Finally, we come to the end of the road for Browniefest 2015. As I write this it was still less than a week ago, although you won’t see it for another few days yet. I’ve already written about all the brownies I baked (15 batches!) but I wanted to wrap up with a discussion of what the other bakers did. Sadly, I have no pictures to offer.
Ariel Anders did three different dairy-free brownie recipes: one scratch-made and two from boxed mixes (Ghirardelli and Duncan Hines). I thought the scratch brownies were better than either of the mixes. There seems to have been some mixup with the evaluation results: I have two evaluations for a batch that never came, and none for one of Ari’s, so I’m not sure how that happened. Of the other two batches, the tasters seemed to prefer the Ghirardelli mix over Ari’s scratch recipe, but the sample size is so small (n=2) I wouldn’t want to draw any conclusions, particularly in light of the confusion.
Linda Julien contributed a vegan brownie recipe she found online, which was developed in the “use bean-canning water to replace eggs” community she is a part of. It actually placed surprisingly well, perhaps because it was located near the head of the line, with an “overall impression” score of 3.0 (spot-on “average” on the 1–5 scale) and a 3.5 for “moistness/mouth feel” (n=6).
Tristan Naumann made two boxed mixes, one from Ghirardelli (I think the “triple chocolate” version, which would not be the same as Ari’s dairy-free mix) and a Namaste Foods gluten-free mix. The latter received the worst overall score, 1.8, albeit with a small sample size (n=3). The Ghirardelli mix, on the other hand, was rated quite highly — it tied for fourth place with the “Cinnamon & Ancho Chile Brownies” from Ovenly that I made, with a 4.1 overall score (n=5).
Danielle Pace made “Rich Fudgy Flourless Brownies” by Natalie Dicks from the Web site Life Made Simple; these received below-average marks with a 2.7 overall (n=4) but actually rated better than average on “chocolate flavor” (4.0), “chewiness” (3.5), and “moistness/mouth feel” (3.3). Sue Felshin did another Judy Rosenberg recipe from Rosie’s Bakery, “Boom Booms”, which tied for seventh place with an overall score of 3.7 (n=4) and an excellent “moistness/mouth feel” score of 4.0.
Julie Sussman made a Christopher Kimball recipe, “The Best Chewy, Fudgy Brownies”, which she clipped from a newspaper years ago. She arrived a few minutes late, but her contribution still got ratings from four tasters, with an average “overall impression” score of 3.0. Ramesh Sridharan had issues with cooking times, and arrived even later (unluckily, he had decided to make his contribution the morning of the event), and only one taster evaluated his recipe, which was baked in muffin tins rather than the usual baking pan. Sue Perez was going to do a brownie recipe nased on “Fox’s U-Bet” chocolate syrup, apparently a big thing from where she grew up, but wasn’t able to.
Here are the results in tabular form. I have not attempted to correct any attribution errors here, so you will (for example) see ratings for brownies that weren’t actually there, “topping” ratings for brownies that didn’t have toppings, and so on.
