Food writer and dining critic Meridith Ford Goldman has perfected a brownie recipe that lives up to all the above adjectives. The dense, fudgy brownie base comes from Marion Cunningham's "The Fannie Farmer Baking Book" (Gramercy, $12.99) -- and the dense, moist squares are made all the more sinful with a topping of silky ganache. The brownies can be made in one bowl or a saucepan, depending on whether the chocolate is melted in the microwave or on the stove.
Hands on time: 20 minutes Total time: 12 hours Serves: 16
4 ounces (4 squares) unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped fine 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small squares 2 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped 1 cup Dark Chocolate Ganache (recipe follows) Gold-colored dragees for garnish, optional (available at cake baking supply stores)
For Dark Chocolate Ganache: 8 ounces (1 cup) heavy cream 18 ounces (one 12-ounce bag and one 6-ounce bag) dark (semisweet) chocolate chips 2 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour, or spray with cooking spray, an 8-inch square baking pan. Place the chocolate and butter in a saucepan and melt over low heat, stirring frequently, until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (If using a microwave, melt the chocolate for 20-second intervals, stirring between each, until lumpy. Add the butter and continue intervals until the mixture is smooth.) When cool, add the eggs, vanilla, sugar and salt and whisk until combined. Add the flour and mix well, then the nuts, if desired. Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out barely clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the brownies out onto a cooling rack covered with a paper towel or parchment paper. Let brownies cool completely, about 2 hours. Ice the brownies with Dark Chocolate Ganache, using a cake spatula, and place them in the refrigerator to set for about 10 to 15 minutes. Using a straight-edged knife that is at least the length of the brownie square, cut the brownies into 16 even squares, cleaning the knife after each cut to make even, clean edges. Place the finished brownies in cupcake papers. Decorate each square with a gold or colored dragee, if desired.
For Dark Chocolate Ganache: In a heavy saucepan, place the cream on high heat to boil. When it begins to boil, remove from the heat immediately and whisk in the chocolate chips, a little at a time, until completely melted and smooth (do not vigorously whisk or the ganache will get air bubbles). Add the butter and mix until smooth. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the ganache so a skin doesn't form. Let the ganache rest overnight, unrefrigerated.
This recipe calls for 2 hours of cooling time for brownies plus overnight resting time for the ganache.