Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Brownies cockaigne (p. 762)

Disclaimer: I don't like brownies. I'm probably the only person in the US who doesn't like brownies. So it's a real mystery why I decided to make Brownies cockaigne (p. 762) when there are so many tastier looking cookies in the chapter. This recipe has appeared in every edition of TJOC since the original 1931 edition (one of only 9 recipes to be in every edition, I think).

I melted butter and baker's chocolate in a small saucepan, then let it cool down completely (TJOC threatens utter disaster if the chocolate doesn't cool completely).

I beat eggs and salt in a bowl until foamy:

I beat in sugar and vanilla, then added the cooled chocolate:

I mixed the chocolate into the sugar mixture with a couple strokes, then added a cup of flour until just combined. TJOC mentioned that if I wanted the brownies to be cakey, I should make the brownies in a 9x9 pan rather than a 13x9 pan, which I did.

I cooked the brownies for about 30 minutes but they weren't done. So I cooked them a little longer. I finally took them out and they looked like this:

Very odd. The top was as hard as a rock and the inside wasn't completely cooked. It was like the top was a cookie and the inside was molten. The brownies were good heated up and with ice cream but, even then, I can't say it was even a decent brownie, much less the best I've ever had. Maybe I needed the bigger pan because of the altitude?

I'm not sure why this particular disaster occurred. Does anyone know what happened?

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  1. Ok, I *love* brownies (I know surprising right?) but I am picky when it comes to the "perfect" brownie and have found recipes vary widely (more than even choco chip cookies). For me, I don't want to too cakey (I'd just hhave chocolate cake instead) and not *too* fudgy (I'd eat fudge then, I've had "brownies" that were fudge with like a Tbl of flour). I've tried many many recipes I have had a lot of rather disappointing results, even as "baker". No perfect recipe yet, although I've never heard of the cockaigne distinction before. But I doubt it's you- some recipes are just weird!

  2. The Joy of Cooking ALWAYS threatens disaster if you don't do things exactly right.

    You made them in a 9 x 9? They were too deep in the pan, so the middle didn't cook. Lower the heat and cook for longer? (I'm no expert).

  3. I have always had very good luck with a 13x9 pan, but you have to be sure to let the brownies cool before slicing or they will seem underdone. Also, I hate cakey brownies :)

    The BEST recipe I have ever found is Baker's chocolate "One Bowl Brownies." Similar to JOC but much easier directions, rich, buttery, fudgy and delicious.

  4. this is almost the one and only brownie recipe i have ever used. i have gotten more compliments with this recipe. im not sure what you did wrong but when it is done right they are the best brownies you will ever make. things you could have possibly done wrong are as follows: everything is suppose to be mix by hand and not with a mixer, the chocolate mixture should be completely cooled, a 13 x 9 pan is the best size to use, and the sugar mixture should be mixed thoroughly ( sometimes if you let it set to long some of the sugar starts to settle the bottom of the bowl). my brownies usually turn out with a crust on top not rock hard but a thin crust and very moist in the middle not real cakey. if first you dont succeed try try again.

  5. I'm glad to have a comment from someone who had a better experience! I doubt I will make them again because I don't like brownies but I'm perfectly willing to admit that most of the problem probably was me (and the altitude)

  6. This is my go-to brownie recipe since 1979. The original JoC stated "cool in pan before cutting." What they should have said was: “These will not be fully cooked when you take them out of the oven but take them out anyway, leave them alone until the bottom of the pan is cool to touch and then you will find you made the perfect brownie.”

  7. Don't know if anyone will see this considering when the last post came through, but here's my two cents' worth, anyway. I use an electric hand mixer for the egg/sugar mixture, beating the eggs until they're light yellow before even starting to add the sugar. Everything else is done by hand with a wooden spoon. I find all the beating gives me more volume, which seems to improve the texture. And I'm not sure if the beating's the reason, but the brownies form a very thin sugar crust on the bottom (I only grease the pan, not flour it) I bake them for the allotted 25 minutes, but check to see if they've begun to come away from the pan. If they haven't, I add another 5 minutes. But this is, I think the best brownies I've ever had -- or made.

  8. I've made this recipe a hundred times. Always turning out great, even for the several dozen times while living in Denver for five years. No alterations, just as written.

  9. You failed science here. Your oven was too hot, and by using aluminum foil you changed the heat distribution, shielding the center from the heat. You need to use a real baking pan with a dark matte finish, the thicker the metal the better. They need to come out earlier rather than later, if you are patient enough yo let them cool they will be perfect. Use a generous amount of unsalted butter to grease the pan. Try again!

    1. Look, jerk, I did exactly what the recipe said, which is the POINT of this BLOG. I am a food scientist, I understand how science works. And of course I use unsalted butter to grease pans. Again, the POINT OF THE BLOG is to follow the recipe.

    2. Also, have you ever lived at high altitude? It changes the way foods cook rather dramatically.

    3. No, you really didn't follow the instructions because you lined the pan with foil. My TJOC is worn to shreds, I've made this brownie recipe probably a couple hundred times and have never had a failure--but I don't try to line the pan with foil, I just butter it as it says to do in the directions.

  10. I've made this recipe hundreds of times because I love it and so does everyone I've ever shared it with. I've rarely had a suboptimal batch, and when I did it was because I used Ghirardelli unsweetened chocolate or let the egg/sugar mixture sit too long after beating. The one with Ghirardelli turned out not nearly as chocolatey as Baker's unsweetened chocolate, and while it was still good, it was not a chocolate-lover's delight. One modification to the recipe: I use 1/2 tsp of salt (that was the amount in the older JOC edition and I didn't want to mess with perfection.) The other is that I never bother to sift the flour. I just gently spoon it into the measuring cup and level it carefully.

    I don't know what happened with your brownies, but first off, they don't look like they're the right color -- the blended batter, and the cooked brownies, should look darker than a Hershey bar. I do think that lining the pan with foil might have something to do with it, but I always use a 10x13 inch pan (even a 9x13 is a bit small if you like them chewy, which I do.) You really do have to beat the eggs with an electric mixer, since that's where all the air is incorporated -- there is no leavening, so you have to cut in the chocolate and the flour immediately, then get it into the preheated oven quickly so it's not a brick. The eggs do beat better at room temp, so I always follow that. And of course, I use the microwave to melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate so that it never gets very hot and there's less wait time for it to cool down.

    I can tell when they're cooked, at least in the larger pan, because they start to pull away from the side of the pan a little. They always take at least 25 minutes even this spread out. I let them cool in the pan and cut them in there too. I'm sorry you had a bad experience, but I have to defend this recipe. It's truly wonderful when it works as it should.

  11. I know this is really late to the party but my two cents worth are.. first off I cook for a living and bake for fun, I am certainly not Duff nor Alton Brown but I get by.. The instructions say to take it out and cover it with a towel not to cook it longer because it's under done it's supposed to be under done. It finishes up under the towel with its own internal heat.. kinda like resting a nice roast. If you take it out when you're supposed to and lay it on a surface covered in a towel it will finish up very nicely. High altitude needs about a 25 degree adjustment and possibly a few minutes depending on your altitude. I used to live in Lake Tahoe it is an adjustment but one that's very easily made. Also I never line a baking pan with foil ..if you grease it well it normally releases fine and cleans up easy.
    Nice blog by the way! What a great idea.


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