December is going to fly by so fast, I just know it! We have been out and about with all the holiday parties and celebrations that it seems like Christmas will be here tomorrow. Thankfully all my gift shopping is complete though I still have a few gifts to be wrapped and all my Christmas cards to write and mail and I hope to get to it sometime this week. December is also probably when the bulk of my baking and sweet preparations occur. ‘Tis the season for sweet and savory foods, literally! My oven provides good evidence for this since it has been in daily commission since the past two or three weeks and I think it will stay like that until the end of the month.
Last weekend I hosted a birthday brunch and instead of baking a cake, I did something different. I baked the birthday boy some brownies. This is a very easy recipe that I’ve adapted from Alice Medrich’s Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts
. This is my new favorite holiday dessert that I plan to make for myself and gift. This is also one of those recipes that has several benefits. It will make you and everyone else happy when eaten and they also make your kitchen and house smell very, very wonderful. According to my olfactory senses there is almost something magical when vanilla and cocoa scents take over my kitchen. Just as I did, I am sure you will also enjoy getting a whiff of this sweet fragrance when you open the oven door every time you check on the baking status of your brownies. Ideally you should avoid doing this and probably just do it once or twice towards the end but I admit to breaking this rule more than once.
What makes these brownies special are two things, the browned butter flavor and the delicious red wine. Each of these ingredients flavor the brownie and improve the taste of the cocoa. By browning the butter the brownies get a smooth and wonderful taste that I would describe as somewhere between a light butterscotch to nutty flavor, if that makes any sense. I used a Malbec for the red wine since it is a bit robust and intense in flavor, even a good quality Shiraz would be great here. To make your life easier and less messy, I recommend either buying pre-chopped walnuts or putting the shelled walnuts in a bag and then pounding them a little a rolling pin to coarsely chop them. Remember eventually most of the walnuts will get sliced into once you cut your baked brownies into squares. These thin brownies have a light and thin crust but also have a soft and creamy smooth interior. Enjoy immediately or store them in airtight container until needed!
browned butter and red wine brownies
yields: 16 brownies
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red wine (I used a Malbec)
2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with parchment paper and spray with a neutral vegetable oil.
2. Add the cocoa, salt, sugar, wine, and vanilla in a large glass mixing bowl. There is no need to mix the ingredients at this stage (the only rising agent, the lecithin in the egg yolks are mixed in later in the form of whole eggs).
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir with a silicone spatula. As the butter melts it will foam and the milk solids will separate from the fat and begin to turn reddish brown. At this point remove the butter from the stove and quickly pour it into the mixing bowl with the cocoa. Stir it with a silicone spatula to blend. Let it cool for 3 minutes, it will still be hot.
4. Add one egg at a time, mixing it in vigorously with the silicone spatula until completely combined. At this point the chocolate mixture will be silky smooth.
5. Add the flour and again mix it into the chocolate batter vigorously until you see no more white flecks of flour.
6. Roughly chop the walnuts and fold them into the brownie batter.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and allow spread it evenly with an offset spatula. Bake the brownie batter in the middle rack of the preheated oven. The brownies will be done after 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out almost clean from the center. The brownies can still be hot and gooey even if the toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the baking pan for 20 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack for another 20 minutes to cool. Once cool, transfer the brownies to a cutting board and cut them with a clean serrated knife into approximately 16 squares of equal size.