I have a thing about brownies. They have to be good. I become very annoyed when someone tries to serve me a brownie that is sub-par.
When I first moved to Boulder Colorado 12 years ago I called some local catering companies to see if anyone had part-time work for a chef. A smaller catering company called me right back and offered me a part-time position. I did not know anything about the company I was going to work for but I still accepted the position. My thought being that I can learn something from anyone I work for. Well I certainly learned what NOT to do in catering by working for this guy.
If there was a boxed mix or #10 can for a menu item from the local food distributor he would buy it. Tomato sauce came from a can or other sauces came in powder form.
Entrée items like Chicken Cordon Bleu came frozen in a bag.
I can remember being in the back of house for a wedding and pleading at the owner “can you give me SOMETHING green besides dried parsley to garnish with..anything?”
It was seriously disgraceful.
To top all this off, cookies and brownies came from a box mix that you just added water. No eggs, butter or milk, just water.
The brownies had absolutely no chocolate flavor at all. They tasted like brown. Just brown. Not chocolate. Not even a deep rich brown but an anemic, grayish brown. I think you get the point.
What a way to finish a mediocre meal but with a cloying sweet piece of brown…..stuff. This dessert did not earn the name of brownie. I had to leave this company before I lost my love of cooking. They did not need a chef but someone to open #10 cans and add water to brown powder.
I did learn something working there. I learned that I had to make a commitment to prepare EVERYTHING I served from scratch when I owned my own catering business. I also vowed to learn to make everything the best possible way I could from the finest ingredients. There would be no compromise. Fresh herbs, organic veggies when possible, locally grown veggies when in season, the best quality meats and all the desserts made entirely from scratch. Well almost all of the desserts…
My catering and dinner delivery business flourished. People loved my natural and fresh style and clients told their friends and family. Word of mouth business made up 90 percent of my customers. I did not need to advertise at all.
I was cooking full-time in a rented kitchen and catering nearly 3-4 nights a week. During this time I will admit that I used a box mix for my brownies. Gasp! Yes I did.
I used Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix. This mix added with butter and eggs came out rich, dense, chocolately and topped with the crinkled sugary chocolate crust I love.
When I stepped down from running my own business to cook for Cal-Wood education center I vowed to create a great brownie recipe for a crowd that was fool-proof and could work great at 8000 feet altitude.
This has not been an easy task! My first attempts were decided failures. When a recipe is scaled up to larger sizes all sorts of things change. I had brownies that ran over the side of the pan, ones that tasted like cake, and so on. I was not sure it would be possible and then I really focused on the task at hand. I was determined.
Taking the best of Ina Garten, David Lebovitz and Cooks Illustrated I created a dense, chocolately brownie with a perfect crust and I do believe my brownie problems have been solved!
Last week at Cal-Wood I served Grilled Lemon and Thyme Chicken with brown rice, steamed broccoli and a fresh-baked wheat dinner roll. To finish the meal I served my brownies cut into small pieces.
After dinner I went out into the dining room and two 6th grade girls came up to me. They grabbed my arms and one said, “Oh Chef Connie that brownie was the best thing I have ever eaten!” and the other said just rolled her eyes back in her head and said “the best….”. While shaking her head side to side in a dazed fashion. You gotta hand it to kids that age for being very honest about food and if they love something they really love it!
I am now going to share this recipe with you in hopes that next time you need 200+ brownies you can turn to a recipe that is easy, cost-effective and delicious. If you don’t have the time for all these steps of this recipe Ghardelli makes a great brownie mix but try this recipe as it is much better tasting. You do not even need to be up at 8000 feet. It works great at all altitudes.
These brownies freeze well also.
Rich Chocolate Brownies for a Crowd
(made entirely from scratch)
Recipe makes 240 1-inch brownies. This recipe can be divided by 4 for smaller batches of 60 brownies.
20 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 lb unsalted butter
6 ounces cocoa powder
12 large eggs
35 ounces sugar
4 ounces vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sea salt
20 ounces (1 lb 4 oz)all-purpose flour
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt unsweetened chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler on the stove. Add powdered chocolate when melted and combine throughly. Let cool slightly.
In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla.
In another bowl mix flour and salt together.
In a large bowl mix together cooled chocolate mixture and egg mixture and stir to combine.
Sift flour mixture in to make sure you do not have any lumps. It is import to sift the flour mixture in to evenly mix everything together. I do this step with a large strainer that has a handle.
Stir to combine.
Line a 12x18x2 inch cake pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray. This is a large pan or you can divide the batter into smaller pans.
Bake for 35-40 minutes for full size pan. Check after 35 minutes and feel the center top of brownie to see if it is firm.
Let cool for 2 hours before cutting. For best results cool overnight before cutting.