Friday, February 22, 2008

Gourmet Chocolate Brownies

Facing yet another afternoon of nonstop rain in San Francisco, I decided making brownies with my son would kill at least one bleak hour and keep us safe and warm. My chocolate drawer was also overflowing with leftover bars from my Chocolate Tours. And so I looked for a recipe that called for 70% cacao chocolate, rather than the standard 99 or 100% with plenty of sugar added for sweetness.

I settled on a very simple brownie recipe from Scharffen Berger, titled "John's Favorite Brownies." (John, as in the winemaker partner to physician Robert Steinberg, who happened to have the better chocolate sounding name.) Since I didn't have any extra bittersweet bars on hand, I compiled pieces from a bunch of half-enjoyed Amano Madagascar bars, always a favorite on my tours. When I realized I didn't quite have enough, I made a move that would shock any good pastry chef; I mixed in a couple of squares from the Amano Ocumare bar and the Michel Cluizel Maralumi bar. At last - 6 ounces of fine chocolate.

I'm guessing my 2 1/2 year old has had a different kind of exposure to chocolate than other kids his age. Most moms I know stay away from the stuff with more fervor than even a BPA contaminated sippy cup. These are the same Moms who boast of their Halloween solution - their kids turn in all their candy in exchange for a toy. Given the amount of chocolate in our house, I just can't say "no" when my son watches me unwrap a bar and lead a taste test with a couple of friends. And the 70% dark imported chocolate? He likes it! After he munched on a 1 ounce square of the Amano Madagascar, I was was sure these brownies would be a big hit.

The recipe is easy enough that any toddler can feel like he is helping. My son stirred the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, and then had fun stirring the sugar into the melted chocolate "until the white stuff went away." 30 minutes later we were rewarded with warm brownies. They were only about 1/2 inch thick but so rich that I cut them into 1 inch squares. After dinner that night we settled down to that perfect domestic scene - a brownie each and a shared cup of milk.

It didn't take long for my son to pronounce his opinion. "I don't like this brownie. It has a cracker on the top. I don't like this cracker on the brownie." The "cracker" my son was referring to was the extremely thin crusty layer on top of the brownie. So much for my sophisticated toddler. But I went to bed that night happy with the knowledge that my son would not be pestering me for brownies all week, and there would be no need for that ever-present maternal emotion - guilt.