Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pumpkin Brownies

So I still had a little pumpkin (and it was presweetened, oops) pumpkin leftover from the cookies I made a few weeks ago.  I also made muffins, but they were extremely ordinary, so I didn't post (though they were best about 2 days after I made them, so make note of that if you ever want to make pumpkin muffins).

But I thought pumpkin swirled brownies would be the perfect way to use up the remaining pumpkin.  The other option was apple cake with a pumpkin sauce, but I thought brownies were more shareable to bring in to the math department tomorrow.  While trying to come up with a way to make these brownies, I realized something: as much as I'm developing a kind of food sense, I am clueless when it comes to brownies.  I have no idea what proportions to use or what adding more flour will do to the texture, when a brownie should be made with butter versus oil or cocoa versus melted chocolate.  I'm great with cookies, and I'm starting to get muffins down, but brownies?  I have no idea what makes a good brownie.  This is probably why the experimental brownies (sweetened with fruit juice) I made last year had a funny texture.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I don't make brownies very often because, well I don't want to eat the whole pan in 2 days, which is certainly likely.

So there's the story of the brownies.  I searched for pumpkin marbled brownies and I didn't find exactly what I was looking for which is basically a way to use half a cup of prespiced pumpkin puree.  So I turned to my favorite blog, to see if she had any thoughts.  And voila!  Pumpkin swirled brownies from the Martha Stewart website.  But those were not what I wanted, those actually made a separate brownie batter and pumpkin batter and swirled them.  I just wanted to mix the pumpkin in to the brownies like those marble cheesecake brownies you see everywhere.  So I looked into those.  But that wasn't quite right either.  I want a great brownie with just a little pumpkin flavor.  So finally, I settled on making Deb's (from Smitten Kitchen) favorite brownie recipe and swirling pumpkin on top.  This did not work well.  They baked unevenly and even after an hour in the oven, didn't seem completely done (well, done by my eating brownie right out of the oven standards, but I think they won't travel well because they are kind of gooey).  Also the taste had room for improvement: one should add half a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the brownie batter to make it meld with the pumpkin better (or even without the pumpkin, I think this is a great addition to anything chocolate, from cookies to pudding).  Anyway, here is the recipe I used, plus my recomendations:

1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup pumpkin pie mix (spiced pumpkin puree, they sell cans of it)
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla, cinnamon, cayenne pepper. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
  5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Spread pumpkin on top and swirl it with a spatula.  Bake at 325 or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (I think the pumpkin topping requires a longer cooking time or a warmer temperature, if I ever make these again, I'll get back to you on what that should be). Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)

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