bittersweetbaker

My Search for Perfection

In Brownies and Bars on December 7, 2010 at 7:30 pm
From Adriana Baking

I’ve always tried to put as much effort as I can muster into every project I submit myself to, though I’m okay with results less than perfect if I know that I did my very best.  But when I don’t, I feel empty and dissatisfied – like a fruitless apple tree in the season of full bloom with the potential to produce so much more.

Recently, I started taking clarinet lessons with a new teacher. Within a few minutes of meeting him, I knew my lessons would be completely changed – he was intense, and passionate about music. I learned very quickly that he would never be satisfied, because “There is no top. There are always further heights to reach” (Jascha Heifetz). And I think that is wonderful. He is constantly pushing me to express myself through music, teaching me new techniques and encouraging me, because he knows I am capable of doing better and becoming a better musician. I have had three lessons with him so far, and I can already feel drastic improvement in my playing.

From Adriana Baking

As my blog continues to grow, I’m feeling pressured by the heavy expectation weighed in each post I write – this is the reason to the dearth of my posts. I try to update my blog each week, but sometimes I just can’t deliver.  I know that these expectations are merely my own. I want to have well written posts with novel ideas and good pictures each time. I want to improve. Lately, I’ve been unsatisfied with my writing, though I racked my brain for words and tried my best. I felt as if I were raking out the mess and confusion of fallen leaves in search for the coherence and clarity of green grass. I couldn’t make myself write freely, as I used to, and struggled upon every word. The level of expectation has eased, and I’m glad to be finding my voice again.

Finding perfection in recipes is a process very unlike that of the continuous strive for success in more academic areas. I enjoy baking countless recipes of the same baked good, altering the recipe slightly each time in hope of a better product. I love testing ways of baking that have never been done before, just because the process makes sense. A baked good can be made up of infinitely delicious combinations of texture, flavor, and appearance, and finding the perfect combination is much like solving the math puzzles we are working on in class. There is just one solution, but many ways of getting there. A 1/2 cup of malt powder added to a promising recipe for brownies was the equation that worked best for me. I can confidently say that I have found the perfect recipe for brownies – enough resistance for your teeth to meet for good chew, deep, dark, chocolaty flavor, and a slightly fudgy interior. I even tested the recipe three times, just to ensure that they were really as good as I thought.

From Adriana Baking

My favorite brownies are chewy, and I have tried many, many recipes claiming to be so. Admittedly, though I never make them myself, I think box mix brownies have the perfect texture. They use a ratio of saturated fat to unsaturated fat which is supposed to increase the chewiness factor. But the recipes calling for oil that I have made always resulted in flavorless, overly sweet, dry brownies. So I got to experimenting in the kitchen. Remembering my previous attempts at making perfectly chewy chocolate chip cookies, I added malt powder to the brownie batter before baking – they were perfect.

The brownies baked with malt were just as good the following day, with better chew. The ones baked without malt started drying out a couple of days after being baked. The brownies are so chocolaty that the added malt lends great chew without adding flavor. If you like the taste of malt, you can definitely increase the amount used without affecting texture – I think more malt would add a great depth of flavor.

From Adriana Baking

I’ll be sharing the recipe for chewy chocolate chip cookies in another post.

Chewy Malt Brownies

Adapted from Baked via Recipe Girl

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. good quality cocoa powder (the darker the better)
1/2 cup diastatic malt powder, sifted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1/4 tsp. instant espresso powder
5 ounces semisweet chocolate bar, finely chopped
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8×8-inch pan. Line with parchment paper and let it hang over two sides. Butter the parchment. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, malt powder and salt; set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter and espresso powder. Heat on low and stir until butter has melted. Add chocolate, and stir constantly until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in both sugars until combined. Let cool slightly.

Whisk eggs and vanilla and keep moving the batter around until combined and no longer grainy-looking. Add flour mixture to batter and stir just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan; smooth top with a greased spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a just a few moist crumbs attached (28 to 30 minutes). Don’t over bake! Let cool completely. Cut into pieces and serve or store.

