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Bittersweet brownies ala Alice

February 8, 2010

I first “met” Amy Scattergood (my editor at the LA Weekly) in the pages of the LA Times. She was named The Saucier there, which I thought was a strange name for a woman who so obviously loved to bake. I thought back then that her prose was more poetry-like than the standard reporter fodder. So it was no real surprise when over the course of our acquaintance I would learn, well, yes, she was actually a poet.

A writer by trade, who examined food with a trained poet’s eye? And why aren’t there more of them?

Since that first getting-to-know- you set of e-mails, Amy and I have been enjoying the occasional dinner at the house, soaking up the view and some good conversation. During one of these dinners, I had told her  that desserts were the soft point in my repertoire, and she must have stowed that info away.  Because the next time I saw her,  a book was placed gently in my hands, complete with a thick wine-colored satin ribbon set into the page with the cocoa fudge sauce recipe – Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert.

Dessert deficiency or no, I know who Alice Medrich is.  The ganache queen of the north, she raised the bar for how we Americans relate to chocolate.  This particular book of hers (she has a few, and this one was published in 2007, so she’s about due for another) is ingredient-themed, with milk and dairy taking the primero chapter space.  Chocolate, surprisingly, sits in the mundane middle.  But she opens the chapter with a bang – New Bittersweet Brownies.

SJ was hankering for something sweet one night, and after a quick rummaging through the pantry and pulling out a depressing box of milk chocolate Duncan Hines (not mine – from the previous tenants.  NOT a fan of milk chocolate anything), I decided to consult Alice.  And to show my dessert newb-ery, imagine my surprise when I saw the brownie recipe didn’t have a lick of baking powder in it.  I, apparently,  have been led astray.  But the 8 oz. of 70% chocolate (which I had from the Nicole’s Warehouse sale) that the recipe called for made it an easy sell.  Six tablespoons of butter didn’t hurt either.


My giant bar of Valrhona 70% wasn’t the bittersweet chocolate Alice was asking for, so I cut the added sugar in half with perfect results.  I don’t think I’m ever going to settle for another “brownie” again, though to call this a recipe for brownies might lead one to assume this is a rustic, fit-for-kids, sweet desserty snack.  No.  It’s not.  Save it for when you have a nice glass of hand-warmed cognac.

Alice Medrich’s New Bittersweet Brownies

8 oz. bittersweet 70% chocolate
6 Tbs butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar (though I used 1/2 because my chocolate was pretty sweet already)
Scant 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus one tbs all-purpose flour

Equipment – 1, 8-inch square pan

Preheat oven to 350 with a rack positioned int he lower third of the oven. Prep a baking pan (she says with foil, I butter/flour it.)

Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bow and set in a wide skillet of almost-simmering water.  Stir frequently until the mixture is melted and smooth and quite warm.  Remove from pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla with a hand-held mixer on high speed until the eggs are thick and light colored, about two minutes.  Whisk in the warm chocolate and fold in the flour.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.

If you can wait, cool the pan on a rack.  We didn’t, and enjoyed them steamy hot out of the oven.

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