I have worshipped at the altar of Maida Heatter since I became serious about cooking and baking. One of the first grown up cookbooks I purchased was her Book of Great Desserts (1967). Her instructions might seem a tad controlling, but they are essential contributors to the PBB's incredibly fudgy goodness. These are brownies that must be made the day before they are enjoyed and they are brownies that need no embellishments (though a scoop of vanilla ice cream never hurt anything). I'm guessing the name is a nod to the luxurious playground for the rich--and these brownies are rich. The instructions are very complete, but the brownies are easy to make.
Yield- 2 dozen of the most incredible brownies you'll ever eat
(adapted from Maida Heatter's recipe)
1 cup unsalted butter plus 2 tbs for the pan
8 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs dry instant espresso powder
3 3/4 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
8 oz walnut halves, roughly chopped
Adjust oven rack one-third up from the bottom and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Invert a 9 X 13 inch baking pan and drape it with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side down, long enough to cover the pan's sides. Use your hands to carefully press down on the foil around the sides and the corners, shaping it to create a foil liner. Remove foil, turn pan right side up, place foil liner in pan and carefully press into place. Place 2 tbs butter into prepared pan and place in oven for 1 to 2 minutes to melt butter. Brush melted butter evenly across bottom and up sides of foil lined pan.
In a double boiler (or in a microwave oven), combine the chocolate with the remaining 1 cup of butter, stirring occasionally until chocolate and butter habve melted and are thoroughly combined and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, beat eggs, vanilla and almond extract, salt, espresso powder, and sugar for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium high and beat for 9 additional minutes. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl, reduce speed to medium, add cooled chocolate-butter mixture, and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Stir in nuts.
Scrape batter evenly into prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 16 minutes, then rotate the pan halfway. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking another 16 minutes. At this point, the brownies should be pulling away from the pan's edges and the top should have developed a few cracks. If you insert a toothpick, it will come out wet. That is okay. If no cracks have appeared, remove foil and bake an additional minute up to 3 minutes, checking after each minute. Do NOT overbake.
Remove from oven, transfer pan to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. At this point, cover with aluminum foil and freeze overnight.
When ready to serve, thaw brownies. Cover with a wire rack or cookie sheet and invert, removing the pan and peeling away the layer of foil. Cover with a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut brownies into 24 pieces. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Store leftovers by wrapping individually in plastic wrap or storing in an airtight container.
There are no adjectives to describe adequately the exquisite texture of these brownies. If I didn't know how to make them, I would guess the ingredients included cream because the texture is somewhat like a ganache. The top is crusty and the brownie is simultaneously sturdy, yet gooey. I defy you to eat one and not utter OMG!