Oscar Brownies

My good friend, Gayle, who recently returned from living with her husband in the Middle East for several years, told me that while abroad she loved making brownies because they were redolent of home. When entertaining, she often ended meals with a plate of these quintessential American treats.
She began her brownie marathon with a recipe titled “Katharine Hepburn’s Brownies” that she discovered on the internet, but over time she added her own touches. In the original version there’s a cup of chopped walnuts, which my pal (a definite chocoholic) replaced with chocolate chips, and to counter the extra sweetness she cleverly added a hint of vinegar to the batter.
This week when Gayle arrived for a visit at our house, she brought a batch of the delectable creations with her. One bite and I knew that these brownies with their movie star pedigree would be perfect for Oscar night, this Sunday, February 26th! Dense, moist, and intensely chocolate, they would make perfect nibbles for savoring during the show. I couldn’t resist adding a special garnish and topped each square with a white chocolate star.

Print out the ballots, bake some brownies (count on less than 15 minutes prep and about 45 for baking), and then root for your favorite actors and movies on Sunday night!
Oscar Brownies
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, diced plus extra for the pan
1/4 cup flour plus extra for the pan
2 squares (2 ounces total) unsweetened (not bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
White Chocolate Stars (Recipe follows), optional
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan and tap out excess flour. Line the pan with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom, and butter and flour the paper, and tap out excess flour.
1. Place the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Stir constantly until both have melted and mixture is smooth. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the sugar. Then stir in the eggs, vanilla, and vinegar.
2. Stir in the flour, salt, and chocolate chips, and beat mixture well to combine. Pour batter into the prepared pan, and bake until a toothpick or tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.  Remove and cool to room temperature.
3. When cool, use a sharp knife to loosen brownies from the edges of the pan. Then invert onto a work surface. Peel off parchment and discard. Cut into 9 large or 12 smaller portions. Makes 9 to 12 brownies. 
Note: I made some white chocolate modeling dough and cut out stars as decorations for my brownies. Here’s the recipe if you want to gild your creations.
White Chocolate Stars
7 ounces white chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 cup light corn syrup
Equipment needed: star-shaped cookie cutter; hand pasta maker, if available
1. Melt white chocolate in the top of a double boiler over gently simmering water; stir until smooth. Stir in syrup. Pour onto a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer chocolate to a work surface and knead several minutes, and then shape into a ball and wrap in plastic. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
2. Cut ball into 4 equal pieces, and flatten each into rectangle. If you have a pasta machine, set at widest setting. Run chocolate through 3 times, folding into thirds before each run. Chocolate should be about 1/16 thick. If not, adjust machine to next narrower setting, and run though again, but without folding. Repeat flattening, folding, and rolling the remaining pieces. If you don’t have a pasta machine, dust a clean work surface with some confectioner’s sugar, and then roll out each of the pieces of chocolate dough until 1/16 inch thick. 
3. Cut out stars with a star cookie cutter and place atop each brownie. (Extra chocolate dough can be frozen; wrap in plastic, place in a tightly sealed plastic bag, and freeze for up to 2 months.)

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