Rich and chocolatey, Thomas Keller’s cocoa-based Ad Hoc Brownies are an indulgent treat.
Guys, I have a problem. You see, it hasn’t been that long since I shared Thomas Keller’s Roasted Chicken method, and now, I’m back with his incredible brownie recipe. It would be ok if it ended there, but I have about five other recipes from his various cookbooks in my regular cooking rotation that I’m itching to share. For the sake of blogging variety, I’m restraining myself. Otherwise, I’m going to be a Chocolate Chunk Cookie away from turning this into a Thomas Keller Fan Blog (although, those cookies are so amazing, it might be worth the risk!).
Any way you look at it, brownies and Valentine’s Day are a perfect match (especially when cupid’s arrow happens to strike at the same time as a massive snow storm). Whether you’re making them for your sweetheart, or are baking up a treat for yourself, you really can’t go wrong. I have no less than four favorite brownie recipes, all tailored to different tastes and occasions: Ina Garten’s “Outrageous Brownies,” for when I want something dense and fudgy; Cook’s Illustrated’s “Chewy Brownies,” for a crackly box-mix top (without the box mix); Hershey’s “Best Brownies,” for when I want a frostable, one-bowl recipe that appeals to kids; and, Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Brownies, for a deeply-flavored, cakey bar that is decidedly “grown-up.”
Rich and intensely chocolatey (without being overly sweet), Thomas Keller’s brownies are a recipe for when you want something indulgent, yet at the same time, delicate. Their ultra-dark color comes from the use of alkalized or “Dutch-process” cocoa powder. (The alkalizing agent added to Dutched chocolate results in a deeper, slightly reddish powder that is milder and less bitter-tasting than its “natural unsweetened” counterpart. Common brands of Dutch-process cocoa are Valhrona, Pernigotti, and Droste.) Of course, Keller doesn’t stop there. A quick addition of semisweet chip pieces just before baking yields little pockets of melted chocolate when you bite into the warm brownies. Yes, please!
If a warm, tender brownie doesn’t say “I Love You,” I don’t know what does. Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day!
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"Ad Hoc" Brownies
As per the original recipe, the brownie mix can be prepared up to a week ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
Adapted, in language and procedure, from Thomas Keller, Ad Hoc At Home
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder, "Dutch-process"
- 3/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips*
- Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter a 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides of the pan. Lightly butter the parchment.**
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.
Melt half of the butter (1-1/2 sticks) in the microwave or a small saucepan on the stove. Place the remaining 1-1/2 sticks of butter in a medium bowl and pour melted butter over them, stirring until almost all of the butter is melted. The mixture will become creamy in appearance. Stir in vanilla extract.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed until thick and pale in color. With the mixer on low speed, add the sifted cocoa mixture and melted butter in three additions each, alternating between the wet and dry ingredients. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of the pan comes out clean (a few moist crumbs are okay). If the tester emerges coated, test again, as you might've inserted it into a pocket of melted chocolate.
Remove pan to a wire rack and cool 20 minutes. Using parchment overhang, remove brownies from pan to a cutting board and slice into 16 squares, or 12 rectangles. Dust with powdered sugar and serve slightly warm.***
*The original recipe calls for a block of chocolate, cut into chip-sized pieces. Each time I've made this recipe, I've used quality chocolate chips with excellent results.
**Thomas Keller uses a 9-inch silicone baking mold. If using silicone, there's no need to butter the mold and line with parchment. Brownies baked in a metal or glass pan will have crisper edge pieces.
***For the best texture, it's important to not over-bake the brownies. Baking until the tester is totally clean in the center will result in dry brownies.