Here is the definition of titrate:
verb (used with object), verb (used without object), -trat·ed, -trat·ing. Chemistry.
to ascertain the quantity of a given constituent by adding a liquid reagent of known strength and measuring the volume necessary to convert the constituent to another form.
Last night I made Nutella brownies for my sweetheart. At least, I meant to make Nutella brownies. What I got was a huge, deep batch of arguably the best brownies I’ve ever made, which filled the kitchen with that heady hazelnut-infused melty Nutella scent, even though the final product didn’t really taste like Nutella. No matter.
In any case, I’ll be making them again, because they represent the outrageously successful completion of a chemistry experiment I didn’t know I was involved in.
Remember titration from chemistry class? It was that theory you studied to figure out how much of one thing you could put in a second thing until the first thing combined with the second thing to make a third new thing. Sort of like learning how much Tom Waits I can take before I turn into a monster (except I don’t turn pink like the stuff we always used in chemistry class, I just yell).
So my experiment asked this question: how much butter can you possibly put in a pan of brownies before you have chocolate butter, not brownies?
I found the edge, but I didn’t go over. I didn’t find the third thing, I found the ultimate balance. (I can hear all you chemistry buffs screaming, “then you didn’t complete the titration!”) I didn’t. And the results taste divine. I don’t know whether the Nutella, with its partially-hydrogenated peanut oil, is what did the trick, or maybe the full pound of chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s semisweet), but I don’t particularly care. Not today, at least.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Mr. Butter. I love you. You put me in a good mood:
Recipe for Butter-Titrated Brownies
Recipe 45 of 365
There is nothing healthy about these brownies, so don’t even try to find their good points. They are for your eating pleasure. They will showcase your neighborly love and earn you endless brownie points (har har), and in my case they’ve already encouraged friends to offer favors I didn’t ask of them. But they will not make you thinner or healthier.
There’s nothing like a hot brownie, but the texture of these actually improves when you refrigerate them overnight. (Kathy Gunst taught me this technique; it helps achieve the great chewy texture you get with boxed brownies.)
TIME: 30 minutes, plus baking
MAKES: 24 brownies
Nonstick baking spray (the kind with flour in it), or butter and flour for the pan
1 pound (16 ounces) bittersweet chocolate
1 pound unsalted butter (4 sticks)
1 cup Nutella
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon real vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9- x 13-inch cake pan with the spray, or butter and flour the pan, and set aside.
Chop the chocolate into small pieces with a large serrated knife, and transfer it to a heatproof mixing bowl. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbly. Remove the pan from the heat and let rest for 2 minutes, then pour the butter over the chocolate, and stir with a whisk until completely smooth. Add the Nutella, and whisk again until smooth.
Meanwhile, in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and the eggs together on medium speed until thick and light, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla and salt, and stir again to combine. With the mixer on low, add the melted chocolate/butter mixture in a slow, steady stream, mixing until uniform in color.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the flour on top of the batter, and fold the flour in by hand until no white streaks remain. (The batter will be thick.) Scoop the batter into the prepared pan and spread it into as even a layer as possible.
Bake the brownies for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached (it shouldn’t come out completely clean). Cool to room temperature, cover loosely with foil, and refrigerate overnight. Store brownies you don’t eat the first day or so in an airtight container (or well-wrapped), uncut, if possible.