Palm Beach Brownies
Makes about 2 dozen brownies.
Note: Adapted from several Maida Heatter cookbooks, including "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts."
• 1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus 2 tbsp. for pan
• 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
• 5 eggs
• 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. almond extract
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. dry instant espresso powder
• 3 3/4 c. sugar
• 1 2/3 c. flour
• 8 oz. (2 generous c.) walnut halves, roughly chopped
Adjust rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Invert a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and drape it with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side down, long enough to cover the pan's sides. Using your hands, carefully press down on the foil around the sides and the corners to shape it over the pan to create a foil liner. Remove foil, turn pan right side up, place foil liner in pan and carefully press into place. Place 2 tablespoons butter into prepared pan. Place pan in oven for 1 to 2 minutes to melt butter, then brush melted butter evenly across bottom of foil-lined pan.
In a double boiler over gently simmering water (or in a microwave oven), combine chocolate with remaining 1 cup butter, stirring occasionally, until chocolate and butter have melted and are thoroughly combined and smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, beat eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, salt, espresso powder and sugar for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and beat for 9 additional minutes. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl, reduce speed to medium, add cooled chocolate-butter mixture and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour and mix until just combined. Stir in nuts.
Scrape batter evenly into prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 16 minutes, then rotate pan halfway. Cover pan loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking for another 16 minutes. At this point, the brownies should be pulling away from the pan's edges and the top should have developed a few modest cracks. The brownies should have a thick, crisp crust, but if you insert a toothpick in the middle, it will come out wet. If no cracks have appeared, remove aluminum foil cover and bake an additional minute (up to three minutes, checking after each minute). Do not overbake.
Remove from oven, transfer pan to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze at least overnight.
When ready to serve, thaw brownies. Cover with a wire rack or cookie sheet and invert, removing the pan and peeling away the aluminum foil layer. Cover with a cutting board and invert, leaving brownies right-side up.
Using a serrated knife, trim the dark, dry edges (saving as a treat for the baker, with a glass of cold milk) and cut brownies into squares or rectangles. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Wrap individual brownies in plastic wrap, or store in an airtight container.