And of course, whenever there are teenagers in the house, I immediately think, "Great! I can bake something, and they'll eat it!" Thus the Lattice-Topped Brownies.
These were fun to make and easy to eat. Maida warns that "they are not quick and easy," and they certainly do take more time than, say, her All-American brownies.
But they're not a huge project either. It's not like there's marzipan carrots or Swiss buttercream involved, after all. I cheated a bit on cooling times, and these were done within an hour of when I started.
And the end result is totally worth the bit of extra work. You have the buttery crispness of the shortbread playing off against the gooey brownies. And then there's the extra chocolate layer, and the walnuts...
Have I mentioned that this is the last brownie recipe in the book? I'm very sad about that. Maida is the queen of brownies. But I know that there's plenty of chocolate ahead, so I'm not too worried.
Here's the recipe. Make it when you're up for a bit of a project with a fabulous result.
1-1/2 c. (6 oz.) + 2 T. (0.5 oz.) sifted flour (you'll use these at different times)
2/3 c. (4.6 oz.) sugar
10 T. (5 oz.) cold butter
1 egg yolk
3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped or broken into fairly small pieces
Heat the oven to 400. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil. Put a bit of butter in it and put the pan in the preheating oven for a minute. Take it out and brush the foil with the butter.
Put the 1-1/2 c. flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Cut the butter into slices or cubes and add to the workbowl. Process until the mixture starts to hold together--this will probably take longer than you expect. Take half the mixture out and knead a bit until it really holds together. Put the dough between sheets of waxed paper and do your best to roll it into an 8-inch square. Mine was not perfect and it didn't matter. Line the foil-lined pan with this dough--make it fit as best you can--and bake for 13 minutes (mine was done after 9) or until beginning to turn brown.
While the bottom crust bakes, make the lattice. To the remaining dough in the food processor add the remaining 2 T. flour and the egg yolk; process until it holds together. Hopefully, you've saved the waxed paper from the bottom crust. Roll the lattice dough out between those two sheets into the best approximation of an 8-inch square you can do. Put the dough, still between the waxed paper sheets, on a plate or cookie sheet and put that in the refrigerator to wait.
As soon as the bottom crust comes out of the oven, sprinkle on the chopped chocolate. Wait a minute or two for it to melt, then use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly over the crust. Let that sit while you make the brownie batter.
1/2 c. (4 oz.) butter
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 t. instant coffee powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar (I dialed this down to about 6.3 oz.)
2 large eggs
1/3 c. (1.3 oz.) sifted flour
1 c. (4 oz.) walnuts--Maida says to chop them, but I left them in largish pieces and liked them that way
If you still have the oven on, turn it down to 350. Or turn it back on again to 350. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt together the butter and chocolate. This took me about 1 minute 30 seconds. Stir in the coffee, salt, and vanilla, then the sugar, then the eggs one at a time, then the flour, and then the walnuts. Set the mixture aside for a minute.
Get out your rolled-out dough and cut it with a knife or pizza cutter into 1/2-inch strips. You can use a ruler like Maida or you can be lame like me and do it "by guess and by golly".
Now pour the brownie batter over the chocolate-covered shortbread. Lay half of the lattice strips over the brownies, about 1/2 inch apart, going one way, and then lay the other half going the other way. You don't have to weave these, just lay them perpendicular to each other. It will look pretty good even if you're lame like me.
Put the cake in the oven ("on a high rack") and bake for 35-40 minutes (mine were done at about 25 minutes) or until the lattice strips are golden and a toothpick comes out barely dry (don't stick it down too far; the chocolate layer in the middle might fool you into thinking your brownies aren't done). Let cool completely in the pan. Then unwrap from the foil and cut the brownies into "16 outrageous monsters or 32 more respectable bars". I did the latter. Enjoy these with a friend or two.