Friday, December 7, 2012

An offering for the Iron of Stomach-Checkerboard Brownies

Guys, these are the worst.

I'm really sorry to have to present such a dismal failure for my first official food post, but since I baked specifically for this entry I don't see that I have a choice. First, a bit of background on the elusive checkerboard brownie and the horror it has brought into my life.

If you've read my book you already know the deal with these little buggers, but since that's only, like, twenty people at this point I thought I should embellish a little bit. To begin we have Rowan, the star of our show, and suffice to say this is a girl who knows her confections. She has a stockpile of lard in her kitchen, at least one culinary torch, and can whip up gourmet offerings as quick as it takes me to type 'creme brulee'. Over the course of time I will have a LOT of Rowan-made offerings, but sadly the checkerboard brownie is not one of them.

When it came time to introduce a new character into the fold, I had to think of an effective way for him to woo our Ro-Ro and that was no mean feat, for her palate is a sophisticated one. To remedy this, I gave Dell, her paramour-to-be, a sweet little nook above what appears to be quite a high-end bakery considering they live in Oklahoma. I tried to think of a fun 'signature dish' for said bakery and I came up with the whimsical-sounding checkerboard brownie. That's where I ran into trouble.

Rowan loves, loves, LOVES her some checkerboard brownies. They are mentioned at least half a dozen times in the manuscript and she even steals the idea to pimp out her own bakery in the epilogue. She doesn't even like Dell that much, but just the fact that he introduced her to those freakin' brownies forced me to pen a really uncomfortably detailed fellatio scene on page 237. Anyway, since they turned into such a highlighted item, I realized that it would probably be in my best interest to figure out how to make them.

With that, I called Allison (hi, Allison!) and asked her for help. It's a good thing I did, because we quickly learned that these brownies would require geometry, and I am grievously ill-equipped to tackle that.  I'm not going to go into the details here, because I cry when I think about it, but suffice to say we made two 20x20 batches of brownies (one brown, one blonde), cut them up and melded them together like so:

I was frankly impressed that we achieved even this

Then we stacked them on top of each other, sliced, and viola! Kinda checkerboard patterned brownies.

Many crumbs ensued

The trouble was, they just kind of...hovered on each other, as opposed to being one solid brownie unit. So I remedied this by having Rowan mention that they were held together by chocolate ganache. And iced. Trust me, you eat ONE of these brownies you'll need a defibrillator, I don't know how Rowan ever survived so many--except for the fact that she's not real.

For my next offering I worked off of the advice of my husband, Brandon, who took umbrage with my original technique. He offered a strip-method, which I am not even going to try to explain, but looked like this:

This looks like bacon. I swear it is not.

Right away I could see there would be trouble, mainly because I used milk chocolate as opposed to dark chocolate and there was not much difference in shade. Still, I pressed on, added the ganache, and layered another batch of strips with opposite alternating colors on top. Then I iced the shit out of it. (Are you getting this, Rowan? You better make me LOTS of money someday.)

When all was said and done I made the highly anticipated cut to see what I had ended up with, and what I ended up with was this:


So yeah...not that great. The ganache got in all the corners and muddied everything up, so there is precious little pattern to be found. I don't know what Dell's bakery did to achieve success with this particular item, but clearly not this.

So, to sum up. Rowan's fictional love of a fictional dessert item brought about the following hardships:

1. Fellatio
2. Geometry
3. Ill-advised ganache application.

Not one of my better offerings. I'm so sorry. My next effort will be better because, let's face it, it couldn't be much worse. If you are interested in failing miserably at an extremely convoluted brownie concoction, these are the recipes to use!

(You will have to double this to have enough for the big-ass batch featured on top)

4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan
Crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Or simply combine the butter and sugar, and heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Continue to heat (or microwave) briefly, just until the mixture is hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it'll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating the mixture to this point will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
Add the hot butter/sugar mixture to the egg/cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.
Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan.
Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.

(You will have to triple this to have enough for the big-ass batch featured on top)

2/3 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar (packed)
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and sugar and set aside. Add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated and then add vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add to the butter/sugar mixture, beating only until incorporated. Spread into a 13 x 9 pan and sprinkle chocolate chips on top of batter. Bake at 350° for 25 - 30 minutes.

Despite the sadness, and yes, shame, that these brownies brought about, I am happy to report that I was able to successfully put on an argyle sweater and eat them anyway.