Thursday, 30 September 2010

Nothing Says Chocolat Love Like a Giant Heart-Shaped Brownie

Few foods speak to the heart as chocolate does. There is something intrinsically sensual and personal about good chocolate, cacao, that ancient Meso-American bean born from tropical rainforests. The Maya and the Aztecs made spicy, frothy drinks out of cacao - and later the Spanish spread the love of chocolate all over Europe, adding sugar to the recipes.
For this month's Food'N'Flix movie club, we watched Chocolat. A delightful fantasy in which Juliette Binoche seduces a small French town with her seemingly magical chocolate concoctions. Through her offerings, the heart's true desires were revealed. And one by one the townspeople started to awaken from their lives of quiet obedience.

Where can I find my own Irish Pirate to feed chocolates to?
For my movie-inspired dish, I made chocolate brownies. In the shape of a heart.

Chocolate Brownies
adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 ounces best-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)

Before you start
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 9 x 9 x 2-inch square cake pan.

   1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from the heat but keep warm.
   2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until pale yellow in color, about 2 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and mix to combine.
   3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.
   4. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture in 3 batches, mixing on low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in the nuts by hand.
   5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until sides begin to pull away from the pan and center is moist but not runny and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
   6. When cool, loosen the edges of the pan with a knife and invert the brownies onto the cutting board. Cut into 12 brownies, measuring 3 inches by 2 1/4 inches, or serve straight from the pan.

The brownies keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Do not unwrap before defrosting.

*for a tropical option, substitute the walnuts for 1 tsp ground ginger, ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger, ¼ cup sweetened shredded coconut.