir every 30 seconds). Then add the salt, vanilla, and sugar and mix that well with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each is beaten in well. Then add the flour--Maida says to beat it for about a minute or until it is "smooth and shiny and comes away from the side of the pan." I just beat it until incorporated. Then add the nuts. Turn the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, though I highly recommend checking on them after 35 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean. Cool the brownies completely at room temperature, then freeze or chill them until cold. Cut the brownies into quarters, and then you should be able to cut 12 small squares from each quarter. Pack into a Tupperware and get ready to party!

1 comment:

  1. Good planning ahead! You obviously knew about this party before you left home. Europeans often do appliances so well; I am surprised by the lack of temperatures on Oma's oven.