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Perfect Recipe Baking Book — Murray Jaffe’s Perfect Brownies

by on October 5, 2010 · 20 comments

I was irritable this morning for several trivial reasons: I was having trouble with my computer, the folding table I’d ordered had arrived broken…twice; and I have this chronic, annoying eyelid problem (or is it sinus issue>?) that only Dr. House can fix….and he’s not real. My week wasn’t getting off to a very good start and I figured the only thing that might help would be brownies — plain old fudge brownies. Luckily I had what I thought would be the perfect recipe.

brownies

This recipe is from a book called The Perfect Recipe Baking Book: 50 Foolproof Recipes for America’s Classic Cakes, Pies, Cookies, and More by the late Murray Jaffe. Now I’d never heard of Mr. Jaffe until I found this little book in the Pleasant Hill library, but I wish I could have met him. He made his fortune helping his 17 year old daughter Barbara start a baking company in 1971. They named it Barbara’s Bakery, and after running the company for many years they sold it to Weetabix. Barbara, and especially Murray, remained very passionate home bakers, and during his retirement Murray wrote this little cookbook in which he cited Barbara as his inspiration. In it are the 50 recipes he saved over the years and which of course, he believed were perfect.

This brownie recipe was Murray’s idea of perfection and in the intro he states that he must have tried 50 brownies recipes before stopping at this one. With an endorsement like that, how could I resist?

One interesting thing to note for all you avid brownie bakers is that this recipe, like the Robert’s Fudgy Brownie recipe from Scharffen Berger, requires a good beating *after* the addition of flour. Since the success of many baked items hinges on how the flour is treated after adding it to the batter (gently stirred to avoid strengthening glutens or beaten briskly to build them), I found it interesting that this brownie recipes required the latter. What would building the glutens due to a brownie recipe? They wouldn’t be tough, or Murray wouldn’t have put them in his top 50. So I suspected the brownies would have a little chewiness too them are at least be more rigid…..much like boxed brownies.

I was right. If you want a brownie with the texture of a box and the flavor of homemade, Murray’s recipe is perfect. Because the chocolate flavor comes from cocoa, your brownie will be only as good as the cocoa you use. However, I can tell you that if you break out the “every day” cocoa, you’ll still get an awesome brownies. These are chewy on the outside (sort of), thick, soft on the center, and have a perfect balance of cocoa.

Meanwhile, if you can get your hands on a copy of this book consider yourself lucky. It’s been out of print for a while, but Murray Jaffe was ahead of his time as far as home baking goes. Every recipe has an intro, but his advice on kitchen scales, salted vs. unsalted butter, types of cookieware, weights of eggs, is all ahead of his time. Or at least in terms of home baking. All I can say is if you are looking for a useful, collectible, cookbook for yourself or a gift, this is a good one.

The Perfect Recipe Book

Perfect Recipe Baking Book — Murray Jaffe’s Perfect Brownies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Murray’s Perfect Brownies are an easy cocoa based brownie recipe.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature **
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa – measure then sift after measuring
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt **
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
Instructions
  1. Line an 8 inch square metal pan with foil and spray bottom with cooking spray.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position rack to center.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the sugar until mixed in. Beat in the eggs (just until mixed — don’t beat in a lot of air), then add the cocoa and mix until smooth. Thoroughly blend together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the mixing bowl and beat for 2 minutes (important ). Add the water and vanilla and mix, then mix in the walnuts. Dough will be stilff and sticky.
  4. Spread dough in pan and bake for 30 40 minutes (I baked for 30) or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without batter on it.
  5. Let cool for a few hours, then lift from pan and cut into 16 squares.
Notes
**Murray uses salted butter. I used unsalted and increased the salt in the recipe by 1/4 scant teaspoon to make 1/2 scant teaspoon.

 

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Published on October 5, 2010

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon October 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Is that correct – salted butter + salt? These sound good and I have everything to make them, but I don’t want overly salty brownies…

Anna October 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Shannon, that’s correct. Murray uses salted butter plus 1/4 teaspoon salt. I only had unsalted so I used just barely a 1/2 teaspoon total. I could taste the salt a tiny, tiny, bit. However, I liked it. It was a good salty (offset the 1 1/2 cups sugar!) and not bad salty. To be safe, I’d use a good brand of salted butter next time and stick with the 1/4 tsp.

