When deciding which cookbooks of 2013 would rank as my favorites, one was an easy pick: Sweet by Valerie Gordon. This cookbook debuted in September 2013 alongside many other great recipe-filled texts, but it stands alone as what I consider to be 2013’s greatest text for sweet recipes.
Gordon’s recipes are sophisticated yet approachable. This isn’t another cookbook with recipes too intricate and foreign for the home cook. This book combines old favorites with inventive twists, along with recipes that will expand your dessert making bounds. I learned about new ingredients in this cookbook – such as vanilla paste, used in this recipe.
And, of course, there’s the photography. It is rich, bold, and stunning. The food is captured with such lucidity and intricate detail that I resisted the urge to lick pages displaying flowing chocolate sauce or caramel pudding.
The first recipe I adapted from this book was Gordon’s recipe for brownies. I was immediately drawn to it based on its sophisticated simplicity. Dark chocolate meets butter, two types of sugar, vanilla paste, and flour in symphony with whisking and stirring that I was certain would yield a beautiful result. I put my own spin on it, of course, trading this ingredient for that ingredient, but I stayed true to Gordon’s technique.
And the result? Chewy, rich dark chocolate brownies with a depth of flavor unlike any I’d tasted before. These brownies stand apart from those you’ve tried before, and they definitely leave the ole box mix in the dust.
When I think of brownies, I think of early childhood. A plate topped with a warm brownie and maybe a dollop of ice cream. A tall glass of cold milk. Chocolatey. Chewy. Warm. And a simpler time when calories didn’t count, and food was more pleasurable somehow.
Try my recipe adapted from the recipe for Brownies found on page 266 of the book. You owe it to yourself. And pick up a copy of Sweet by Valerie Gordon. You owe that to your cookbook collection.
Dark Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from Sweet, page 266, by Valerie Gordon
Makes 18 small brownies
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 ounces 60% cacao unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×9 inch glass baking pan and set aside.
- Melt butter in the microwave on 50% power for one minute. Then, add chopped chocolate and microwave for 30 seconds more or until the butter is fully melted and the chocolate has begun to combine. With a small whisk, stir the mixture until the chocolate has completely blended.
- Slowly stir in both sugars until well combined. Then, mix each egg one at a time until fully combined.
- Add flour, vanilla paste, and salt and blend well. Spread the batter in prepared baking pan.
- Bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until a crusty layer forms, and the center is firm and dry. To ensure proper baking, test with a toothpick – you should insert in the center and remove with a few crumbs. (If the toothpick comes out dry, you’ve baked too long!)
- Place the brownies to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes or more before cutting and serving.
This recipe was adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Sweet. In the original recipe, 99% cacao dark chocolate and light brown sugar are employed. I prefer my selections, however, which do increase baking time.
Vanilla paste is essentially an extra thick pure vanilla extract with vanilla bits within. If it is not available at your local specialty foods store, it can also be ordered online. It is not a highly expensive ingredient. I purchased my bottle for $6.50.
Remember that with all baking, baking times vary based on a number of conditions, including your elevation, the age and condition of your oven, and so on. Always monitor your baking and adjust time accordingly.