The day I got Maureen to commit to having a birthday party, I immediately asked, “What kind of cake do you want.” She paused, thought a second, and replied, “I’m not sure I want a cake.” I took a quick inhalation and then quickly asked, “Well, what do you want?” Her reply: “I don’t know, maybe just ice cream.” Now, I’m a girl who doesn’t believe that birthday dessert should be “just” anything. I also have an ice cream maker and can churn out ice cream with the best of them. But further exploration revealed, that what Maureen really wanted something simple, and homemade ice cream made for an unknown quantity of guests didn’t exactly qualify.
The problem is, I don’t know how to do simple. Especially not when only one course is my responsibility. We were grilling and Maureen had the burgers and brats covered. So, I got her to agree to brownie sundaes, and then while she was at work, secretly made my own hot fudge sauce, salted butter caramel sauce, and bought all sorts of other sundae fixings, figuring that when she said “simple” she meant “stress-free,” which meant if she didn’t see the preparation (or the stress) all was good. Prepping ahead of time left me with only the brownies to make the day of the party.
I had already picked out a recipe, when I wandered into her room, the night before, and casually asked her “do you like cake-y brownies or fudge-y brownies?” Now this is an important question, but I was sure I knew the answer. After all, she didn’t want cake for her birthday, so I assumed that, of course, she wanted fudge-y brownies. You can imagine my surprise and chagrin when she declared her preference for cake-y brownies. I was floored. Stupefied. Then, I decided simple be damned, if she preferred cake-y brownies I would just have to make two kinds. I held my very own brownie bake-off, completely unwilling to only have cake-y brownies to offer, but open to the possibility that I might be pleasantly surprised by the cake-y variety, after all I wasn’t sure I had ever made a cake-y brownie. I returned to my own room to “research” the problem and settled on two different recipes: Alice Medrich’s “Unsweetened-Chocolate Brownies” and David Lebovitz’s “Cakelike Brownies.” Then, I discovered that David Lebovitz’s “Chewy-Dense Brownies” recipe was practically identical to Alice Medrich’s, except it had chocolate chips, and I had a bag of chocolate chips, so I threw those in for good measure.
Of course, I had to transform both recipes in order to make them gluten-free, so my results really don’t reflect on the recipes themselves, but my guests strongly preferred the fudge-y brownies (although they were more than happy to take both as leftovers). Even the birthday girl was converted. Although, David does claim that the cake-like brownies are better the second day, so perhaps the final battle has not been waged.
Today I will just give you the fudge-y brownie recipe, but if the cake-like brownies grow on me, that one might be following soon.
If I were going to come up with criteria to judge brownies, I would evaluate taste, texture, appearance, and cut-ability. For me, these brownies score a 10 on taste and a 9 on texture – they are veering a little toward fudge, probably because the gluten-free flours aren’t helping the eggs lift the batter. I would give them an 8 on appearance (they are short, but I like the glossy tops), and an 8 on cut-ability (they are so soft that they crumble, but leveraged with a knife they came out of the foil pretty smoothly). If you aren’t gluten-free, just substitute regular flour for the tapioca starch and potato starch, and you too will be in brownie heaven. Also, you can mix in toasted pecans, hazelnuts, or almonds into the brownies… but I like my brownies nut-free.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups sugar 2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1/4 cup potato starch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F*.
2. Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil (cover both bottom and sides).
3. Grease thebottom of the foil with butter or nonstick spray
4. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.
5. Add the chocolate pieces and stir constantly with a whisk over low heat until the chocolate melts.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, add the eggs one at a time, and then add the vanilla.
7. Stir in the flour and the salt.
8. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture vigorously until the batter is smooth, glossy, and beginning to come away from the sides of the pan.
9. Stir in chocolate chips, if using. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
10. Bake for 30 minutes, until the center is almost set. Cool.
* For even denser brownies, bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and cool in an ice bath after removing from the oven.
Of course, I highly recommend you transform your brownie into a sundae:
Your friends will thank you.