Sunday, November 28, 2010

On expectations

pumpkin brownie 3
In cooking, as in life, things don’t always go as planned. As any home cook knows, the margin between success and failure can sometimes be pretty narrow: a bit too much heat here, not enough of a certain ingredient there and you end up with a dried-out steak or a collapsed soufflé. Disasters are to be expected and you can’t do much more than bin the results, dust off your apron and try again.

But there’s something almost worse about those dishes that work out just fine, but simply fail to live up to expectations. These brownies are a case in point.

I’d been meaning to do a bit of baking and, while browsing foodgawker, came across a number of recipes incorporating oh-so-now pumpkin that seemed like they’d be tasty. Somehow, I settled on a Martha Stewart recipe for pumpkin swirl brownies that seemed more or less straightforward and held great promise in the taste department. I was dead wrong on both counts. As far as the first , it was a lot more complicated to execute than it seemed on paper (at one point, I was stirring melting chocolate on the stove top with one hand and mixing batter with an electric mixer with the other). As to the taste, well, it turns out that I’m not a huge fan of the pumpkin/chocolate combo as I thought I’d be. It could be that I made too much of the pumpkin batter and not enough of the chocolate. But then, I’m not wild about the chocolate part either: I think a recipe involving cocoa powder instead of real chocolate would have resulted in more brownie-like brownies. These are a more like cake in their consistency.

These things happen, lessons were learned, etc etc. Anyone need about a dozen pumpkin brownies?

Pumpkin swirl brownies (from Martha Stewart)
  • ½ Cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.
  2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
  3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.
  4. Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don't set.
  5. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with nuts.
  6. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree with your assertion that chocolate and pumpkin is one of the great chocolate combos that the world has to offer, I did just eat one of these brownies and it really hit the spot. But maybe that's more in praise of chocolate and pecans than the pumpkin bit. Tasty...