|Name||Recipe source||Baker||# eval||# fav||Choc.||Chew.||Moist.||Top.||Overall|
|Best Cocoa Brownies||Alice Medrich||Garrett Wollman||5||4||4.6||4.6||4.4||—||4.6|
|New Classic Chocolate Brownies||Alice Medrich||Garrett Wollman||4||1||3.3||3.7||3.5||—||3.4|
|Chewy Brownies||Andrea Geary||Garrett Wollman||6||0||3.2||3.8||3.5||—||2.9|
|Fudgy Mascarpone Brownies||Joanne Chang||Garrett Wollman||5||1||3.8||3.7||4.1||*5.0||3.9|
|Salty Super Dark Chocolate Brownies||Kulaga & Patinkin||Garrett Wollman||8||0||2.9||2.5||2.3||*4.0||2.7|
|Cinnamon & Ancho Chile Brownies||Kulaga & Patinkin||Garrett Wollman||5||1||3.7||4.2||4.4||—||4.1|
|Double Fudge Brownies||King Arthur Flour||Garrett Wollman||7||1||3.7||3.1||3.6||—||3.0|
|Maury’s Best Brownies||Brooke Dojny||Garrett Wollman||8||1||3.8||3.7||4.3||—||3.7|
|Caramel Swirl Brownies||Carole Bloom||Garrett Wollman||6||1||3.8||3.8||4.2||4.0||3.3|
|Barter Brownies||Mindy Segal||Garrett Wollman||4||0||2.8||3.6||4.0||3.0||3.1|
|Peanut Butter Topped Brownies||Judy Rosenberg||Garrett Wollman||3||1||4.0||3.3||4.3||4.3||4.5|
|Hazelnut Brownies||Moosewood Collective||Garrett Wollman||6||0||3.4||3.0||2.6||3.5||3.5|
|Fritz’s Fudgy Brownies||Fritz Knipschildt||Garrett Wollman||5||0||2.6||2.6||2.5||3.8||2.7|
|Classic Brownies with Pecan-Coconut Topping||America’s Test Kitchen||Garrett Wollman||2||0||4.5||4||4.4||5.0||4.3|
|Black Forest Brownies||Emily Luchetti||Garrett Wollman||7||2||3.9||3.0||4.3||4.2||4.0|
|Rich Fudgy Flourless Brownies||Natalie Dicks||Danielle Pace||4||0||4.0||3.5||3.3||—||2.7|
|Boom Booms||Judy Rosenberg||Sue Felshin||4||0||3.5||3.3||4.0||4.0||3.7|
|Gluten-free Brownies||Namaste Foods||Tristan Naumann||3||0||1.7||1.7||2.7||—||1.8|
|Box Brownies||Ghirardelli||Tristan Naumann||5||0||3.8||3.2||3.5||—||4.1|
|The Best Chewy, Fudgy Brownies||Christopher Kimball||Julie Sussman||4||0||3.0||3.4||3.5||—||3.0|
|Dairy-free Box Brownies||Duncan Hines||Ariel Anders||1||0||—||—||—||—||1.0|
|Dairy-free Box Brownies||Ghirardelli||Ariel Anders||2||0||3.5||3.5||4.0||—||3.0|
|Dairy-free Scratch Brownies||—||Ariel Anders||4||0||2.5||2.3||3.7||—||2.3|
|Vegan Brownies||?||Linda Julien||6||0||2.8||3.0||3.5||*4.0||3.0|
|Brown Butter Cupcake Brownies||Phyllis Grant (adapted from Alice Medrich)||Ramesh Sridharan||1||0||4.0||3.0||4.0||—||3.5|
*Indicates one or more panelists evaluated something that didn’t exist.
Browniefest was a very successful event, but also pretty exhausting, not to mention expensive. I’ll probably manage to organize something very different next time around, and still spend too much and take on too much of the work myself. And my opinions of the brownies themselves? I liked almost all of them. King Arthur’s whole-wheat “Double Fudge Brownies” remain my favorite, despite the poor showing among the tasters at Browniefest. I’d like to revisit the Alice Medrich “New Classic” recipes, with their many variants, to see if any of them make a significant difference in flavor or texture; I thought her “Best Cocoa Brownies”, the overall winner among those filling out an evaluation form, were quite good as well, with an excellent work-to-reward ratio, and like many of these brownies could support a larger serving size. I loved the moistness and texture of Joanne Chang’s “Fudgy Mascarpone Brownies” — but need to figure out how to give them a bit more chocolate flavor. I thought the Ovenly brownies were excellent — both the “Cinnamon & Ancho Chile Brownies” that were a surprise hit and the “Salty Super Dark Chocolate Brownies” that the tasters didn’t care for; perhaps using the dark natural cocoa from Guittard that the authors suggest would make a difference.
I’m inclined to try “Fritz’s Fudgy Brownies” again with less flour and a stronger chocolate, because I’m intrigued by this raisin thing and don’t think it was a fair test with the way they came out this time. Of the other brownies with toppings that I made, my clear favorite is Rosie’s “Peanut Butter Topped Brownies”, followed very closely by Emily Luchetti’s “Black Forest Brownies” — both of these I would make again given the right occasion, although neither one really works as an “everyday” brownie recipe due to the amount of work involved. I thought the “Classic Brownies with Pecan-Coconut Topping” from Cook’s Illustrated were fine, but not worth the work. I wouldn’t bother retrying any of the other recipes, although I will continue to attempt other recipes from those authors and those sources in the future.