I've somehow managed to let my supply of unsweetened chocolate dwindle to critically low levels. I normally order my unsweetened Guittard chocolate discs from the King Arthur Flour catalog in the early fall and/or late winter, so that they will be shipped during cool weather conditions (I usually also wait for a free shipping deal). While I can also just walk over to the nearby Whole Foods and buy a bar of unsweetened Scharffen Berger, I just can't bring myself to pay the exorbitant price for the stuff, given that I go through large amounts of chocolate pretty quickly. Equally important, I haven't seen unsweetened discs (as opposed to chocolate bars) available at retail. Bars are a huge pain because of all the extra work and mess involving in chopping them. Discs are easy to pour and weigh, and the small-sized pieces melt quickly.
I completely forgot to order more chocolate before the warm weather of spring arrived, and I'm down to my last pound. I just checked the King Arthur website and they've increased their unsweetened chocolate prices to $9.50 a pound, which is a big bummer. So while I'm researching potential new chocolate sources, I'm hoarding the last bit of my supply. I was in the mood to make some brownies this week, and so I made a specific effort to pick a recipe that uses cocoa powder instead of unsweetened chocolate.
I decided to try out "Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Toffee and Dried Cherries," from In the Sweet Kitchen: the Definitive Baker's Companion, by Regan Daley. I really like this cookbook, which won the IACP Cookbook of the Year Award in 2001. It's quite a hefty volume, coming in at almost 700 pages -- but more than half of the book is comprised of information on tools, techniques and ingredients, with the remainder taken up with recipes.
This particular recipe is actually written to make cookies, and it calls for flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, butter, dark brown sugar, sugar, eggs, vanilla, dried sour cherries, chocolate chunks, and English toffee pieces. A note at the end of the recipe offers a variation to turn the recipe into brownies instead, simply by substituting cake flour for the all-purpose flour in the cookie version and spreading the resulting batter into a pan. This recipe fit my requirement of using cocoa instead of unsweetened chocolate, and it so happens that I always have dried Montmorency cherries and Heath Bar baking bits on hand (although I did take a shortcut and use chocolate chips instead of chopping my own chocolate chunks).
The end result was really delicious. It was moist but not very fudgy, with a complex deep and earthy flavor that was not too sweet. The Heath Bar bits were not detectable in the final product, but the dried cherries added a wonderful textural element and a tart bite. I hope to replenish my chocolate supply soon, but it's good to know that I can still crank out some pretty yummy treats in the meantime!
Recipe: "Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Toffee and Dried Cherries," from In the Sweet Kitchen: the Definitive Baker's Companion, by Regan Daley.