Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Red Velvet Brownies: A Christmas Hangover

Red Velvet Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting
After having a very heavy roast beef lunch for Christmas, I got a hankering for brownies. My last attempt at making brownies was a disaster, just as bad as the one before it. So I kind of stayed away from making brownies for a while. 

Then I tried making date and walnut bars, a.k.a. food for the gods, thinking I would have better luck with it, and it is  sort of like a brownie, so if I do well with it, I will eventually get better at making brownies. (Trust me, inside my brain, that makes sense.) THAT was a disaster, too.  I took it out of the pan and the thing just collapsed. The top was decidedly hard but everything underneath was goo. I did not know what to do with it. I think it sat in the fridge for quite a time while I thought about it. I never figured it out.

After that I decided I was not good at making any sort of bars. Maybe I do not have the right pans. Or I could not get the temperature right. Or I over-mix my batter. Or I am impatient about letting them cool before cutting. Whatever it is, it is getting in the way of me making an edible brownie.

For some reason, yesterday, I thought I could make a good brownie. Ok, that reason is-- I thought Christmas is a magical day. It is that day of the year when anything that proved to be impossible the rest of the days of the year becomes possible. And that day, I believed I could make not just a brownie, but an awesome Red Velvet Brownie. It is Christmas after all. I am going for broke.

I halved the original recipe to fit my 8 x 8 pan, used metal rather than a glass pan, buttered and dusted the pan with cocoa powder (per Martha), and added a cup of walnuts in the batter, but I followed the rest of the recipe to the letter. I also hovered around the oven for a good 40 minutes to make sure the oven temperature stays at a constant 350 F. And when I stabbed the brownie with a toothpick and only moist crumbs stuck to it on its way out, I took it out of the oven to rest on a wire rack until completely cool. I mean it. I left it there on the rack, went to the mall with my family (spent a horrible 2 and a half hours there thanks to the hoards of people who take pictures of themselves in the middle of the busy halls and who push and do not understand the meaning of maximum capacity in elevators and a restaurant staff that dished out service so bad it was unbelievable), and took out my red velvet brownie from the pan only after I got back home.

Red Velvet Brownies
It was perfect. I knew it the very moment I cut into it. It was thick, dense, moist, just slightly sweet, delicious, and quite stunning to look at. The smattering of generous chunks of walnuts was a beautiful touch, I am glad I added it. I also frosted some bars with cream cheese frosting (see recipe here) and because the brownies were not so sweet, they went wonderfully together.

Red Velvet Brownies
adapted from Smells like Home

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 oz red food coloring (optional)
4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour an 9 X 13 clear glass baking pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in food coloring (if not using food coloring add 4 T of water or milk) and vanilla, mix until the color is fully incorporated. Mix flour, cocoa and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the flour mixture being very careful not to over mix.. Do not over mix. The batter will be very thick.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl. You’ll want one uniformly colored (red) batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. 35 minutes for a thin crust on top and gooey underneath. Set aside to cool, cut into bars and serve.


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