Monday, April 13, 2009

Barely Sweet Brownie

Being barely sweet, you might say that this was barely a brownie. But you'd be wrong. A brownie can sing a much more complex song than that single note of sweetness that usually defines it.

So much of cooking, or any art, is innovation. An attempt to make you see the world in a new and different way, thereby shattering the shell of mundanity that normally surrounds you. A good painting, or even a good bowl of soup, can burn through the haze of your day to day existence and, with one glance (or slurp), return you to a childlike sense of awe and wonder.

I'm sure you've had this experience: you sit down to a dish that you've had countless times before but suddenly taste it in a new way. Maybe someone spiked your mac n' cheese with truffle oil, or maybe the chef bought the garlic from a farmer's market instead of from China. And so you taste whatever it is that you're eating as though it was the first time.

Sure we generally prefer comfort food, but every now and then you need a slightly bitter brownie to broaden your horizons. In making this batch, Elise did something which I'm hearing more and more of my baker friends say: "I found a recipe on-line, then halved the sugar."

Even a single ingredient, say a slice of watermelon, has several flavors: the sweetness of the tip closest to the core, the sourness adjacent to the rind, that distinctive melon thing throughout. Yet all too often desserts only taste like one thing, and that's sugar.

Call me crazy, but I don't want diabetes. Sugar is bad for you. That's why every native population that's exposed to it quickly declines in health. You shouldn't eat too much of it, so if you're going to have it, halving it isn't a bad idea.

With less sugar, this brownie was forced to taste like something. The chocolate had nowhere to hide, and so it stood tall, enboldened by its larger role. A heavy pinch of cinnamon was duly noted, and the salt level almost took things from sweet to savory. Not as salty as the sea -- more like blood.

For the sauce we melted a 70% cocoa bar and stretched it out by whisking in some of the red wine we'd been drinking. If the brownie was barely sweet, the sauce was downright nasty, intimidatingly sugarless, and the combo of the two made for an almost somber dessert experience.

Strong, bitter, salty and astringent, this brownie wasn't as sweet as I'm used to, but it reminded me that I'm alive.

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Jay said...

Mmmmm, blood flavored brownie. Sounds like some sort of plague, possibly in response to eating and wrting about a brownie on passover.

Now, back to my delicious unleavened bread.

Anonymous said...

This doesn't make sense: Sugar is bad for you. That's why every native population that's exposed to it quickly declines in health.

If sugar is bad for you, surely any population exposed to it would quickly decline in health, not just some populations.

BTW I DO think sugar is bad for all of us.

octopod said...

Try some pasilla chile powder in that. Just a tablespoon or so.

Betsy said...

I agree with Jay - "like blood" and "savory" and "red wine" are not the tastes I'm looking for in a brownie. I like the concept of cutting back sugar, and I like the concept of more complex flavors. But not to the point where it doesn't taste like what it's supposed to be.

Melissa said...

I wanted oreos but we don't eat processed food (except for staples like flour, sugar, butter, etc). The first batch was horrid. Way too sweet. We halved the sugar in the chocolate cookie recipe, doubled the salt and replaced the butter with half the volume of canola oil and had the best d*** oreos I've ever had (in thumb print rather than sandwich form).

Jeff (Chowplay) said...

I like where you're going with this. My daughter is a Type 1 diabetic, she loves brownies. She'll be home from college in a few weeks....I'll have to talk her into experimenting with some new formulas when she gets home.

Tricia said...

The best brownies that i can imagine ever!..Can't wait to try this over the weekend. My kids will surely love this

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