CindyD October 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Did you try calling Southwest? I had to call last time I wanted to book a reward flight.
And not to make your day worse, but that St. Lucia ad/audio pop up on your website is VERY annoying. Plus I’d never go to St. Lucia because my brother broke his leg on his honeymoon there (!) and medical services were non-existent.

Anna October 5, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Cindy, I figure if it’s not on the website, then it’s not available. I’ve noticed rewards are suddenly harder to take advantage of. Then again, I’m looking at Spring Break Texas to Orlando so that may be the problem right there.

I’ll see what I can do about the St. Lucia ad.

Lisa October 5, 2010 at 4:18 pm

A good batch of brownies will always solve any problem and these look like they’d brighten anyone’s day. They really do look fudgy, chewy, and everything a brownie should be.

Jess @ Bakericious October 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm

salted butter + salt, sound interesting and looks tempting, yummy.

Sue October 5, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Sorry you had some annoying things going on. I hope the brownies helped! They sure do look good!
I recently bought a new cookbook by a famous author and since it’s a cookbook not a baking book I didn’t look to see if it had weights in it. Of course the first thing I made was a baked item and sure enough. No weights. And my results were less than perfect, although still very tasty. I am very disappointed in this author. It makes me especially proud of Mr. Jaffe for being ahead of his time and using scales and weights of ingredients. It makes so much difference! If I ever see that book I’m snapping up!!

Michelle October 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm

These look delicious! Do you think they will still taste as good if I don’t bother with toasting the walnuts?

BabetteBakes October 5, 2010 at 5:21 pm

The Chicago Public Library has a copy, I just put it on hold, thanks for the recommendation!

Camille October 5, 2010 at 5:44 pm

I am convinced that brownies make everything better.
I am right… right?

Katrina October 5, 2010 at 5:48 pm

You find the best books!

Sally October 5, 2010 at 6:11 pm

I found a used copy of the book on amazon.com for $7.20 with $3.99 shipping. There were other sellers who had copies as well – some went as high as $60+ for a hard bound copy. I’m haven’t ordered a baking book in a long time so I’m really excited! Not much room on my bookcase but I’ll find a space for it :)

vanillasugar October 5, 2010 at 6:49 pm

anna i’m experimenting with brownie pancakes. ever try this? do email me if you have! LOL!!!

Gloria October 5, 2010 at 9:00 pm

I wonder what they would be like with out blending for 2 minutes? I don’t want to potentially waste good ingredients to find out! Or maybe adding 1/2 small mashed banana? Did they have the shiny crinkly top or more of a crisp top? I know, so many questions!
They look delicious and easy to make!

the blissful baker October 5, 2010 at 9:28 pm

i love chewy, fudgy brownies! i’ll have to try this recipe to see if these brownies are indeed perfect :)

Lina October 6, 2010 at 12:15 am

Thats an interesting take on the double salt (butter + extra 1/4 tsp). I think it will add a new dimension to these brownies. YUMMM

Shannon October 6, 2010 at 8:26 am

I made these last night (using unsalted butter + ~1/2 tsp. salt and no nuts) and they are definitely pretty near perfect brownies. You are right on by saying they have the texture of box brownies (in a good way) but the taste of homemade. My hubby said they taste like the brownie bites from the bakery at Hannaford (our supermarket up here), which is a good thing! This will definitely be a go-to recipe for when I want a good classic brownie, but not something really fudgy. I really like how thick the brownies are and how they get a nice “crust” on top.

Gloria – mine had a crisp, slightly crinkly top, but not shiny. Lina – If you want to really taste the salt, I’d maybe add even a little more then specified. I found the salt level to taste normal, without a noticeable salt taste.

Brenda October 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Dr. House isn’t real????

Janet October 6, 2010 at 6:50 pm

These look very good….did you use Ghiradelli Cocoa or dutch process or Hershey’s? Thanks for the recipe!

Rhonda in OK October 7, 2010 at 11:15 am

I baked these yesterday, used Hersheys cocoa, baked the recipe exactly as published.
they are a great everyday brownie. Thank you!

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