Palm Beach Brownies

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By Candy Sagon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 18, 2006; 1:31 PM

If you heard Food section reporter Candy Sagon on Washington Post radio on Monday morning, you know she's an obsessed fan of these brownies from Maida Heatter , the divine diva of desserts and the author of a new book called "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts" (Andrew McMeel Publishing, $24.95).

Heatter's Palm Beach brownies are legendary. When she tossed handfuls of them to a crowd at the James Beard Foundation awards dinner several years back, the formally dressed guests went nuts trying to catch one. They are the biggest, thickest, gooiest, chewiest, darkest, brownie you can imagine with a fudgy middle and crisp-crunchy top. The catch? You must follow the recipe exactly and they're best if they can sit for up to a day before cutting. They're too sticky to be cut into bars when they are too fresh.

Palm Beach Brownies
(Adapted from "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts")
Makes 16 huge or 24 or more extra- large brownies
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
5 eggs (graded large or extra-large)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dry instant espresso or other powdered (not granular) instant coffee
3 3/4 cups sugar
1 2/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
8 ounces (2 generous cups) walnut halves (optional)

Adjust rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9x13x2-inch pan as follows: Invert the pan, cover it with a long piece of aluminum foil and with your hands press down on the foil around the sides and the corners to shape it like the pan. Remove the foil. Turn the pan right side up and place the foil in the pan. Very carefully (without tearing it) press the foil into place in the pan.

Now butter the foil with soft or melted butter. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top of a large double boiler over hot water on moderate heat, or in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, or in the microwave on medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted. Stir to mix. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, dry instant espresso or coffee, and sugar at high speed for 10 minutes. On low speed add the cooled chocolate mixture and beat only until mixed. Then add the flour and again beat only until mixed. Remove from the mixer and stir in the nuts, if using.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 35 minutes, reversing the pan front to back as necessary during the baking to insure even baking. Cover loosely with foil for about the last half of the baking time to prevent overbrowning. At the end of 35 minutes the cake will have a thick, crisp crust on the top, but if you insert a toothpick into the middle, it will come out wet and covered with chocolate. Nevertheless, it is done. Do not bake it anymore.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it stand at room temperature until cool. Then cover with a rack or a cookie sheet and invert. Remove the pan and the foil lining. Cover with a cookie sheet and invert again, leaving the brownies right side up.

It is best to refrigerate the brownies overnight before cutting (at room temperature if it is too sticky to cut). Use a serrated bread knife.

It will be necessary to wash and dry the blade several times while cutting.

If the brownies were baked correctly, the edges will be too dark and dry; trim about 1/4-inch or as necessary from the edge.

Either wrap the brownies individually in clear plastic wrap or package them in an airtight container. Refrigerate and serve cold.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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