Baking & Dessert

By Lindsay Hunt | February 23, 2011

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

I long denied loving brownies for a long time.  I wish I could pinpoint the one brownie that convinced me this was a baked good worth my time.  I’d like to explain that one jaw-dropping brownie that changed my mind, but in reality it was a slow progression from apathy to love, nibble by nibble. Cakey, rich chocolate, cut into a square, warm with ice cream, or room temperature straight from the pan, either way, I now know brownies are a spectacular dessert. However, even once I had knelt at the altar made of brownies and worshipped, it took me a while to find my go-to recipes.

Once I accepted brownies into my baking repertoire, I had some decisions to make.  Did I want walnuts in them?  Hazelnuts, pecans?  I even once added blood orange juice and segments to a batch.  Though each addition tasted nice, it changed what the brownie was.  In adding these elements, I was subtracting from the brownie’s true nature of pure chocolate decadence.

Once I considered myself a chocolate brownie purist I had to figure out what kind of chocolate I wanted.  Should it be almost custardy inside with only melted chocolate?  Or dense and packed with all three kinds of cocoa product: powder, melted chocolate, and chocolate chunks?

Though I eschewed nuts and citrus and cinnamon, I haven’t settled for one kind of chocolate or texture.  I decide on the recipe depending on the amount of time I have: Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home brownies for a decadent and time-consuming treat, and Mark Bittman’s easy and fast brownies when I already need a brownie five minutes ago.

Recently around 9:45pm a brownie craving arrived and refused to pass.  I preheated the oven, and quickly measured and mixed the ingredients for Mark Bittman’s recipe.  Then, right before putting the pan in the oven, I swirled a 1/4 cup of Nutella into the batter.  As I licked the spatula after placing the pan into the oven, I considered whether I had committed a sacrilege.

After all, Nutella is another kind of chocolate, in a way, adding an extra level of decadence to this fast recipe.  As the scent of chocolate and butter wafted through my apartment, I forgave myself for the unusual addition.  The milk chocolate and hazelnut swirl made for a sumptuous treat.  I guess I’m not a purist after all.

Mark Bittman’s Brownies with Nutella Swirl from The Diner’s Journal

  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Nutella

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. When chocolate is just about melted, remove from heat, and continue to stir until mixture is smooth. Meanwhile, grease an 9-inch square baking pan. If you like, also line it with waxed parchment paper and grease that.

2. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and stir in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add flour, and stir to combine. Add salt and vanilla, stir to incorporate, and stop stirring when no traces of flour remain.

3. Pour into pan, and swirl in the nutella with a spatula. Bake 17 to 20 minutes, or until set and barely firm in the middle. Cool on a rack before cutting.

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