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Moist & Nutty Brownies
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Moist & Nutty Brownies
From Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, by Dorie Greenspan.

These days, it's not unusual to find the all-American all-time favorite bar cookie, the brownie, on restaurant menus and pastry shop shelves in Paris. Along with pecan pie and carrot cake, the brownie — referred to as "le brownie," to the horror of I'Académie Française — has found its way into the hearts of sweets-loving Parisians and, not surprisingly, into their kids' backpacks. And just as is true in the brownie's native land, in Paris, brownies can be insipid, indifferent, or sublime. Here is a prime example of brownies of the sublime variety. For starters, they are made with excellent bittersweet chocolate and an abundance of butter, a combination guaranteed to make them delectable. Then they're generously studded with nuts and baked only until they are just set; the center of each brownie remains moist — very moist. — Dorie Greenspan

So that the flavor of the nuts really stands out, I toast them and cut them into big pieces. And while I often use walnuts, the traditional nut for this bar cookie, I am just as likely to make brownies with pecans. I like the way the pecans' sweetness blends with the chocolate. — Pierre Hermé

Ingredients:

5 ounces (145 grams) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Caraibe, finely chopped
2-1/4 sticks (9 ounces; 260 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1-1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5 ounces; 145 grams) pecans or walnuts, lightly toasted and very coarsely chopped (keep the pieces large)

Instructions:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Butter a 9 x 12-inch (24 x 30-cm) baking pan, fit the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, butter the paper, and then dust the inside of the pan with flour; tap out the excess and set the pan aside.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over — not touching — simmering water or in the microwave oven. Remove the chocolate from the heat and leave it on the counter to cool slightly. The chocolate should be warm to the touch (no more than 115°F (45°C), as measured on an instant-read thermometer when you mix it with the other ingredients.

Working in a bowl with a flexible rubber spatula (or in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy but not airy. Stir in the chocolate. Gradually add the eggs, then add the sugar, followed by the flour and nuts, stirring only until each ingredient is incorporated. (If the mixture separates when you add the eggs, use a whisk to blend the batter and continue with the whisk when you add the sugar; go back to the spatula or paddle for the flour and nuts.) This is not a batter to be beaten or aerated.

Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 19 to 22 minutes; at this point, the top of the cake will be dry, but a knife inserted in the center will come out wet. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and allow the brownies to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan and unmold the brownies; remove the parchment paper and turn the brownies over to cool to room temperature right side up. When you are ready to serve, cut the brownies into 18 pieces.

Yield: Makes 18 brownies

Keeping: The brownies can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature for 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.

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