Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Chunky Walnut Brownies
I don't think I've ever lived through a colder winter than this year's. It's pretty crazy. I remember teasing my sister for having to deal with Hanover's brutally long, cold, and snowy winters, and now I'm having to deal with them myself. Karma, I guess? I don't think I really deserve it, and even if I do, this is just too much. Seriously, it's beyond cold and despite the birds chirping outside my bedroom window at 6:30 in the morning (how are they even alive?!), it doesn't look like spring is coming anytime soon. All I can do now is keep warm as best I can and thank my lucky stars that I invested in my L.L. Bean parka last year (I thought it was excessive and had buyer's remorse for a while, because when does it ever get that cold in NYC, right?).
Since its been so cold lately, all I seem to want to make right now are really quick and easy comfort treats (this dulce de leche cake being a notable exception). All I want are giant chocolate chip cookies and hot fudge sundaes and warm brownies...BROWNIES! I hadn't made a batch of brownies in an awfully long time, and they seemed like exactly the type of indulgent comfort food I was craving. There's just something about brownies that makes them completely irresistible. I had that initial spark, and there was no doubt about it. I needed a big pan of brownies.
I wanted to make brownie that I could eat more than one of without feeling overwhelmed (don't worry, these aren't light in any sense of the word). As much as I love a really decadent fudgey brownie, I usually make it about 3/4 of the way before I start to feel like it's just too much. I always manage to persevere and eat the whole thing anyway, but I have to limit myself to just one. These brownies that I was craving needed to be a bit less fudgey and a bit more cakey, just so that if I felt so inclined as to eat two brownies, I could very well do so. Cakey brownies normally aren't my favorite (does anyone actually prefer them though?) but in this particular instance, holding back on the fudge factor was imperative.
You'll notice that these brownies don't start off by melting together butter and chocolate, because that would immediately make them ultra fudgey. Instead, eggs, a ton of cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, vanilla, and espresso powder are mixed together as the first step. You won't end up with a smooth batter yet; instead, it'll be pretty chunky and look impossible to mix, but that is perfectly ok. The espresso powder isn't necessary by any means, but if you have some, definitely add it in. You won't taste it at all in the end, but the brownies will have a really lovely, deep chocolate flavor if you use it. Melted butter and sugar are then stirred into the cocoa mixture until smooth. Flour is stirred in, and followed by heaping cupfuls of chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. The batter is thick and chunky, and it gets spooned into a baking pan. More chocolate chips and walnuts are sprinkled on top, and after just thirty minutes in the oven, the brownies are ready. Get the ice cream and milk out!
I know brownies with walnuts can be a controversial topic. Purists have no interest in nutty brownies and nut lovers appreciate the added texture chopped nuts provide. Normally, I'm all about rich fudginess, and I'll skip the nuts in favor of more chocolate chips. This doesn't mean that if I come across a walnut-studded brownie that I'll pass it up though. This time around I just wanted a crunchy factor, so adding walnuts was the way to go. If you really aren't a fan of the walnuts though, feel free to omit them and add more chocolate chips if you want. It's up to you! However you make them, these brownies strike the ideal balance between cakey and fudgey. They're rich and dense, but not overwhelmingly so. They're the kind of brownie when you're nearing the end of a square, you'll realize that you still have room for one more...or two. I won't judge!
Chunky Walnut Brownies
adapted from King Arthur Flour
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 heaping cup chocolate chips
1 heaping cup chopped walnuts
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" x 13" baking pan with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla extract. The batter will be thick. In a medium saucepan set over low heat, add the butter and sugar and melt. Heat the mixture until it is hot but not quite bubbling. Pour the hot butter/sugar mixture into the egg-cocoa mixture, stirring until smooth.
Stir in the flour, followed by the chocolate chips and walnuts, mixing only until just incorporated. Spoon the brownie batter into the prepared pan.
Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs still attached. Cool the brownies on a wire rack completely before cutting. Enjoy!
Makes 24 brownies