Brownies Three Ways

The Grinder recently wrote up the always amusing Pioneer Woman, a “desperate housewife” forced to make do on a rural cattle ranch. But in the virtual world, the Pioneer Woman has now migrated to the very urban environs of Serious Eats, where she recently made her debut with a photo-loaded look at “The Great Baking Chocolate Debate.” To wit: “Does the quality of baking chocolate really matter?”

As she writes, “My local grocery store carries one brand only, and I generally use it with a smile. Still, sometimes I hear the voices in my head—the voices of many a pastry chef who came before me (well, I’m not a pastry chef, but follow along here)—who’ve always said that the quality of baking chocolate makes all the difference in baking.” To test that, she did a comparison bake-off of brownies using Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, Scharffen Berger unsweetened, and—gulp—a box of Betty Crocker Original Supreme (“Please don’t hate me. Please, please don’t hate me.”).

Sadly, quality costs: “The brownies made with Scharffen Berger chocolate had a smooth, deep chocolate flavor. Period. There was nothing detracting from the chocolate flavor, and no aftertaste.” The Baker’s brownies came in third—after Betty Crocker: “The chocolate flavor didn’t sustain itself through each bite, and the flavor just felt flat. In addition, there was a noticeable aftertaste that just didn’t exist with the Scharffen Berger brownies.” It’s a sad day for shoppers at mediocre grocery stores. Happily, the commenters stand up tall for Ghirardelli.