The Test Kitchen received a copy of Connie Weis’ new book, Extreme Brownies. One look at the cover and I thought, this book is aptly named. Three very clean-cut brownies, with sharp, square edges and a very dramatic look told me right away that this author had a perspective. The subtitle states, “50 recipes for the most over-the-top treats ever”. All of this was enough to get me to dive in. I loved what I saw and arranged a chat with Connie ASAP.
Dédé Wilson: Connie, thank you for taking the time with me. I am thrilled to be speaking with you because your brownies really do look different. That’s not an easy accomplishment with all the brownies and bars out there! Your aesthetic is unique…tell us about how you develop your recipes…about your inspirational process.
Connie Weis: Well, thank you Dédé, I pride myself on how my brownies are different…obviously you are a creative person…you know sometimes it’s an ingredient that inspires, other times something I have eaten…you know I bike to the tennis club and come up with a lot of my ideas during the ride! There’s nothing else going on to distract me, but then I do have to write it down or it’s gone! Inspiration can strike anywhere. On a visit to Whole Foods I found freeze-dried raspberries and thought, Oh I can make something with those! I will come up with 3 or 4 new ideas in a week; I couldn’t live long enough to make them all!
That’s prolific! How did you narrow down the ones for the book?
I had 125 recipes at first, but had to narrow it down to 50 (laughs). You know you find just a nugget of information, and then you start applying your own take on it…I have stacks of Post-Its 3-inches high all over the house…everyone has a hobby! This is mine.
I go and sell at a local farmer’s market every 3 or 4 weeks…customers get upset and want to know why I am not there every week! But I don’t do this for the money…I do not like making the same things over and over again…I like the creative process…
I know what you mean. When I owned my bakery it was a challenge for me to make the same items day in day out…I’m with you on that one…
It sucks the joy out of baking for me. Now when I go to the market I always bring 1 or 2 new items, and I have wonderful customers. I love them, they love my brownies, they give me great feedback, so it’s a win-win…ultimately I bake for me. I am a chocoholic and a sugar-holic and I want it everyday.
Chocolate is my favorite food, hands down.
I tell customers, have one of my PMS Brownies – they took me pre- to post.
Let’s get back to your visual aesthetic. It is unique…your brownies are so bold!
I am a frustrated artist…I began as a painter; I used to paint and draw…I always had great ideas, but others were better at execution than I. Now I execute my artistry in brownies!
You found your milieu…
It’s absolutely true…one must put their individual stamp on their work – even if their work is brownies. My ambition is not to have a 2nd book on brownies…what I would like to do is create desserts for restaurants that become signature desserts…I have created desserts in our area, but what happens is that the desserts get assimilated into the restaurant and handed down to the next pastry chef or to the chef/owner and then they aren’t being seen as mine anymore…I am not saying I want to be famous, but…give credit where credit is due.
It’s like a painter. Painters sign their work; they get credit. I don’t think that is too much to ask…
As I said I take pride in my work. I want peopleto be able to create my desserts exactly as I do. A teenager can follow my instructions and come up with same results…I gave a book to my friend who baked with her 13-year-old daughter who had been baking from brownie mixes. They made the S’more Galore Brownies and sent pictures and they looked just like mine! That is satisfying. That is success, but I also want people to know the genesis of where the dessert came from…
I would love to have a television baking show because I want to show people how to bake correctly…scales should be used. I want to bridge the gap between home bakers and the professional. Nowadays scales are cheap! For a $30 investment you can change the way you bake. It takes the guesswork out of it. My recipes are written to work and if you follow them, you will succeed. If a recipe of mine says use this certain size scoop and you will get 28 cookies, you will get 28 cookies!
Any tips for our community on how to get their brownies looking as pristine as yours?
Essentially the slab has to be REALLY well chilled (at least 7 to 8 hours) before you cut it. Remove the very well chilled slab from the pan (hence lining the pan with foil to get the slab out), peel off the foil and place the chilled slab on a cutting board. I use a 10-inch chef’s knife (that’s the length of the blade itself). Position the knife over the slab and cut straight down into the slab. I have a callous on my left palm from pushing the knife into the slab – the right hand holds the handle of the knife. Never drag the knife through it.
When customers buy my brownies and blondies and tell me they are making a dessert tray, I tell them to cut their brownies/blondies when they are really cold into quarters (again with a sharp chef’s knife) and they will get the same sharp, clean edges that I do. I hope that helps!