Alton Brown is one of the most recognizable celebrity chefs on culinary television, having helmed the Food Network‘s Good Eats TV show for 14 seasons, as well as hosting competitions like Cutthroat Kitchen and Iron Chef America. Over the years, Brown has released more than a dozen best-selling cookbooks, many of which reinvented how everyday cooks approach traditional fare in their home kitchens. One such dish that got the typical Brown reinvention was the humble brownie. And it all comes down to one simple trick that you can use with any brownie recipe to create a gooey, fudgy texture.
Brown was a cinematographer before he became a chef
Before he was a star on the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, Brown attended the University of Georgia to study film. His post-college career in cinematography is what led him to find his love for cooking. “He was director of photography for the video of R.E.M.’s song ‘The One I Love,’” reports Biography.
“He has said that he spent all of his time between takes on the set watching cooking shows and he felt he could do a better job.” Thus, Brown went back to school and enrolled at the New England Culinary Institute. He also created an idea for a new cooking show, and pitched it to studio executives. It was an immediate hit.
“Combining humor, science and history, Good Eats relied on Brown’s nerdy personality and his passion for cooking,” explains Biography, which says Brown was inspired by comedy troupe Monty Python and American chef Julia Child. “The pilot for Brown’s cooking show aired on Chicago’s WTTW in 1998 before being picked up by the Food Network in 1999. […] Over the years, Good Eats became one of the cable network’s most successful and respected shows, winning both a Peabody Award and a James Beard Award.”
From Good Eats, Brown branched out into celebrity cooking competitions, numerous other TV shows, and a range of cookbooks. “I think he’s the greatest genius that Food Network ever hired, with Mario Batali a close second,” said Allen Salkin in the New York Times.
Brown reinvented the basic fudgy brownie
The New York Times points out that Brown has long been known for putting his creative, unconventional take on everyday foods. “[Brown’s] recipes range from simple with a twist (warm Saltines brushed with dried mustard, hot sauce, and butter) to delicious gimmicks (a breakfast carbonara) to science experiments (pancake batter powered by nitrous oxide),” the Times reports. “He even makes cold barley water steeped with lemon and sweetened with honey seem ridiculously appealing.”
Brown even turned his culinary eye to the simple brownie. Many people struggle to maintain a moist, fudgy texture throughout the entire baking pan, resulting in some parts of the brownie being moist and other parts being hard and crunchy. But Brown found a way by switching up the normal way you would bake the dessert.
Everyday critics were immediately impressed by his simple hack. “[It] makes all the difference and creates ‘an ooey-gooey brownie’ you’ll want to make over and over again,” declared Buzzfeed. “This is not something you have tried before; trust us!,” exclaimed Mashed. Brown’s hack is all about how you cook the brownie itself.
Brown’s clever hack has nothing to do with ingredients
Brown’s hack, as he shares on his website AltonBrown.com, is straightforward: Play with the baking temperature. Brown recommends pouring the brownie batter into your baking pan and baking it for 15 minutes at 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Then, Brown removes the brownies from the oven before they’re even finished baking. He places the brownies on the counter and lets them cool for 15 minutes. After they’ve cooled, Brown puts the dish back into the oven and lets the brownies bake for a final 30 minutes.
It’s “proof positive that technique is just as important as ingredients, especially when it comes to chocolaty goodness,” declares Brown. “This is version 2.0 — a change up in the baking time creates a fudgy brownie with a crisp and flaky crust.”
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