Brownie for a sweet and salty year

(Baked’s Sweet & Salty Brownie)

Another year is finally coming to a close, and I say that with a huge amount of relief. It’s been a year of extreme highs and lows. Yes, I have discovered that I’m not as strong as I would like to be. And I hate that.

But it’s not so much a complaint as merely an observation about things I’m slowly learning to accept. Like many good things, life is so much about having a certain measure of both : the salty, to balance the sweet, and vice versa.

(Pretzel and bacon caramels)

For Christmas this year, I made a few less-than-traditional gifts for friends, such as cowboy cookies and these caramels which are based on Dan Lepard’s treacle pecan caramel recipe, using pretzel pieces and crispy bacon bits instead of pecans. The treacle and molasses in Dan’s recipe add great depth of flavour to the caramel and elevate it from being merely sugary sweet to something rather special. I plan to make these again next year, maybe with a selection of different flavours.

In the meantime, there’s always these brownies, which are my idea of the perfectly balanced treat any day of the year.

Sweet and Salty Brownie :
(from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

For the filling :
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon fleur de sel
1/4 cup sour cream

For the brownie :
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
11 ounces (311g) quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the filling : In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/4 cup water, stirring them together carefully so you don’t splash the sides of the pan. Cook over high heat until an instant-read thermomter reads 350F (175’C), or until the mixture is dark amber in colour, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat, and slowly add the cream (careful, it will bubble up) and then the fleur de sel. Whisk in the sour cream. Set aside to cool.

For the brownie : Preheat the oven to 350F (175’C).

Butter the sides and bottom of a glass or light coloured metal 9 x 13 inch pan. Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder.

Place the chocolate and butter in the bowl of the double boiler set over a pan of simmering water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water of the double boiler, and add both sugars. Whisk until completely combined and remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be at room temperature.

Add three eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until just combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage, or your brownies will be cakey.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate. Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until there is a just a trace amount of the flour mixture visible.

To assemble the brownie : Pour half of the brownie mixture into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Drizzle about 3/4 cup of the caramel sauce over the brownie layer in a zigzag pattern, taking care to make sure the caramel does not come in contact with the edges of the pan or it will burn. Use your offset spatula to spread the caramel evenly across the brownie layer. In heaping spoonfuls, scoop the rest of the brownie batter over the caramel layer. Smooth the brownie batter gently to cover the caramel layer.

Bake the brownies for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, and check to make sure the brownies are completely done by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. The brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with an extra 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel and 1 teaspoon coarse sugar.

Cool the brownies completely before cutting and serving.

Comments (24)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Peanut butter parfait with brownie salt

(Peanut butter parfait with brownie salt)

When going on holiday, I usually suffer from separation anxiety from the creature comforts I love in life. Occasionally I wonder why I even go on holiday at all, when the things I enjoy most, do not require travelling across continents for. My favourite cushion, a large mug of tea, peanut butter smeared on warm toast and watching movies with B on the sofa.

Mind you, I used to have to cross continents to spend time with B, and it was through these interludes every year that we got to know even more about each other. We both love horror movies. He likes eating the same thing for breakfast every day. I don’t completely understand his obsession with potatoes. He dislikes peanut butter.

It is despite these flaws that we are still together, eyeing each other’s breakfast with amusement each Sunday morning. Peanut butter to me, is what foie gras is to most other people, albeit packaged in a plastic jar and easily obtained at considerably less expense.

One Sunday morning several weeks ago I started day dreaming about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich-inspired dessert, involving a frozen peanut component and some chocolate brioche. I never got round to completing it, but at least I now have a parfait recipe to use as my starting point.

A chance encounter with some leftover brownies also had me wondering about what would happen if you took a brownie, compressed, froze, grated and dried it, then combined it with some flaky salt. Turns out, you get what I like to call, brownie salt.

