Constant Craving...

Generally speaking, I'm a salty snack person. I know people who don't trust themselves to have candy in the house, knowing that they'll devour it in the span of a few hours. Ever since I was a kid, however, my mom would throw away my leftover Halloween candy months later, and I can keep candies in a dish on my end table for weeks at a time without touching it. One or two pieces, and I'm good. I also have friends who can eat half a cake in one sitting, or a whole batch of unbaked cookie dough before it even makes it into the oven. I always have to come up with a strategy for disposing of my baked goods; I love making them, but I lose interest in eating them after a couple servings. 

On the other hand, I can scarcely allow myself to walk down the snack food aisle at the grocery store. I can polish off half a bag of Cheetos or Doritos within minutes of bringing them home from the store, and that's only after years of practicing self-control. I used to be able to eat the whole bag. Now I try my best to only buy them on special occasions. 

About once a month, however, I develop a certain predictable craving for chocolate. It becomes all-consuming, until satisfying my taste for it is all I can think about. When the urge to consume massive quantities of chocolate hit me earlier today, I knew exactly what I wanted to make to quell it -- brownies. I quickly looked up my Pinterest inspiration board for desserts, and was reminded of a recipe from Alice Medrich that made the cover of Bon Appetit around this time last year. 

Alice Medrich is somewhat of a chocolate guru, and I've made several of her recipes in the past with good results. I've still never found a single transcendent brownie recipe that I want to make again and again, so I'm always up for a new variation on the theme, and this one included brown butter. As I've written before, I don't really understand the brown butter craze that's gripping the baking world right now. I've yet to find the recipe that allows the fragrant aroma of browned butter to shine. I hear browned butter frosting for cakes and cupcakes is the way to go, and perhaps that's true, but I found that it wasn't worth the effort of going through the extra step of browning the butter with these brownies either.

That's not to say these brownies weren't delicious -- they were fudgey, chewy, and intensely chocolaty. They certainly satisfied my chocolate craving, and I think they would make a garden-variety chocoholic very happy. However, I think they would be equally good with regular melted butter, as the distinctive nutty scent of the browned butter was completely lost here. Chocolate is a fairly assertive flavor, and it totally drowned out the browned butter. 

These brownies more than sated my appetite for chocolate for this month, but my quest for the ultimate brownie recipe continues. Stay posted -- I'll be sure to let you know when I find it!

(Photo by Justin)

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts
adapted from Alice Medrich

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 c. plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 c. walnut pieces

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang. Coat foil with Pam. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, water, vanilla, and salt. Stir to blend. Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot). Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended. Beat vigorously 60 strokes. Stir in nuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Cut into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies.

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