Makes: 12 to 15 brownies, depending on how large you cut them.

From Adriana Baking

Malt batter to the left, plain batter to the right.

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  1. oh that’s so weird! I was going to do a brownie post soon too! And I know how you feel about the delivering…and what do you mean about your writing on the other posts? So far all of your posts that i’ve read have been so well written! Your brownies look so delicious and chewy 🙂 love the crust on top!

  2. These brownies look so good Adriana! And I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts, you’re such a talented writer 🙂

  3. Adriana,

    I’m trying to make chewy peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and I am wondering how much malt powder you would use for a recipe that makes about 2 dozen cookies, and whether this is diastatic malt powder, or non-diastatic malt powder.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Rachael – I’ve never tried adding malt to peanut butter cookies. I’m curious to hear about your results! The malt powder I used was diastatic; I bought it at a local brew house, and it is unlike Ovaltine or Carnation brands. (I updated the recipe to include this information). For cookies, I used 1/2 cup malt powder to 2 cups of flour. I hope I helped!

  4. I’ve always felt like if I didn’t do something to the best of my ability there was really no point in doing it at all. Sounds like you feel the same 🙂 Sort of like, why bother if you aren’t really going to put your best forward.
    So glad you are making progress with your clarinet- you should approach your writing in exactly the same way! Everything gets better with practice.
    And those brownies (and the pictures!) look like they are to die for! What an interesting discovery with the malt powder. Where do you buy malt powder?

  5. Oh, the quest for chewiness. I salute all efforts on behalf of chewy brownies and cookies. I will be interested to hear back from Rachel about the chewy peanut butter cookies. I have heard that a small bit of bread flour can help make chocolate chip cookies chewy. And I have heard the same about using some corn syrup. I have always wondered if some sort of process for caramelizing part of the sugar could be harnessed to make chewier cookies. That perfect texture is so darn elusive. Now I will have to add malt to the “must try” list. Thanks for this creative recipe!

  6. Your brownies look divine! I could probably eat the whole pan! Btw, I think your writing is excellent 🙂

  7. There’s nothing better than chooey, chocolatey brownies.

  8. These look so good Adriana! I may have to try these! I know how you feel about that emptyness if you don’t give it your all. With that kind of work ethic your gonna go great places!

  9. Yummy – going to try this. Would non-diastatic malt powder like Ovaltine also work? I add cream to my choc. chip cookies and somehow that dramatically changes the texture.

    • mylittleolive – I haven’t tried making these with non-diastatic malt powder, so I’m not sure what results you would get. If you make them, I’d love hear about your results. (You can make half the batch with malt and the other without, to see if they are chewier). Thanks for the tip about the cream – I’ll be trying that next time!

  10. Hey – cool blog!
    I always thougt there is no other foodblogger in my age on the web, but while looking through brownie recipes at foodgawker.com I found your blog and I really like it 🙂
    I’d love to try this recipe, but I have no idea where to buy malt powder in germany…

    happy baking!
    Jana

    • Zuckerbäckerin – Thank you! It’s nice to meet yet another teen food blogger. I’m not sure where you could buy malt powder in Germany. If you have a home brew supply store near you, you can look there, or you could try ordering some online : http://bit.ly/hMoB2Z I hope you find some!

  11. they look delicious! i’m making some candy cane brownies for a potluck on tuesday and this recipe could totally work!

  12. Your writing is a pleasure to read – it inspires me to write better! I love your experimental spirit – these brownies sound and look divine. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  13. These truly sound like perfect brownies! I love my brownies chewy too and I’ve never heard of adding malt. Looks like you found the secret!
    I sympathize with your need to make each post as good as it can be. I go through phases where writing of any kind is like that for me. I guess it’s good to strive for perfection but know what we don’t have to get there with everything.

  14. oh wow these look so good! I am always trying new brownie recipes so I’ll have to add this to my list 😉

  15. Got to try this!
    What does diastatic mean though? I noticed someone above mentioned that it’s not something like Ovaltine…

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