Sometimes dessert components, like random words, fit together unexpectedly well to form a sentence. Some of these sentences develop further to become ground breaking novels or classics. Peanut butter parfait with brownie salt is not one of those sentences, but I hope it serves as a nice interlude while I set off for a few weeks on holiday 🙂

Peanut butter parfait :
(from The French Cafe Cookbook by Simon Wright)

200g caster sugar
40ml water
10 yolks
800ml cream
300g peanut butter

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, place over a high heat and boil until the sugar reaches 118’C. Meanwhile place egg yolks in an electric mixer and beat together at a high speed. Slowly add the sugar syrup in a steady stream and continue beating until the yolks have increased in volume and are thick in consistency. Place this mixture into a clean bowl. Wash out the mixing bowl and dry well, then add the cream and beat until the cream just starts to thicken. Add peanut butter and continue to beat until the cream is semi-whipped. Gently fold in the egg yolk mixture and pour into your mould. Allow to freeze overnight.

[Note: I like using an organic, natural peanut butter which doesn’t contain any additives like sugar or salt.]

Comments (49)

Tags: , , , ,

Chocolate Daze


(Fran Bigelow’s The Reine chocolate torte)

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not looking good, is it? I must be in denial. I’m not a chocoholic, I tell ya. Yet, somehow when I made a list of things I wanted to bake as holiday gifts this weekend, it would appear that at least 80% of the list involved chocolate in some form or other.

Chocolate, glorious chocolate.

Perhaps it had something to do with the big bag of Lindt chocolate buttons I’d bought the other day. Or some recently acquired cookbooks. In any case, each item has a reason (or excuse, if you will) for being.

I made Fran Bigelow’s The Reine after yearning for a simple cake with a striking chocolate glaze. In keeping with the Christmas theme, some cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla were added to the batter; spices I usually associate with Christmas. The resulting cake was moist and delicious, but certainly didn’t hold a candle to the following brownies.


(Paul A. Young’s Chocolate Brownies)

These chocolate brownies from Paul A Young’s book are the ultimate fudgey brownie. I topped mine with dried cranberries for that festive feel, and folded cocoa nibs through the batter, instead of the recommended dessicated coconut. Once baked and chilled, they sliced beautifully, and if they manage to make it out of the kitchen, I will be wrapping bars of these in cellophane to give away.


(Claire Clark’s Chocolate red wine cake)

For friends with more ‘grown-up’ tastes, I couldn’t go past Claire Clark’s slightly mysterious and fruity chocolate red wine cake. It’s almost mulled wine in cake form, which is a good thing. So good, that this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve made this cake. I’ve provided the recipe below, but would encourage you to consider buying the book, as it also contains stellar recipes for all manners of cookies, cakes and plated desserts.

Of course, this is by no means my final post for the year, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone for reading this year. The support has been greatly appreciated, and I’m sorry I haven’t anything to give to you in return except for a handful of pictures. If you are ever in the neighbourhood, please drop by for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Possibly a chocolate one. 🙂

Chocolate Red Wine Cake :
(from Indulge : 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark)

125g softened unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
150ml red wine, at room temperature
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
65g dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa solids), grated

for soaking :
50ml water
30g caster sugar
125ml red wine

Preheat the oven to 170’C. Grease and flour a 25cm/10inch bundt tin.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the wine and mix well.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa powder and baking powder together. Fold the dry ingredients a tablespoon at a time into the creamed cake mixture.
Lastly fold in the grated chocolate. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and level the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes, until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 20 minutes and then place a thin cake card over the top and invert the tin. Lift off the tin so the cake sits on the card. It will still be warm, so do not try to move it at this stage. Cool the cake completely.

To soak the cake, bring the water and sugar to the boil in a small pan and stir in the red wine. Fill the cleaned bundt tin with the red wine syrup and place the cooled cake back in the tin. It will quickly absorb the hot liquid. Once the liquid has been absorbed, reverse the cake on to the cake card as before. Remove the tin, being careful not to damage the cake. Leave the cake to cool before glazing.

[Note : I don’t have a bundt tin, so I made this in a basic round springform tin, and gently brushed the syrup over the cake, rather than lifting it out of the tin and pouring the syrup in first. You need to be careful if soaking the cake in a springform tin, obviously because it will probably leak a little. I usually do this in a tray next to the sink. Claire Clark finishes her cake with a redcurrant jelly glaze and discs of glossy tempered chocolate. In the mood for something a little more simple, I sprinkled the top of the cake with shaved chocolate instead]

Comments (51)

Tags: , , , ,

Next Page »