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OMG, Brownies

PBbrowniesBrownies. The quintessentially American treat, they are as diverse and varied as we are: some are cakey, some are chewy, some are fudgy, some are even blondie. And everyone has there own preference that falls somewhere along those lines.

These, however, are not one person’s favorite brownie. They are the ur-brownie. They aren’t some, they aren’t more, they’re the MOST. They’re chocolate and sugar and coffee and eggs and nuts and mints and every friggin’ thing else with the volume turned up to 11. Even in the 1 inch squares I cut them in, people wig out in the most rewarding way at these dense, moist, decadent, powerfully sweet little bites.

Dangerous as they are, I only make these for big parties. In the header to the recipe, Maida proudly proclaims that this actually makes 6 1/2 pounds of brownies. That’d be a lot of brownies, even if they weren’t to ridiculously rich. So, I’d recommend keeping these in reserve til you’ve got a huge to-do on the horizon or a bake sale to knock out of the park. These are over-the-top enough to take out several girl scout troops, a bridge tournament, or a particularly fierce cocktail party. Forewarned is forearmed.

Palm Beach Brownies
Maida Heatter

8 oz unsweetened chocolate
8 0z unsalted butter
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs + 1 tsp powdered instant expresso
3 3/4 c sugar
1 2/3 c flour
2 12 oz bags peppermint patties OR 2 c toasted nuts

Adjust an oven rack 1/3 from the bottom of the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line a 9 x 13 x 2 inch pan following the Maida Method: Turn the pan upside down. Center a 17 inch piece of heavy duty foil, shiny side down, on the pan and crease tightly. Remove the foil, reinvert the pan, and set the foil into the pan. Gently, but thoroughly, butter the foil. Set the pan aside.

Roughly chop the chocolate. Combine with the butter in a medium bowl. Melt, either over a pot of simmering water or in the microwave  using brief bursts and stirring frequently. Remove from heat before chocolate is completely melted. Stir till chocolate is totally melted and combined using the residual heat. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs, vanilla, almond extract, salt, espress, and sugar at high speed for 10 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the chocolate and blend just till evenly mixed. Scrape down the bowl. Add the flour and mix on low speed just till evenly incorporated.

If using nuts, fold them in.

If using the mints, spread half of the batter (~3 1/2 c) into the prepared pan. Tightly tile the mints over the smoothed batter in a single layer, leaving about 1/3 inch open around the edges of the pan. Pour over remaining batter and smooth.

For either preparation, bake 35 minutes. The brownies will have a firm crust, but a cake tester inserted into the cake will come out wet. Regardless, the brownies are done. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely. Using the foil, remove the cooled brownie from the pan and wrap completely. Chill for at least three hours.

When chilled, unwrap completely. Using a large serrated knife, mark the cake in quarters. Complete the cuts using a large chef’s knife. Trim off the outer edges. Again marking and cutting with the two knives, cut each quarter into six 1 inch squares.

Notes & Variations
The original recipe calls for walnuts and the peppermint patties all at once, which I found a bit too much. I’ve done them with just mints and just walnuts, though, and they are always amazing. Other variations have included toasted hazelnuts, which were phenomenal. The other variation in the book, Bali Hai Brownies with crystallized ginger, coconut, and macadiama nuts are totally outre and perfect for an over the top tropical bash. Basically, you could put anything in this base recipe and it would be insane. And how bad can that be?

Heatter, Maida. Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts. (Kansas City: Andrews McMeel) 1999.

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