All of the teachers at my internship are, unlike me, overseas Chinese and Chinese is their mother tongue, which means I can learn a lot from them, either by practicing my Chinese or observing their teaching methods. It also means I served these brownies with a ridiculous amount of chocolate in them during the break to compensate for the lack of a Chinese nationality (kidding), but maybe also a bit to calm my first-day-of-internship nerves. Of course the day went great and there was nothing to be nervous for to begin with, and at night my roommates and me went to Amsterdam to go to the movies followed by a Chinese dinner.
Chinese restaurants sometimes have two menus, one for the tourists or Dutch people who are complete idiots when it comes to Chinese food, eating with chopsticks or just anything Chinese. And there’s the menu for the Chinese people who know what they’re dealing with. So when we were handed a menu mostly in Dutch, I asked the waiter (who was probably the same age as us) politely if he also had a Chinese version. The conversation went as followed:
Him: Well.. I do.. but I’m assuming you don’t speak Chinese.
Me: Well.. I do..
Him, raising his eyebrows: You can speak Chinese?
Me: Yeah.. I actually had my first teaching day today.
Him, in a cute voice: Aah, you had your first Chinese class today?
Me, smiling a bit uncomfortably: No, I taught my first Chinese class today.
Him, still not believing me: So you think you can read those characters on the menu?
He still didn’t believe me, but at least he gave me the Chinese menu and added in a skeptical tone “if you need any help, just let me know”. Later when I ordered in Chinese, the flustered waiter didn’t respond back in it, except for a clumsy “ok”. And then it occurred to me that he probably was fluent in Cantonese, but my Mandarin was way better than his. For the rest of the night he tried to avoid our table as much as possible.
When I decided I wanted to bake something for the teachers, I figured there is nothing as easy and delicious as a good brownie. Wanting to try out a new recipe I went for one of my favorite books (and as you can see I have many, many cookbooks) and when I looked at the ingredients I was intrigued by the amount of chocolate in these brownies. To make sure I had enough for everyone, I doubled the recipe and had to melt 900 grams/2 pounds of chocolate to go into this baby. Insane! But a small piece of these is enough, so not only could I share these with the teachers but also with my hungry roommates.
Recipe from Tartine, by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson.
170 g butter
455 g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
130 g flour
395 g light brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 175˚C/350˚F. Butter/line with baking paper a 9-by-13-inch (the recipe states glass, but I just used a normal tin) baking dish.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. If the heat from the butter does not fully melt the chocolate, put the pan back over the heat for 10 seconds and stir until melted. Set aside to cool.
Sift the flour into a small mixing bowl. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Using a mixer beat on high speed until the mixture thickens and becomes pale in color and falls from the beater in a wide ribbon, 4-5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture. Add the flour and fold it in quickly but gently with the rubber spatula so that you don’t deflate the air that’s been incorporated into the eggs.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake until the top looks slightly cracked and feels soft to the touch, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. I prefer to back the brownies the night before and let it cool overnight. Due to the ridiculous amount of chocolate the brownies need time to firm up a bit, otherwise you’ll end up with brownie goo (which isn’t the end of the world).
Using a sharp knife, cut into the size desired. The brownies will keep in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 week, but I have the feeling they will finish much quicker.