Holiday Gifts & Lifestyle

Holiday baking gets even sweeter with brownies

What would the holidays be without delicious foods to share with loved ones? In fact, crafting elaborate meals and baking goodies is par for the course once the weather begins to cool and decorations turn up on businesses and homes.

Many people have tried-and-true recipes they rely on each year, but there's always the possibility to give new tasty tidbits a try. There are so many tantalizing desserts to tickle the tongue, but this recipe for "Rocky Recchiuti Brownies" from "Chocolate Obsession" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) by Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage yields rich and chewy brownies that no holiday celebrant will be able to resist.

Rocky Recchiuti Brownies

Makes 16 brownies

51⁄2 ounces 100 percent unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided

10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter with 82 percent butterfat, cut into 1-inch slices.

2⁄3 cup (31⁄2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, preferably Madagascar Bourbon

11⁄3 cups granulated cane sugar

1⁄3 cup walnut halves, roasted and roughly chopped

6 Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marshmallows, each 11⁄2 inches square, cut into quarters (see recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and liberally coat the paper and the pan sides with flavorless vegetable oil.

Put 3 ounces of the chocolate and the butter in a medium stainless-steel bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter melt and are fully combined and the mixture is smooth. Lift the bowl from the pot. Set aside.

Sift the flour and salt together into a bowl. In another bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk together by hand until blended. Whisk in the sugar.

Whisk the egg mixture into the chocolate. Add the flour and the remaining 21⁄2 ounces chocolate to the batter and, using a rubber spatula, mix well. Then mix in the walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Scatter the marshmallow pieces evenly over the surface and push them halfway into the batter. The tops should remain uncovered.

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven until the marshmallows are browned and a skewer inserted into the center of the brownie sheet comes out with some batter clinging to it, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

Run a table knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides of the brownie, and then slide the brownie, still on the paper, onto a work surface. Using a ruler to guide you and a sharp knife, cut into sixteen 2-inch squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Tahitian Vanilla Bean Marshmallows

About 40 marshmallows

Flavorless vegetable oil for the pan

33⁄4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

3 tablespoons water

2 cups granulated cane sugar, divided into halves

11⁄2 cups light corn syrup

4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

1 Tahitian vanilla bean, split horizontally

About 3 cups powdered cane sugar for finishing

Line the bottom of an 8-by-12-inch sheet pan with parchment paper and lightly coat the paper and the pan sides with flavorless vegetable oil. Put the gelatin in a small bowl. Add the water and stir. Set aside to soften.

Combine 1 cup of the sugar with the corn syrup in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Use an unlined copper pot if you have one. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sugar melts. Then continue to cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 230 F on a candy thermometer. If any crystals form on the sides of the pan and the mixture heats, wash them down with a wet pastry brush.

Meanwhile, put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the bowl.

When the sugar syrup reaches 240 F, start to beat the egg whites on medium speed. When the whites form very soft peaks, add the remaining 1 cup sugar and continue beating.

When the sugar syrup reaches 250 F, remove it from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin. The syrup will foam up and triple in volume. Switch the mixer to high speed and slowly pour the syrup into the beaten egg whites, aiming for the side of the bowl. The whites will almost double in volume. Reduce the speed to medium-high and beat until the whites (not the outside of the bowl) are lukewarm to the touch, about 114 F, about 15 minutes.

Scrape the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and, using a small offset spatula, spread it evenly to the sides. Let cool completely at room temperature.

To cut the marshmallows, sift about 1⁄2 cup of the powdered sugar onto a work surface in a rectangle the size of a sheet pan. Sift another 2 cups powdered sugar into a large bowl. Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the marshmallow. Invert the pan onto the sugared surface to unmold, then lift off the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Sift about 1⁄2 cup powdered sugar evenly over the top. Using a ruler to guide you and a lightly oiled sharp knife, cut the marshmallow sheet into 11⁄2-inch squares. It is easier if you use a pressing motion, rather than pull the knife. After cutting, toss the marshmallows, a few at a time, in the bowl of powdered sugar, coating them lightly.

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