I'm going to tell you something about myself. I am one of the most competitive people in the world. I don't care about sports at all, so I'm not on all the teams or anything. I just like to win. If I'm going to play a game, I want to win it. Decisively.
Here's another thing about me. I am not a great team player. I have a hard time relying on others, especially if a grade is tied to it. (Am I the only person here who hated group projects in school?) Heck, I don't even need a grade tied to it, now that I think about it. It's not like we get graded for playing Scattergories or Pictionary. Or do we? Maybe it's just that I grade myself. That very competitive side just comes out and wants to win.
When I have to play a game that also requires that I be on a team, things can go...poorly. Twenty years ago, I went on a weekend trip to the mountains of Virginia with a small group of dear girlfriends. One evening, someone broke out the Pictionary game. Things went...poorly. Lizzie, who thank God is still one of my best friends despite the trauma, was on my team. She drew...something, I can't remember what. Phone? Phone booth? Anyway, we kept calling out guesses: Phone! Phone booth! No. and no. We kept randomly guessing:
The guesses became more frantic the closer to empty the wee hourglass became.
When the sand had all run to the bottom of the timer, Lizzie told us the word she was supposed to have drawn. What happened was that she had drawn the wrong word. So, while we indeed saw and guessed Phone (or Phone Booth or whatever it was), that wasn't the clue she had in her head. I have no idea how it happened. But I hit her. I hit one of my best friends ever.
She went out on the deck and smoked a cigarette. I drove myself directly to GameHab. I now have my twenty year chip. I don't play games with anyone. Because of the hitting. I'd rather read. There is very little hitting in reading.
I think that after a fifth of a century in self-imposed Gamehab I may have learned to not be hitty.
As a test of this, I am entering these brownies in the Dixie Crystals Brownie Dessert Contest sponsored by the fine folks at Dixie Crystals Sugar. They are one of the sponsors of the Food and Wine Conference that I'll be attending in just a few weeks. I'm very excited, because I will get to meet some dear friends I've only known online so far, hug some folks I haven't hugged in almost two years and learn a lot.
If I win this contest, I will get a big old gift card, reimbursement of my conference fee, my dessert--these very brownies--will be a featured dessert at the conference, and the recipe has a good chance of being featured on the Dixie Crystals or Imperial Sugar website. Pretty keen, huh?! EDITED TO INCLUDE: I actually won the contest, and I didn't hit anyone!!! So cool!The good news is that, if these brownies don't win, there will be no hitting. This brownie lives or dies by what Chef Eddy VanDamme (the very talented corporate chef at Dixie Crystals--I'm a huge fan of his) says. Beside, I'll be too busy eating these brownies to be too broken up about it!d
My offering is a rich, dark brownie starring bittersweet chocolate and two kinds of cocoa powder. Rather than flavoring them with vanilla or rum, I used a rich and fruity balsamic vinegar. The strawberry jam swirl is very simple: good quality strawberry jam with some more balsamic stirred into it. The two components are swirled together, and I think the result is pretty magical. I hope you like them too.Wish me luck in the contest, and do go over and take a look at all the other amazing entries--everything looks and sounds fantastic!
- 1¼ cups sifted cake flour (5 oz)
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 12 oz (3 sticks) unsalted butter
- 2 oz (1/4 block) cream cheese, softened
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 7 Tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 2 Tablespoons "Oreo-type" cocoa powder (or just use 9 Tablespoons of the regular cocoa powder)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2¼ cups granulated sugar (yes, I used Dixie Crystals)
- 1 Tablespoon good quality balsamic vinegar (if you have a chocolate or strawberry-infused one, by all means use it)
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup good quality strawberry jam
- 1½ Tablespoons (4½ teaspoons) good quality balsamic vinegar (see above)
- Prepare a 9x13" pan or a 9x9" pan (depending if you want thinner or thicker brownies) by lining the pan with one long strip of parchment paper or non-stick foil cut to fit the width of the pan. Allow either end of the strip to hang out over the edges. Spray the inside of the pan with pan spray, and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 325F and set an oven rack in the center of the oven.
- Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, melt together the butter and cream cheese, whisking well as they melt.
- Pour the butter over the chopped chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth.
- Carefully whisk in the cocoa powders and salt.
- Whisk in the sugar and balsamic. The mixture may look broken, but worry not.
- Thoroughly whisk in the eggs, one at a time. See now--the batter is looking lovely!
- Thoroughly fold in the dry ingredients.
- Whisk together the jam and balsamic until thoroughly combined.
- Spread slightly more than half the batter in the pan.
- Top with the strawberry balsamic mixture and spread evenly.
- Randomly drop in spoonfuls of the remaining batter until you have used it all.
- Pull a knife back and forth through the batter, first one way and then the other.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, about 50 minutes to an hour for the 9x9" pan and about 35-45 minutes for the 9x13" pan.
- Cool completely before slicing, or if you want to eat them warm, slice carefully with a serrated knife, dipping the blade in hot water and wiping it off between every slice.
As you can tell from the photos, these guys aren't cakey at all. There's a bit of crumb around the edges, but the center is like eating pudding you can slice. If you don't like that texture in your brownies, by all means make these anyway and then give them to me.
Thanks for spending some time here with me today! Wish me luck, and enjoy the bittersweet balsamic strawberry swirl brownies. Oh, and in case you are in need of a serving suggestion, they go really, really well with this week's Ice Cream Tuesday, the Buttermilk Mascarpone Stracciatella with Balsamic Strawberry Conserve. Kismet!
Have a lovely day.