SuperFudgy Brownie or Vampire Soap Opera?: Dark Shadows

The first time I flipped through Lisa Yockelson's Baking Style, a recipe for "Dark Shadows" caught my eye. The name of the recipe was enough on its own to garner my attention (this recipe appears in the "Intense Bold" chapter, "Tipping the Scale on Chocolate" subsection), but the cookbook also features a full-page color photograph of the bars, and this introductory description: "The following recipe is what happens when chocolate is used to its fullest capacity: dark, rich squares of buttery sweetness, wrapped in underpinnings of vanilla, are interrupted periodically with miniature semisweet chocolate chips." How could I resist?

The "buttery cocoa batter" is made by beating eggs and sugar, blending in sugar, brown sugar, melted butter and bittersweet chocolate, vanilla, and vanilla bean seeds, and then incorporating sifted dry ingredients (cocoa, all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt). At the end, you fold in miniature chocolate chips that have been tossed with some of the dry ingredients, pour the batter into a pan, and bake. These brownies are no health food. While the recipe calls for a relatively small amount of chocolate (two ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 3/4 cup of miniature chips to make a 9-inch by 13-inch pan; the bulk of the chocolate flavor comes from two cups of cocoa, which exceeds the volume of both flours combined), it also includes an obscene amount of butter (a full pound!) and 8 eggs.

The recipe instructs you to bake the bars for 40-44 minutes, until just set. I bake a lot of Lisa Yockelson recipes, and in my experience, the specified baking times are exceptionally accurate. However, in this case, when I checked the bars at 40 minutes, I didn't even have to use a toothpick to test doneness; I could tell they were still raw in the middle because the bars jiggled as I pulled the pan out on the rack. I ended up baking the bars for 55 minutes, at which point they were just barely set.

After cooling and chilling the brownies until firm, the recipe directs you to either do the conventional thing and cut the bars, or "run amok, and break the big block into odd-shaped pieces and fragments." I went the cutting route, and skipped the final step of sifting powdered sugar, or powdered sugar mixed with cocoa powder, on top.

These bars were ultra, ultra fudgy, but with a quintessential classic brownie flavor. Bordering on creamy, these bars are indeed pure chocolate joy. I thought, and many tasters agreed, that these would have been a serious contender in the SuperFudgy round of the Brownie Tasteoff. I was amused that the recipe name spawned numerous conversations among tasters about the 1960s ABC television show "Dark Shadows," which featured vampires and apparently pioneered the concept of a soap opera with a supernatural theme. I had never heard of the show before (I am a child of the early 1970s), and I'm not sure if Yockelson had it in mind when naming these bars. But I do know that Yockelson was spot on when she wrote that the recipe "is a jewel of a formula, and will deliver raves greatly out of proportion to the kitchen work involved in its preparation."

Recipe: "Dark Shadows," from Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes, by Lisa Yockelson.

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Louise said…
This recipe is available through ProjectFoodie. I'll have to try it but I recently made her Midnight Brownies, using black cocoa, and my husband complained they were too much like candy and not enough like brownies. :-( I'll have to try these when I can take them somewhere.