Saturday, March 27, 2010

Passover Recipes

With the holiday around the corner (the first seder is on Monday night), I figured I would put all of my Passover recipes in one place.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy whatever it is you're celebrating!

Matzoh Ball Soup
Sweet and Spicy Charoset
Homemade Gefilte Fish (with horseradish cream, which you should make at some point regardless because it's seriously delicious)
Brisket with Merlot and Prunes
Raw Beet Salad

Chocolate and Caramel Covered Matzoh
Cocoa Brownies

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cocoa Brownies

So I was going to tell you about some awesome rugelach. The post is underway, a draft in the works, forthcoming, I promise. But then I made these brownies. And they demand your immediate attention. They're divine, as far as brownies go - so deep and rich that a teeny tiny square will more than suffice to quell your cravings.

Oh, no cravings for brownies, you say? Have a little bite, and let the cravings commence. A thin, crackly top gives way to a fudgy, dense, irreproachably chocolaty interior. The edges are chewy, the insides moist, the whole thing a perfect little package of brownie goodness - no need for a slick of ganache (in my belief a good brownie shouldn't need a ganache-boost) or a sprinkling of powdered sugar atop these bad boys, they're fantastic just as they are.

You see, I'm not really a brownie connoisseur. They're not what I turn towards when my dessert cravings hit. A mere little bite usually sates me, and I can move on to other things. But when my roommate had shoulder surgery a couple of days ago, I knew I needed to provide him with a little something to help the healing. And this kid loves his chocolate, so I immediately scoured the interwebs for brownie recipes. When I saw these brownies, I knew I had hit the jackpot. And I was not wrong - these brownies are, to date, the best I've made. And, since I'm not a huge brownie person, there were no prior brownies with which Dom could compare these, he agreed that these reached levels of brownie awesomeness.

Not only that, but the small amount of flour gives me reason to believe that these can be easily adapted to a passover context - and the fact that they rely solely on cocoa powder for their chocolaty needs means that there's no reading of labels or settling for kosher-for-passover chocolate to thwart your quest for brownie supremacy. Now, I haven't tested this theory out yet, but I'd be willing to bet that swapping the half cup of flour for matzoh cake meal will not mess with these gems all too much. But rest assured that, as the Seders loom on the horizon, such a test is forthcoming, and I will report back, hopefully confirming my hypothesis.

UPDATE: A pan of these brownies, with five tablespoons of matzoh cake meal substituted for the flour have just emerged from my oven, and the texture is a little, well, passover-ish, but they're still pretty good!

Cocoa Brownies

Adapted from Alice Mendrich's Bittersweet via Smitten Kitchen

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour or 5 tablespoons matzoh cake meal (confirmation of success pending - confirmed!)
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional, I didn't use but I imagine they'd be awesome in there)

With rack in the lower third of the oven, preheat oven to 325°F. Line bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan (note: I used a circular pan because my square pan is 9x9 and I was afraid that the brownies would be too thin, which just meant that there were little scraps leftover after I'd cut them into squares, which, you know, totally did not go to waste) with parchment paper or foil, leaving a bit of an overhang on two sides, which will allow you to lift the baked brownies out of the pan with ease.

Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is fully melted and the mixture is shiny and rather smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is warm, not hot. (As Deb notes, don't be taken aback by the texture at this point in the process, though it looks rough, that is totally fine).

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one to combine. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir to combine until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. It will be rather thick, but just spread it around with your spatula so that it's even.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, about 20 to 25 minutes. Note that I let mine go a little bit past the "emerges slightly moist with batter" stage, but to no ill-effect. Let cool completely on a rack, or do as Deb suggests and throw them in the icebox for a little while to get them to really cool and facilitate easy cutting.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares with a very sharp knife, as big or small as you desire. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Julia Child on David Letterman

Andrew showed me this clip of Julia Child on the Late Show from the late 80's a few days ago. It's truly classic, so I thought I'd share. Enjoy!