Monday, August 2, 2010

When good brownies go bad

Last Friday night we had company over and a request was put in for carrot cake.  I created a recipe for carrot cake using whole wheat flour and honey which my husband loves since he's into health food.  My whole goal around health food is that it should taste good.  Trust me here - I do not enjoy eating food that tastes badly so I spend a good deal of time experimenting with different types of honey, egg whites, whole wheat flours and other ground nuts and grains,etc.  My aim is to end up with family recipes of beloved foods that taste amazing, but can be enjoyed regularly without feeling the need to do 1,000 rep kettlebell swings to burn off the indulgence.

My husband, Bud, trains strength athletes and professional fighters and anyone else willing to learn his Captain Insane-o methods.  One of his cousins trains at our house with him several times a week and after he had told her about the carrot cake when she mentioned that being one of her favorite desserts she started hitting me up about it.  Last Friday she planned on hanging on with us after training so a carrot cake was suggested.  

I began working on that when she arrived and our son Noah, who loves to cook as well, decided to jump up and make a batch of brownies.  Brownies are another thing I'd worked on so my recipe is written down in a little journal I keep in the kitchen so Noah as a book to refer to when wanting to make something of mine.  He whips out the book and announces he's making brownies.  Knowing Bud's cousin had been wanting to try those as well I gave him the go ahead.  

Noah was busy at work at one counter and I was paying attention to my work area on the other side of the kitchen.  I walked past him once and notice two bowls - one with the dry ingredients and another filled with white watery chunky substance.  Knowing full well there's nothing in my recipe or a stage which would create what I was looking at I pointed to it and asked, "What's that?"

He looked at me and replied, "The milk and butter combination."

I was perplexed.  First of all in my recipe the butter is melted and added to the cocoa powder at the beginning. Secondly, there was way too much milk.  I asked, "How much milk did you use?"

He said rather nonchalant, "Three and a half cups."

I just stood there staring at him blankly.  I finally managed, "Three and a half cups?!  Noah - it's supposed to be three and a half tablespoons."  I felt my inner-Gordon Ramsey rearing up.  

He blinked wide-eyed, "Tablespoons?  You probably should have written that in there," as he whips the book around to look at the page again.

I said, "I did.  In fact you made those last week and you made them perfectly - what's up with that?"

He said, "I don't know - I just... Well what in the world do I do now!?"

I thought Bud's cousin was going to fall off the barstool at the counter watching this transpire.  You see she's a high school teacher and the softball coach for the junior varsity and varsity girls' teams. I'm guessing she found the entire scenario hilarious watching someone else cope with matter.

I said, "Okay - just hang on - give me a second to think what we can do with this."

He asked, "Well can't we just add the other ingredients to equal up to the right proportions and still make brownies?"  

I said, "Yes - in theory if we were sending brownies to the troops.  Do the math - if there are 16 tablespoons in a cup and you put in three and half cups, there are 56 tablespoons of milk in there.   You only needed three and a half.  That's 16 batches of brownies."

He put his head down further and grumbled at himself.  I said, "It's not a big deal - we'll make something else out of it.  It's a good way for you to learn how to adjust things and about versatility."

He just shook his head as I sat down to start looking over my own recipe and thinking about how to adjust the quantities and what else to add to make this into something different, but still great.  I had him add another two cups of flour, 1/4 cup of honey, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 3 Tbls cocoa, another teaspoon of vanilla, 3 more tablespoons of butter, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (the goal there being to trigger the milk to sour to buttermilk giving a thicker, richer flavor), and a dash of chili powder.  Why chili powder?  The mixing of this batter was a taste-and-add process.  Knowing how the batter should taste to determine the finished product is key in a situation like this.  Adding chili powder to a cocoa makes the flavor points of chocolate really pop.  It doesn't take much and not enough to create heat, only enough to accentuate and elevate the flavor.  
Accidental Chocolate Cake

I was estimating it was going to make enough batter for two 9-inch pans and it did.  We baked it at 350 for approximately 35 to 40 minutes.  If you're unsure of baking times on a cake just remember the stages a cake goes through, the rise, the set, the browning and finally the pulling away from the edges.  

It turned out really wonderful with a deep rich brownie flavor - similar to devil's food cake with a gorgeous glossy top.  Noah has chosen to name it, "Accidental Chocolate Cake."  

No comments:

Post a Comment