Monday, August 6, 2012

Sunday Dinner's Dessert: Arlen's Brownies

No, I'm not usually a person who talks about myself or my creations in the third person, but this name has been coined by many that know me. Truth be told, and my dear friends will be the first to tell you, I've been making brownies for a looooooooooooong time! After having two different versions published in a couple of cookbooks, I'm still playing with my recipe (just like I say, "play with your food,"--you know that I always do!).

Brownies--and desserts--are a lovely part of life. Actually these days--aside from making 'em--I use the dessert analogy a lot in my writing classes. I ask my students, "What's the job of a good dessert?" Usually they respond with something like, "to leave guests with a sweet taste in their mouths." Exactly. Now you may be wondering how I use that analogy in writing class. Well, I equate desserts with a good conclusion for an essay. As I tell them, the job of the conclusion is like that of a sweet at the end of a meal: you want to leave your "audience" with something to remember.

Back to the brownies, my first rule in baking is ask guests if they like--or can--eat nuts. Often I make two batches of brownies: one with nuts and one without.

Arlen’s Toasted Pecan Brownies

(Adapted from From Viva La Vida, Rafael Palomino and Arlen Gargagliano, Chronicle Books © 2002)

Makes 16 2-inch brownies
1/2 cup pecans (whole or chopped) 
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate--or dark chocolate
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into chunks  
2 eggs
1 cup white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (the quality of the vanilla is very important; I recommend  pure Dominican vanilla--or Mexican vanilla)
3/4 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Spread the pecans in a jelly-roll pan and toast in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until fragrant. Pour the nuts into a bowl, leaving the oven on.

 In a medium size saucepan over a low flame, melt the chocolate with the butter. Stir until smooth, and remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the eggs, sugar and vanilla and mix just to combine. Add  the flour and nuts and mix just to blend.     Scrape into greased baking sheet and spread well. Evenly scatter the chocolate morsels over the top. 

Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out practically clean. Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes prior to serving.  Serve plain or with ice cream on top.

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