Friday, November 12, 2010

Sinfully Rich Scharffen Berger Brownies

Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker is the first U.S. bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturer established in the past fifty years. Its founding goal was to "create the richest, most flavorful chocolate by sourcing the best cacao in the world and using artisan chocolate-making methods." I remember clearly taking my son to a Scharffen Berger factory tour in Berkeley many years ago, our own little home grown version of Willy Wonka's. Things change: the company has since been acquired by Hershey's and closed its local factory, but we can still enjoy the chocolate which is obviously the most important thing.

I also clearly remember enjoying an unbelievable Scharffen Berger Chocolate dinner with my husband at Google's Cafe 7 featuring recipes inspired from 'The Essence of Chocolate' cookbook by company co-founders John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. I enjoy poring over my cookbook autographed there by John Scharffenberger, remembering the fireworks of flavor from that choco-gastronomic meal. I kept the menu, not knowing that almost four years later I would use it for this blog:

- Goat Cheese Crostini and Nibs: Grilled pain levain, Laura Chenel Boursin cheese, candied orange zest, cocoa nibs

- Tortilla Soup Espumoso: Light puree of chipotle peppers, mirepois of vegetables, Latin spices, tomato, Scharffen Berger Chocolate, crisp tortilla, avocado, lime and sweet corn foam

- Grilled Scallop with Mild Thai Flavors: Mini local scallop brochette with coconut-chile and cocoa glaze

- Chocolate Martini

- Bread with Chocolate Butter

- Spinach and Almond Salad with Pears and Nib Vinaigrette: Organic field greens tossed with cocoa glazed almonds, dressed in a light balsamic-shallot dressing

- Chile-Marinated Harris Ranch Flank Steak with Mole Flavors: Served over baked navy beans with Applewood smoked bacon and unsweetened Scharffen Berger Chocolate

- Grilled Tofu Scallops and Roasted Squash: Three grain pilaf, vegetable medley and cocoa nib vinaigrette

- Chocolate Souffle: Bittersweet chocolate souffle, brandy liquor, sweet meringue, and chocolate cinnamon ganache center

- Petit Sirah Swirled Ice Cream: Housemade vanilla bean ice cream, swirled with Petit Sirah syrup, fresh blueberries and fresh raspberries

As I read this menu I can't believe we ate all of this at one meal! And now a link to the coup de grace, a sinfully rich New Classic Brownie recipe using unsweetened 99% cacao chocolate. I discovered this recipe on the Scharffen Berger website, written by Alice Medrich and featured in her book 'Cookies and Brownies'.  Company staff taste tasters liked this recipe best of three brownie recipes.

Fair warning:  These brownies are INTENSE. Brace yourself before taking a bite. These are not your everyday brownies, not the kind to bring to a potluck on the 4th of July or the school's bake sale.  These are grown-up, rated R, only for those strong enough to imbibe. They should be served with a warning that they may cause a temporary cocoa-induced stupor, and chocolate hallucinations for the weak-willed and knock-kneed. Eat at your own risk.

We made the brownies without nuts but I'm sure the toasted walnuts would provide a delicious balance to the extreme chocolate flavor. Also, I'd recommend using parchment paper instead of foil in the pan, as our brownies got stubbornly stuck to parts of the foil. Be patient while the brownies cool in the ice bath. And don't forget to share. You could possibly overdose on these if you don't.

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