>> Friday, March 19, 2010
You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day at work when nothing is certain (and I really do mean nothing!) and going the way you had so hoped, you can come home and absolutely be sure that if you whisk some eggs, cocoa, flour, butter and sugar together and bake it, it would taste good. That's such a comfort. No matter whether it's over-baked or under-baked, hard or soft, you know that taking a bite out of that will make you feel a tiny bit better. Almost like a breath of fresh air or a glass of iced water on a hot summers day.
- 3 cups / 11 oz / 310 g walnut halves, toasted & cooled
- 4 cups / 1 lb / 453 g confectioner's (powdered) sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons / 2 oz / 60 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 tablespoon real, good-quality vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 160C degrees and position racks in the top and bottom third. Line three (preferably rimmed) baking sheets with parchment paper. Or you can bake in batches with fewer pans.
Make sure your walnuts have cooled a bit, then chop coarsely and set aside. Sift together the confectioner's sugar, cocoa powder, and sea salt. Stir in the walnuts, then add the egg whites and vanilla. Stir until well combined.
Spoon the batter onto the prepared sheets in mounds of about 2 tablespoons each, allowing for PLENTY of room between cookies. These cookies are like reverse Shrinky Dinks - they really expand. Don't try to get more than 6 cookies on each sheet, and try to avoid placing the batter too close to the edge of the pan.
Bake until they puff up. The tops should get glossy, and then crack a bit - about 12 -15 minutes. Have faith, they look sad at first, then really blossom. You may want to rotate the pans top/bottom/back/front.
Slide the cookies still on parchment onto a cooling rack, and let them cool completely. They will keep in an airtight for a couple days.
Makes 18 large cookies.
Best Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs, cold
- 1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (I used walnut)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the 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 melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. [Note, many people who have tried this recipe have found that this step works just fine in the microwave. Couldn't test this because we don't have one, but it sounds like it would work.]
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at least 10 minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack. (I go further and throw mine in the fridge or freezer for a while; it’s the only way I can get them to cut with clean lines.)
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.