Sunday, November 8, 2015

Chocolate Calamity

Intensely Chocolate Cocoa Brownies
The worst four words in the English language are: I burned the chocolate.

Not only is burned chocolate inedible but also it smells nasty.  There is no guaranteed way to revive it, so you have to start again.  

However, if the chocolate turned gritty while melting but didn’t actually burn--AND if you’re an optimist--you can try to rescue it:

Gritty can happen if a few drops of water get into the melting chocolate.  A lot of water is fine but 1 drop can cause chocolate to seize up—the chocolate version of a heart attack.  Here are two things to try to smooth it out:

1) turn off the heat, quickly add 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil, stir and slowly reheat the chocolate.  No guarantees here, but maybe it will be usable. 

2) add 1 tablespoon water or cream for every 2 ounces of chocolate you are trying to melt and stir until the chocolate smooths out.  If there is no liquid called for in the recipe you’re making, switch to another recipe that can use diluted chocolate.  If you can’t find one, make hot chocolate.  Add more water, cream or milk and, if you’re using unsweetened chocolate, enough sugar to make it palatable.

Fear of burning the chocolate has been around ever since cacao beans were discovered in 1500 B.C.  I firmly believe that the double boiler was invented just to prevent chocolate from burning.  In case the term is new to you, a double boiler is a two-pot combo, with the top pot resting about halfway into the bottom pot.  To melt chocolate, you fill the bottom pot with boiling water, place the solid chocolate in the top pot and put the upper pot partially into the water.  The heat from the boiling water melts the chocolate, but the chocolate shouldn’t get hot enough to burn.  Sounds good in principle, but it’s annoying in practice.

I hated my double boiler and discarded it long ago.  Now I melt chocolate in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over very low heat. I stand next to it till it’s half-melted, then turn off the heat and shift the pan to a cooling rack.  The residual heat in the pan will melt the rest of the chocolate.

If you want to avoid the chocolate melting process altogether, use cocoa instead of solid chocolate.  Here is a wonderfully easy brownie recipe that has a stronger chocolate flavor than any brownie I’ve ever eaten.

          Intensely Chocolate Cocoa Brownies – serves 6-8 (from “Chocolate on the Brain”)    
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter + more for greasing 
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1 cup sugar 
2 large eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
2/3 cup all-purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) 
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8- or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil, making sure two ends of the foil overhang the pan by about 2 inches so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan later.  Lightly rub the bottom and sides of the foil with butter and set aside. 
Melt the butter in a medium pot over low heat.  When it has melted, turn off the heat and stir in the cocoa.  When the mixture has cooled, add the sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. 
Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just combined.  If you are adding walnuts, stir them in now. 
Pour the batter into the foil-lined pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top feels firm.  These brownies taste better under-baked than over-baked.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the ends of the foil and remove the brownies from the pan.  Cut into squares and serve.  Store leftovers in an airtight container or wrapped in foil or plastic wrap. 
For more chocolate recipes get “Chocolate on the Brain”