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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Chocolate Ganache Brownies and My Dad

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I have been told I'm the devil.  And by my own dad, too.  You see, my dad and I share many traits.  We both have blue eyes, we're both dreamers, and we both have a terrible weakness for chocolate (an unfortunate family trait that we both try hard to resist).  Every time I make him a deliciously chocolately dessert (like these killer brownies), he eyes them hungrily and says, "Oh Mary, what are you making now?" Then, shaking his head, he tells me, "You're the devil." I know he's teasing, because in his heart he believes the exact opposite of that.

My dad is a complete softie.  He's generous to a fault and would do anything for his family, coming to our rescue on numerous occasions. (My brothers and I seem to excel at providing these.)  Loving us unconditionally is like a drug for him.  My brothers and I even make fun of his goofy way of telling us at the end of a phone call how much he loves us--one "I love you" just doesn't cut it.  I've even accidentally hung up on him once or twice because I didn't realize the "I love you"s weren't over yet.

My dad is also a pretty smart guy.  I used to think that earning his Ph.D. and directing a college mechanical engineering program was no-sweat for him because of his super intelligence.  But lately I've learned that the amount of work my dad put into his career was far more than I previously thought.  This revelation came to me during one of my dad's many stories.

My dad has a story or theory for every occasion.  Among the top ten are his repotting theory about making life changes and the story about selling his beloved corvette in order to get married.  (The stories involving my mom are classics, and some of these have grown to epic proportions.) Even today, after years of hearing his stories, I am still hearing new ones.  His theory about the importance of perseverance was recently explained to me over a plate of pasta at a favorite family bistro.  (Ever the scientist, he even drew a diagram on the paper tablecloth cover.)  I'd like to share this theory with you:

The Perseverance/Ability Theory:

There are basically four types of people:

1.) Those who have high perseverance and high natural ability.  (These are the Henry Fords and Steve Jobs of the world.  My dad didn't have to push students like these.  They flew on their own.)

2.) Those who have high perseverance but low natural ability.  (These are the hard workers, the ones who are determined to succeed no matter what.  These are the students who came to my dad for extra help.)

3.) Those who have low perseverance and low natural ability.  (My dad did his best with this group.  He challenged all of his students so much that this group was forced to either join the high perseverance group or change majors.)

4.) Those who have low perseverance but high natural ability.  (These are the students who could be great, but they coast on their ability and let their potential go to waste.  Whether it was by love, laughter, or humiliation, my dad targeted this group, determined to light a fire under them.)


I was shocked to find out that my dad considered himself one of the low ability/high perseverance crowd.  The answers I thought came so easily to him were only the reward of great effort on his part.  Success and happiness don't come easily to anyone, it seems.  You have to work at it.  My dad's stories and his life prove this.

Even though I've known my dad my entire life, there are depths to him I know nothing about.   But I do know this:  He will never stop teaching us.  He will never stop loving us unconditionally.  And he will never stop tagging on those extra "I love you"s whenever he has the chance.

Even though my dad tells me he loves everything I bake, I always try to make him the most delicious desserts.  These brownies are without a doubt the best, most luxurious brownies I've ever encountered and, therefore, worthy of him.  Even if it does make me something of a devil.

I love you, Dad!

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Chocolate Ganache Brownies

WARNING:  These brownies are not for the faint of heart.  If you're squeamish about fat and calories, then these brownies are not for you!


BROWNIES:

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet
Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies

10 tablespoons (140 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (65 grams, though some brands may weigh more) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process) (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, about 25-28 minutes.  After pulling brownies out of the oven, prepare the ganache. (I prep the chopped chocolate while the brownies are baking.)

GANACHE TOPPING:

8 oz. good quality chopped semi-sweet baking chocolate
8 oz. (about 1 cup) heavy cream (Don't skimp--use heavy cream!)

In a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water, combine the chocolate and heavy cream.  Stir gently until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is entirely smooth.  Pour over the brownies and let sit until ganache is set--this will take several hours. (I usually make these in the morning for an evening gathering.)  When cooled, pull the brownies out of the pan using the parchment sling and cut into 16 or 25 squares.

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1 comment:

  1. Mary, thank you for the kind tribute. I'm honored by your words. However, it's easy to be that kind of dad when he has a wonderful daughter like you with so many talents. Now, about the brownies: I want to issue a warning about these brownies, and propose a simple three-step procedure for taking in their delight. As Mary said, when cooled, cut them into 16 to 25 squares. Next, step 1, remove one of those squares and place it on a dish. Step 2, cut that square in half. Step 3, now cut the two halves into quarters. You're there! The tasty richness of these brownies cannot be overstated. (And besides, now you've got brownies that will last four times longer, or you can make four times more friends, or any combination thereof.) Enjoy! Dad

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