We are celebrating today because Jonathan passed his oral exam, which means that he now has an "advanced degree" and will be able to spend the remainder of his summer doing things other than studying contract theory by the glow of his computer screen. More importantly, though, it means that I've made brownies as a little post-exam treat.
I've been on a bourbon kick lately; not drinking it, mind you, but cooking with it. It all started with an ice cream recipe that called for a splash or two, and it's been bourbon on the brain ever since (evidenced by the state of the bottle below).
Bourbon has a complex and caramel-y sweetness, which heightens the flavors in desserts and makes ordinary vanillas and chocolates absolutely other-worldly. It's no surprise, then, that I came up with the idea for a bourbon brownie. I realize that I'm not the first person to have this brilliant idea, but even so, I think these brownies might just be the best brownies in the world. Seriously, they are that good. I think it goes without saying that these are rather indulgent treats - hence "celebrownies." Start making these on a regular basis and you're in trouble.
For special occasions, though, they are just right. They also add a grown-up twist to the classic brownie that doesn't eclipse its perfect, fudgy-gooey simplicity. I made these with whole wheat flour because honestly, you could put sawdust in them and nobody would know the difference. Brownies aren't really about the flour, but whole wheat pastry is what I always have on hand.
These brownies are remarkably quick and easy to make, and only require one saucepan (and no double-boiling!). I make them in a slightly unorthodox way, by melting the butter and sugar together and cooking until the mixture just barely begins to color. Essentially, this creates a caramel-like base for the brownies, which enhances their fudginess (to use the technical term). Even when the brownies are cooked through, they retain a sticky, moist, and deliciously gooey texture. If you are a fan of cakey brownies, well, you're out of luck today.
I heat the butter and sugar until boiling and uniformly foamy, stirring every few seconds to avoid too much caramelization. The batter sometimes ends up with a few small, toffee-like bits of cooked sugar which, trust me, is a good thing. From there, I add the bourbon and vanilla (being very careful, as this is a hot mixture), and then proceed in a regular-brownie like fashion.
One of the many wonderful things about these brownies is that a little goes a long way. I know when most recipes say things like "cut into small squares, as these are very rich," a real sweet-eating wuss must have written the directions, but really, these things are rich. So cut into moderately-sized squares, at the very least.
So, enough with the analysis already! Eat some brownies!
Bourbon Celebration Brownies
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. bourbon
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2/3 c. flour (whole wheat pastry is great)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
In a medium saucepan, melt butter with sugar. Cook for a few minutes, until boiling, stirring with a rubber spatula every 15 seconds or so. Cook like this until mixture is uniformly foamy, and the edges are just barely beginning to brown. Remove from heat and stir, scraping sides of pan. Add vanilla and bourbon, and stir to combine, being very careful not to splash yourself with the hot mixture. Batter will look a bit broken at this point, but continue stirring until liquids are incorporated. Add chopped chocolate and stir until completely melted. Now add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, salt, and cinnamon, and mix vigorously for several seconds, until batter is completely mixed, slightly thickened, and shiny. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan, and bake at 350 F until completely dry on top and edges are just starting to pull away from sides of the pan, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool and devour.