Friday, December 21, 2012
potato chip cluster brownies.
If you were to ask me how did this happen, my honest answer to you is that one day, I was lying on my bed and two phrases popped into my head: potato chips and brownies.
Do normal people have random foods appearing in their minds?
After that, I just couldn't stop thinking about them. The most obvious way to incorporate the two was to bake them together. However, I knew just adding crushed chips to the brownie batter would result in soggy salty flakes of potato chips. I could make a potato chip crust, but it being at the bottom, smothered by all that brownie liquid, would definitely turn it limp and unappetizing. Plus, it would make holding the brownie up difficult. I knew I had to turn the potato chips into something thick and crunchy to hold up to all that moisture, so I came up with potato chip clusters.
So then, I had two options: One, to stir them into the batter as a mix-in. Two, to sprinkle them on top, holding them high and mostly dry from all the moisture.
At first, I wanted to go with option two. But at the point of adding them in, I changed my mind at the split second and... the potato chip became one with the brownie. I wonder why. Because it's only natural to stir things into brownie batter instead of sprinkling them on top? Maybe.
But good news! Most of the potato chip clusters managed to retain a fair bit of their sturdiness. In other words, they were no longer crunchy but they were not soft and mushy either. They were quite firm to the bite, if that's the way to describe it. To really really ensure that you keep at least some parts of the potato chip clusters crunchy, you have to use huge chunks. But don't go crazy- you'll still need to fit that thing in your mouth. Of course, you could also try what I did not- scatter them on the surface of the batter.
Actually, I predicted that the potato chip clusters would go soft pretty quickly so I refrigerated some brownies to see if refrigeration helps to keep the clusters crunchy. (And since the brownies were refrigerated, I might as well dip them in chocolate and sprinkles. I mean, that's common sense right?) The results were pretty good- most of the clusters' crunch held up but the smaller pieces didn't do so well. So, the best way to prevent soggy clusters is to, firstly, use fairly large pieces of potato chip clusters and secondly, refrigerate the brownies once they are baked.
Now, the potato chip cluster thing was something I conjured up from nowhere so the recipe isn't perfect. This batch I made, using 1/4 cup of sugar, is right in the middle of sweet and savory. If you happen to bite into a salted cashew, the scale tips towards savory. If you encounter a part that has a little more sugar stuck onto it, then the scale tips the other way towards the sweet side. Yes, it's tiring. My tastebuds were initially confused. After a while though, it's actually quite enjoyable. My recommendation though, is to make these with less sugar so you can experience the contrast between sweet and salty in the brownies more distinctly. For more guidance, read the notes below!
Potato Chip Cluster Brownies
makes an 8 x 5 inch pan's worth
If you want the potato chip clusters to be salty, omit the sugar. If you don't want it to be too salty yet not quite sweet, use 2 tbsp. If you want a result that is smack dab in the middle of sweet and salty, use 1/4 cup.
For the potato chip clusters:
1 1/2 cups crushed potato chips
1/4 cup roasted cashews, chopped into medium-large pieces
3 tbsp flour
optional: 2 tbsp sugar or 4 tbsp (see note above)
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 an egg white, whisked until frothy
Preheat oven to 300F. Prepare a baking sheet, ensuring that it is thoroughly greased.
Toss the potato chips and cashews together in a large bowl. Add the flour and toss to coat evenly. Add the sugar, if using, and toss again. Stir in the melted butter until it is evenly distributed. Stir in the whisked egg white and stir to mix evenly. The mixture will appear very damp but that's okay.
Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Let the mixture cool before breaking it up into chunks. Store in an airtight container.
For the brownie:
36g cake flour
3/16 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp butter
1 1/4 ounces milk chocolate
1/4 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
70g brown sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup potato chip clusters
Preheat oven to 325F. Prepare a 8 x 5 inch pan.
Whisk the flour and baking powder together. Set aside.
Melt the butter, chocolates and salt. Set aside to cool slightly then stir in the vanilla extract.
Whisk the egg and brown sugar until the mixture is pale and thick. Whisk in the chocolate mixture until combined. Stir in the flour mixture just until the flour disappears. Stir in the potato chip clusters until evenly distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 18 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the brownie comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely before slicing. For easier and cleaner cutting, I like to refrigerate my brownies until thoroughly chilled, about 4 hours after cooling in the pan for half an hour. To speed up the process, place the brownies in the freezer for 30 minutes.