Sequel cookbook from baker Connie Weis—whose treats you may have indulged in at TASTE—is decadence done right
By Marisa Marsey
Extremists can make the world more dangerous, but there is one who’s making it more delicious: über-baker Connie Weis. Her platform is chocolate, and her new cookbook 50 More Extreme Brownies takes a deep dive into the same dark obsession that drove her first treatise on over-the-top treats in 2014, Extreme Brownies.
With this new batch of ingenious confections like the immoderately named “Radical Reese’s Pieces” and “Decadent Dark Chocolate Macadamia Nut,” Weis boosts brownies to their highest intensity: the mmmth degree.
“I needed to get my fix,” the self-professed chocoholic defends her motivation. “And I found that the brownies I purchased were lacking in true chocolate flavor and chewy texture.” With baking bona fides including pastry-making for Todd Jurich’s Bistro and food development at Baker’s Crust, she set about experimenting to create her own: “Once I started rolling, I just couldn’t stop.”
At first blush, her recipes appear daunting. She pipes mascarpone chantilly onto a fudgy base tiered with luscious chocolate mousse for brownies that could hold their own next to pavlovas and dacquoises on a Venetian table. She layers some with cheesecake—mocha latte or dulce de leche, stuffs others with caramel or homemade strawberry jam and studs still more with candies galore.
All of her creations are stacked with complex fillings and glazes; witness glossy, swirl-topped “Hazelnut Nutella Marshmallow” and bedazzling “Crystallized Ginger.” These brownies (along with their alter egos, blondies) possess not one drop of drab. They’re runway supermodels.
Yet her unequivocal instructions deconstruct everything into simple steps and are so visual that following them is like watching a YouTube how-to—from preparing your pan with foil that is neatly folded inward, “much like hospital corners on a bed,” to removing, slicing and storing the finished product for no-fail results.
“My greatest fear when my first book came out, back when I was selling my brownies at Old Beach Farmers Market on Saturdays, was that someone would come up to my booth and say, ‘I made them and mine didn’t come out like your pictures.’” She pauses, then beams: “No one did.”
In fact, she bred fanaticism. At least two of her followers baked their way through every Extreme Brownies recipe à la Julie and Julia, and PBS celebrity chef Vivian Howard declared, “My family descended on Connie’s brownies like crazed people coming off a juice cleanse.”
An ideologue when it comes to ingredients and equipment, Weis didactically shares what and what not to use. She’s learned through trial and error, testing recipes as many as 30 times, and her advice will stick with you like lessons from your favorite grade school teacher. You, too, will swear allegiance to King Arthur unbleached flour: “It’s always the same, with a higher protein content than the others.”
When she met with Jon Pruden, TASTE co-owner, to develop formulas for desserts to be sold throughout the specialty market/café’s nine locations, she insisted they be made with the same ingredients she uses at home. He wholeheartedly agreed, and she’s been delighted with the results, crediting the “well-trained and caring” staff at TASTE Bakehouse for consistent products.
In Alei Rathjens, TASTE’s marketing and creative director, Weis found a kindred foodie-passionista. She asked her to design this book and photograph all 50 entries. Rathjens’s pictures are so luscious, you’re tempted to lick the pages.
Some of these delectations suit holidays such as “Spooky Peanut Butter Cheesecake” brownies for Halloween and “Holiday Peppermint Bark” brownies at Christmas. “Romantic Raspberry Truffle” brownies are perfect for Valentine’s Day. But so, too, “Don’s English Toffee Almond” brownies, given that Weis created them for her cherished husband of 48 years.
Of course, any of them will elevate the dreariest of days to red-letter status. There’s magic in this sugar-sprinkled, softcover sequel that says yes to excess. Weis is Coastal Virginia’s sweet-tooth fairy, once again going to extremes. Follow her there.
Find 50 More Extreme Brownies at all TASTE locations ($29.99) or on Amazon ($34.99).