Chocolate Nut Brownies. Did you know that something so simple to bake can be a real challenge to your baking skills at 4200 feet elevation? I never knew how much high altitude baking could frazzle ones nerves until we bought a place in the North Carolina mountains eleven years ago.
You may know that I do not bake often, but when the need arises, it always seems to fall on days when we are in the mountains. Bad timing, bad luck…whatever it is, I know that I get incredibly frustrated! You might remember these
flat disks Chocolate Pavlovas. These were a product of high altitude baking. One minute they were puffed and beautiful and the next…poof! Flat as pancakes. At least the Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and Raspberry Sauce were incredibly good. What a disappointment.
I also choose to entertain more when we are in the mountains of North Carolina. I have one wall oven that sometimes does not behave properly. On occasion, I have fed as many as thirty people for a dinner party out of one oven. I’ll never forget that night because the smoke alarms were wailing in the kitchen as I tried to negotiate multiple dishes from the single oven. Call me crazy…yes, maybe…
When I was given the chance to review the Kitchen Aid Convection Bake Countertop Oven, I promptly decided to take this neat little oven to North Carolina to act as a second oven. However, I also decided to put it to the ultimate test…baking in the mountains! I wanted to see if the convection bake feature would assist in the problems that can sometimes occur at high altitudes. I also wanted to see how a smaller oven would compare to a full size oven. Besides that, I just like a good challenge!
If you are not familiar with convection baking, a convection oven distributes heat more evenly due to a fan that circulates the air. It equalizes the hot and cold spots and it uses less energy. Cooking and baking in a convection bake oven should create a more evenly cooked, baked and browned final product. Of course, convection baking takes some adjustments.
If you are converting a standard recipe to a convection oven you would either: bake for the same length of time as you would using a conventional oven but reduce the temperature by 25 degrees or; bake for a slightly shorter period of time at the same temperature. The latter method tends to be the most successful method for most ovens, but you can see which method works best for you.
The first baking attempt was a blueberry muffin recipe from a high altitude cookbook. My scientific method of testing took one pan of muffins and baked them in the regular oven at the standard temperature. I took the other pan and baked it with the convection bake adjustments using the reduced temperature with just a few minutes less baking time.
As you will see, both pans of muffins look identical. We did not love the muffin recipe. The cake was a little dense and the topping did not incorporate properly into the muffins, but they rose and baked evenly in both ovens. I was impressed that this countertop oven would produce the same results as a full size oven.
In between baking tests, I used the Kitchen Aid Convection Bake Countertop Oven to cook smaller casseroles, bake chicken breasts, warm up leftovers and heat bread. It was nice to have a smaller oven that worked a little bit faster and did not heat up the house, especially with the extra toasty temps we have experienced this summer.
My next baking project was a pan of brownies. I found a brownie recipe in my trusty old Pillsbury cookbook that was made for an 8 or 9-inch square pan. Gotta love the folks at Pillsbury because they give you high altitude adjustments for baking in their older cookbooks when newer cookbooks do not. It’s nice when they take the guesswork out of the process.
Once again, I had success! The brownies were chocolaty and moist. They were almost fudgy, but not cloyingly so or overly sweet. They would be perfect with a glass of milk or warmed with a homemade scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce (I like Ina Garten’s recipe). Someone recently mentioned that I did not have a brownie recipe on my site…well, I have one now!
Thanks to Kitchen Aid, I am excited to be able to host this giveaway for a Kitchen Aid Convection Bake Countertop Oven for one of my readers to win. I was impressed with its performance, especially when given the baking challenge at 4200 feet! It is perfect as a second oven for smaller dishes and would be a welcome addition to anyone’s kitchen that has only one oven or wants a smaller oven to use for certain dishes. It also has a toasting feature, but I did not use it as I already have a toaster that I am very happy with.
*** THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. CONGRATS TO PATTIE MEEGAN WHO IS THE WINNER! ***
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Chocolate Nut Brownies
Yield: 12 brownies
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
This recipe is for regular baking. If you need to make adjustments for high altitude (above 3500 feet), decrease baking powder to 1/4 teaspoon. If you are baking in a convection oven, reduce temperature to 325 degrees and bake for a few minutes less.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (Decrease to 1/4 teaspoon for high altitude)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (with butter) and lightly flour bottom only of 8 or 9-inch square pan. In a large saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Blend in sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread in prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until set in center. * Be sure not to overbake if you want a softer center. Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars to serve.
Recipe adapted from Pillsbury Kitchen's Family Cookbook