Ad hoc Brownies

Thomas Keller makes brownies?

I love chocolate. Who doesn’t? My craving goes into overdrive in the colder weather but I am guessing I’m not the only one. I am, however, very picky with what type of chocolate dessert I put into my mouth. I am not a chocolate snob, I’ll have a Kit Kat as the next person, but if it is homemade might as well make the best, right? I’m not talking about plated desserts with intricate designs and complicated sauces. My chocolate incarnation of choice is much simpler than that. I’ve been hoodwinked before by this dessert called “Death by Chocolate” hyped as a seven layer extravaganza, well it was more like a seven-layer flop. No, I prefer my chocolate simpler but full-strength. I prefer it in brownie doses.
I believe Alice Medrich has the best brownie recipes and it’s hard to fathom even trying anyone else’s. Except, of course if that someone is Thomas Keller. He has come out with a new book, “Ad hoc at home” and it is full of interesting and accessible recipes for the serious food enthusiast. I haven’t read this book in-depth yet, but I am loving those light-bulb moments where he gives you cooking tips and techniques.

The taste of this brownie reminds me of the flavor of Keller’s bouchons. It is intensely chocolatey, but I still prefer my brownies with more chew which is what I get when I make Medrich’s version. The “Hungry” Hubby though, loves this brownie version and that is saying a lot since he is not a dessert person.

Sorry for the short post, but I think I’ve said enough about my love of brownies here and here.

Yummy gooey chips



Thomas Keller "Ad hoc at home"

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
6 ounces 61 to 64% chocolate, chopped into chip-sized pieces ( about 1 1/2 cups)

Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350F. We use a 9-inch square silicone mold, because it keeps the edges from overcooking; if you use a metal or glass baking pan, butter and flour it. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside
Melt half the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put the remaining butter in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter and stir to melt the butter. The butter should look creamy, with small bits of unmelted butter, and be at room temperature.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the eggs and sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until thick and very pale. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter. Add the chocolate and mix to combine. (The batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.)
Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. If the pick comes out wet, test a second time, because you may have hit a piece of chocolate chip; then bake for a few more minutes longer if necessary. Cool in the pan until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature.
Run a knife around the edges if not using a silicone mold, and invert the brownie onto a cutting board. Cut into 12 rectangles. Dust the tops with powdered sugar just before serving. (The brownies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.)

Brownie Points


It has been more than a year since I literally drowned in brownies here. Then, my quest was for the best tasting concoction that would not taste like it was made from a box. During my trip to San Francisco last August to take a chocolate techniques class from Alice Medrich, she had to rock my comfort zone by making available MORE recipes for brownies. Apparently she was constantly tweaking what were already the best brownies ever.

Luckily for my sanity, most of them followed the same number of ingredients and technique. My interest now was more peaked than ever about using different percentages of chocolate to come up with relatively the same textures and qualities for all batches. Alice used a lot of Scharffen Berger chocolate in her tests. Since this chocolate had vanilla in its flavor profile she suggested skipping the use of any vanilla extract. I wanted to use my favorite Valrhona Equatorial in the 55% chocolate category because I felt this was a well-balanced semi-sweet chocolate. In her new version of her brownies, Alice labeled them 8.07 – one of them was now known as Robert Steinberg’s recipe which is labeled 8.07 RS ( I think this recipe is also in The Essence of Chocolate). What I noticed with her new versions is that she uses less flour so really you’ve got a very fudgy chocolate brownie with a nice crackle in the outer layer. The 55% recipe is from her Bittersweet book that I have not tried in my original brownie experiment.




Valrhona Equatoriale

(55%) original

Scharffen Berger

(62 %) 8.07

Scharffen Berger

(70%)  8.07 RS


10 oz

11 oz.

8 oz.


5 tbs.

3 ½ tbs

6 tbs.


2/3 cup

2/3 cup

1 cup

vanilla extract

1 tsp.




¼ tsp.

¼ tsp.

¼ tsp.

cold eggs




all-purpose flour

½ cup

1/3 cup + 1 tbs.

1/3 cup + 1tbs.



Directions: (for all recipes)

Position a rack in the lower theird of the oven and preheat to 350 °F.


Place chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the chocolate is melted and the mixture smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger quickly after dipping it to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet. Mix in the sugar, vanilla (if using) and salt. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until the first one is incorporated before adding the second. Add the flour and stir vigorously until the mixture is thick, smooth and glossy, and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about one minute. Spread evenly in the lined pan. Bake until the batter just begins to pull away from the edges of the pan and small cracks appear on the surface, about 30-35 minutes. A toothpick plunged into the center will emerge with moist crumbs clinging to it. Cool on a rack. Lift the edges of the parchment or foil liner and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares. Brownies can be stored, airtight, for 2-3 days.



Cooking Notes:

Among the three recipes, I preferred the one made with Valrhona Equatoriale, 55%. And so I wouldn’t be biased I asked the “Hungry” hubby to taste it as well and he agreed that the 55% one produced a brownie that was intensely chocolatey with a smooth finish (brownie tasting can almost be like wine tasting you know). With a higher percentage of cocoa butter the batter is a lot stiffer. My least favorite was the one made with Scharffen Berger 62%. I was most disappointed with this because I had high hopes for it being the middle percentage. I suspect that the chocolate needed to be reduced because at 11 ounces it does seem extremely high. This brownie had a bitter catch on the palate which I found disconcerting. The 70%, as always, was a pretty good bet if you want a deeper chocolate punch.

There are two important aspects that need to be pointed out in the directions of the recipe. Noticed that you melt the chocolate and butter until when you dip your finger in it, you want to immediately take them out. Now this may be a tolerance-dependent factor but for me that temperature is between 140 °F to 145 °F on an infrared thermometer. It is also important for the mixture to be this hot when you add the sugar because that is what makes the crust crackle and become shiny.  The second point is beating the flour in just right. It is interesting to watch the batter transform from a cake-looking batter to a homogenous shiny blob that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and just drops into your prepared pan with no problem. For the Valrhona Equatoriale, I must say my arm almost fell off from the stiffness of the batter.


This was a fun experiment – one that I have longed to try for quite sometime now. I made four batches all in all because I made the 62% twice just in case I made a mistake in my measurement the first time. I still came out with the same result. I would try to reduce the 62% chocolate to 9 oz next time, just to see if that was an anomaly in the recipe. In the meantime – brownies anyone?


Also, the nice folks at Foodie View asked me to write their recipe roundup this week. Since this month is the month of love, I thought it most appropriate to talk about For the Love of Chocolate .