Readers paging through The Ultimate Brownie Book will swear they can smell melting chocolate. Brownies by definition are simple to make, so the only difficulty is deciding which kind to make first. After a short section on equipment and ingredients, the recipes are nicely laid out on facing pages so that you never have to turn back and forth in the middle of one. Authors Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough acknowledge the age-old debate over whether the best brownies are fudgy or cakelike (every recipe that falls decidedly in one camp or the other is categorized). The spectrum stretches from Cake Brownies ("Fudge lovers, you'll have to skip ahead," warn the authors) to Fudge Brownies ("a chocolate-lover's grail"). The Brown Sugar Brownies fall right on the halfway point, making them universally pleasing. Members of the fudge camp will find the Malt Brownies just perfect, with their chewy edges, creamy and rich middle, intensely chocolatey flavor, and the beautiful old-fashioned aroma of malt. Weinstein and Scarbrough also offer such new-fangled concoctions as Cocoa Nib Brownies, Marzipan Brownies, and Mexican Chocolate Brownies, as well as old favorites, including Cream Cheese Brownies and Butterscotch Blondies. And just to make sure there's something for everyone, there are a number of low-fat recipes, one that's fat-free, a gluten-free brownie, and even one for Passover. --Leora Y. Bloom
From Publishers Weekly
As Weinstein and Scarbrough point out in their fun introduction, brownies are an American original, "part confection, part pastry.... the stuff of dreams." It's debatable, however, whether they deserve their own cookbook. The authors attempt to overcome this with chapters dedicated to blondies and concoctions that use packaged mixes, but the results are a mixed batch. Classic desserts such as Cake Brownies and Walnut Brownies are the strongest. Each recipe comes with an almost overwhelming number of suggested variations (toasted pepit s and chopped dried prunes, for instance, may jazz up Banana Brownies). Some variations, such as Mexican Chocolate Brownies, introduce new flavor dimensions, and while brownie purists may turn up their noses at Fat-Free Brownies, they are a thoughtful inclusion. Things get weird, however, with Chile Brownies and Sweet Corn Brownies made with canned creamed corn. Some of the blondies repeat flavors from brownie recipes (Banana Blondies, etc.) or take inspiration from them (Jam Swirl Blondies mimic Marble Cheesecake Brownies), but they do so with different techniques. The chapter on brownie mixes is puzzling: Why would anyone who loves brownies want to use a mix? Here, too, there are occasionally off-sounding flavor combinations, such as Brownie Mix Lemon Bars and Brownie Mix Peach Cobbler.
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