Pecan Fudge Brownies
1-1/2 cups (about 5-1/4 ounces) pecan halves or large pieces (see Note)
10 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, divided
3 ounces good-quality unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
1/2 cup sifted unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. orange liqueur
2 tsp. vanilla
6 eggs, graded “large”, beaten to combine, preferably at room temperature
3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
If the pecans are in large pieces, use as is; if they’re in halves, break up the halves into coarse chunks with your fingers. Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pecan pieces in single layer in shallow pan. Toast in preheated oven for 9 to 12 minutes, or until very fragrant and a very light golden color. Stir frequently and watch carefully; nuts can burn easily. Remove to cooling rack and allow to cool completely before using. (This can be done up to one day in advance).
While nuts cool (or, if you have toasted the nuts in advance, as preparation), chop 8 ounces of the semisweet chocolate into small chunks (no larger than about 1/4 inch on each side) and place chunks into a medium bowl. Set aside at room temperature. Finely chop remaining 2 ounces of semisweet chocolate; place into heavy-bottomed, nonaluminum 3 quart pot along with finely chopped unsweetened chocolate. Set aside at room temperature.
Line a 13 by 9 pan (at least 1-1/2 inches deep) with heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side up, so there’s some overhang on all edges; fold any overhang back against the outer edges of the pan. Smooth out as many creases as possible inside the pan. Set aside. Combine the cooled toasted pecans with the chocolate chunks in the medium bowl.
Place butter slices into a 3-quart pot with chopped chocolates. Set pot over very low heat and stir almost constantly until almost melted. Remove from heat; stir until completely melted and smooth. Add cocoa powder; whisk in briskly until most lumps are dissolved. Scrape pot sides and bottom with rubber spatula. Cool mixture 15 minutes; while it cools, adjust rack to center of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
When chocolate mixture has cooled 15 minutes, add granulated sugar, liqueur, vanilla, and salt. With large spoon, stir thoroughly to mix well (mixture will have the texture of wet sand). Add beaten eggs in 3 additions, carefully beating in each addition until combined (when eggs have all been added, batter texture should be smooth). Scrape pot bottom and sides with rubber spatula. Add flour; stir in just until almost incorporated. Add chocolate chunks and pecans and stir in until evenly distributed.
Turn into prepared pan. With back of large spoon, spread level; make certain batter is pushed into corners of pan. Bake in preheated oven 26 to 31 minutes, turning pan back-to-front once about halfway through baking time. When done, a toothpick inserted near center of brownies will emerge with a number of moist crumbs still clinging to it (be sure you don’t stick your toothpick into a chunk of melted chocolate–if you have doubts, use a clean toothpick and try again in a different area). Do not overbake!
Remove brownies to cooling rack. Cool completely before covering airtight; allow to age at room temperature overnight before cutting and serving. To cut, remove block of brownies (still in foil) from pan; gently peel back foil from sides of brownies. Use a large, sharp knife (try both a straight edge and a serrated edge to see what works best for you). I like to trim about 1/4 inch off each edge first. You’ll have to rinse the knife blade under warm water, then shake it off well (or dry it) frequently, as these brownies tend to stick to the knife blade. Wrap each brownie individually in plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Serve within a day or two, or freeze for longer storage.
YIELD: 36-42 Brownies