Friday, 26 April 2013

brownie types

What a difference these few days of glorious sunshine has made. Suddenly blossoms are blooming and the masses are crowding outside in a state of happy congeniality to unfold themselves out upon London parks, myself with them. It almost makes me laugh, to observe these stately oaks and limes shyly budding off little furls of baby green leaves.

And it is not just the trees that have shed their stern winter demeanor. I was treated to the sight of a gentlemen with a bouncing toddler wrapped around his neck. The little one rode those shoulders with  delight, and clutched in his grimy hands a Mr. Whippy, which state was fast become more liquid than solid and steadily dripped off onto his venerable mount's head who bore it all with calm dignity and continued his imperturbable stride. Meanwhile his wife flapped around him, armed with a tissue and trying to tend to the sticky crown of his besmirched head

But harkening back to those gloomy days past, one of my mini baking feats then involved the ubiquitous brownie. It is a testy subject and identifying the requirements for a good brownie (let alone the best) tends to result in quite strong verbal contention. So I hunted around and made four different brownies that I felt provided a general representation of the main brownie types: moussey, fudgey, chewy, and cakey (depicted below clockwise in that order, beginning at the top left). These all have slightly different taste, textures, and preparation method. After an overnight stint in the fridge, I set them before the graduate population at Imperial and waited for comments.

The recipes can be found through the links below. I've also added my own quick description of its preparation and the end result.

the moussey one- 'ribbon' method
This brownie manages to be very soft and squidgey without being dense. There is a lot of sugar in this brownie, giving it a more caramel taste than rich chocolate. In fact, there is so much sugar that during the baking you actually get a separate, light coloured, delicate sugar crust lifting off. On a whim, I also added chopped bananas to the mix- do ignore, I hope it didn't affect the brownie too much.

the fudgey one- chocolate fondant method with all important beating
Like the moussey brownie, the fudgey one does not have a distinct crumb but everything is amalgamated into one fudgey mass. It has a good chewiness, and the most beautiful crust of all the brownies- lovely dark rivulets of goodness. Fresh from the oven, it didn't shine particularly in the taste department. It is not as sweet (as the moussey or chewy one) but wasn't quite deep and chocolatey. However, it is incredibly rich, and, following a good night's rest in the fridge that allowed its flavors to truly develop, it near topped my list. This isn't just any brownie, this brownie hits the decadent mark.

the chewy one- chocolate fondant method
This is another of David Lebovitz's recipes (without the ground mints), and moving up in cake-likeness. Admittedly, this is what springs to mind when I think of a typical brownie. It has a fairly dense crumb that makes a chewy interior, and a good crust that is nicely furrowed with a slight sheen. In fact, during the mini taster of the brownies when fresh from the oven, the chewy brownie was best loved. Taste-wise, there is a good degree of chocolate though it was felt to be on the sweet side (at levels between the fudgey and the moussey one).

the cakey one- creaming method
I have to admit, this is my favourite for its intense chocolate-ness. I quite like its texture too, rather crumbly and soft, with the slightest chew without being heavy. This is completely different from the previous three brownies, which all had their small similarities. Indeed,  my heart gave a little skip of joy when I first read the description of this brownie to be 'peaty,' and peaty it is. You can almost suck it and its cocoa-y wonder down. A pity about the major cracks across its crust however.

Obviously these are my own subjective opinions, and the brownies were only tasted by a very select demography. The recipes I have chosen may not have been the true epitome of a brownie of these classes and there is the possibility that I am incapable of following instructions. So please, if you pledge by a certain of these recipes, don't be too distraught; in all likelihoods I just didn't make it as well as it ought. Nevertheless, the results are as such:

The cakey one was voted unanimously to have the best flavor, no doubt thanks to the whopping amount of Valrhona cocoa powder I tipped into it. In general, following the overnight resting period, both cakey and fudgey ranked either first or second. Moussey seems to be the marmite of the bunch, either being voted first or spurned to the last rank. The chewy one that did so well fresh from the oven, while it didn't deteriorate didn't improve with time either, so could not hold its place amongst such tasty competition and took a modal third place.

So there you have it. I shall be posting on more brownies soon: candied pecan brownies and my supreme banoffee brownie. In the meanwhile, I cannot wait for this tomorrow's Cheese and Wine Festival at Southbank.

This blog will be moving to a new, more appropriately named, domain soon:
Updates soon to come!

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