Killer Brownies

Killer brownies 

As promised (a long  long time ago..oops), this is the brownie recipe. The Killer Brownie recipe. Like the Geman Chocolate Cheesecake I posted, this is a recipe from my Bea Vo book. So originally this recipe is called ‘killer Valrhona brownies’, but I find these to work really well with other high-quality dark chocolates. Sorry Valrhona 😉

Now these brownies aren’t your everyday brownie. Not only because they are loaded with good ‘stuff’, but also because of the way they are prepared.  Read on if you’re curious. 

Killer Brownies

Killer Brownies

Serves 9 large squares

250 gr / 9 oz. high-quality dark/semi-sweet chocolate
250 gr/ 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
250 gr / 1 1/4 cups soft dark brown sugar
250 gr / 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
250 gr/1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
30 gr/ 1 /3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
30 gr/ 1/3 cup pecans, roughlyl chopped
30 gr/ 1/3 cup hazelnuts, skins removed
100 gr/ 3/4 cup peanut butter
50 gr/ 1/3 cup dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 180 °C (365 °F). Put the chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Melt the butter in a pan and let boil a bit. Pour hot butter over chocolate and stir until well combined and the chocolate looks glossy. Put the eggs, salt, dark brown sugar and the caster sugar in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Pour the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Stir until combined. Fold the flour into the chocolate mixture. Stir until just combined (don’t overmix if you want fudgy brownies).  Spoon mixture into the prepared brownie pan and scatter the coconut, pecans and hazelnuts over the top. Spread them out evenly and then push them down wih a spatula or spoon to level it out. Make sure the nuts are covered in the brownie batter. Add blobs of peanut butter and the dulce de leche. Use a knife to swirl it a bit, so you get nice streaks of peanut butter and dulce de leche. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 160 °C ( 340°F) and leave the oven door open for 30 seconds to cool down the oven. Bake for 15 minutes until the top shows no raw batter. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Immediately place in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the brownies from the pan and cut into squares (as big as you please :-)) 

Source: Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury. Available at amazon.co.uk

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German chocolate cheesecake

German chocolate cheesecakeThere is this book I ordered on Amazon two months back. I sort of picked it on a whim. Quickly scanned the reviews and hit the ‘add to cart’ button. I was so delighted looking through this beautiful book for the first time when I got it in the mail. I’m talking about Tea with Bea. Now I know the title might sound a bit cheesy perhaps, but don’t judge a book by its cheesy title. The author of the book, Bea Vo (of Bea’s of Bloomsbury), not only writes the book in a way that it is easy to understand, but also gives specific background information about chemical processes (what not to do and why). As you can maybe tell, I am really excited about this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes/loves to bake! If only to look at the beautiful pictures of the cakes, cookies and… cheesecake.

I’ve made a fair amount of cheesecakes in my day (gosh, that makes me sound old- I’m 25; honest!). My favorite is still a New York style cheesecake topped with cherries. In my mind, I would never have imagined chocolate and cheesecake go well together. I thought the rich chocolately taste would clash with the slight tang of the cream cheese. But guess what? Good news. I was wrong! And this cheesecake is a must try, as it is so creamy and silky with just the right amount of sweetness. And if chocolate and cheesecake weren’t enough, this recipe includes toasted coconut, pecans, dulce de leche and drizzled melted chocolate.

German chocolate cheesecake

German chocolate cheesecake

Serves 10-12

600 gr/1 lb. 5 oz. HobNobs or graham crackers
75 – 100 gr/ 3/4 – 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
800 gr/1 lb. 12 oz. cream cheese
225 gr/1 cup plus 1 tablespoon caster/superfine sugar
2 eggs
50 gr/ 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch
250 ml/1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping
1 recipe of fudge icing (recipe follows)
100 gr/4 oz. storebought dulce de leche
5 tablespoons soft shredded coconut (Baker’s Angels Flake), lightly toasted
75 gr/2/3 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted and crushed
melted dark chocolate, for drizzling

For the Fudge icing
250 ml/1 cup whipping cream
65 gr/ 3 tablespoons golden syrup
350 gr/12 oz. high-quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75 gr/5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled

25-cm/10 inch cake pan, greased and baselined with parchment paper

Preheat oven to 125 C (140 F); fan forced.
To make the crust, crush the cookies/biscuits until you get a fine crumb (a food processor with blade attachment is easiest). Add the melted butter. This will be variable depending on the type of biscuit and butter. Test it by grabbing a bit of the mixture and squeezing into your hand to make a ball, then releasing your hand. The mixture should hold its shape, but also fall apart when touched slightly. If it doesn’t hold it’s shape, add more butter other wise the biscuit will dissolve into the cheesecake and you’ll have no crust. If it holds its shape too well, add more biscuits/crackers to absorb the butter, otherwise the crust will be too hard. Press the mixture into the prepared cake pan and pat down until level.

Put the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat until well mixed and the sugar has dissolved. Sl
owly incorporate the eggs, one at a time, beating until thoroughly combined before adding the next. Scrape the side of the bowl regularly to make sure everything is incorporated. Sift the cornflour/cornstarch into the mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Add the cream and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Pour the mixture into the cake pan over the crust and bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour until the middle is slightly jiggly and the top doesn’t look shiny or wet anymore. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight. Unmould the cheesecake by turning it upside down on a plate or board, then uprighting again. I always use two cutting boards, which works really well.

To make the fudge frosting; put the cream and golden syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Put the chocolate in a large bowl (preferably not plastic, but metal or glass). As soon as the cream and golden syrup reach a boil, immediately turn of the heat. Pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for 1 minute. Using a small whisk, stir with very small motions in the middle of the bowl. This will take a while. The point here is to make an emulsion, by incorporating small amounts of cream to the chocolate. After 5 minutes start stirring in slightly wider motions. Continue stirring until the mixture is very thick and glossy and until fully combined. Add the vanilla extract and the butter and mix until well combined (don’t leave the small buttery bits; keep stirring until smooth again). Set aside to let the chocolate stiffen into a firm consistency. Do not refrigerate! It will turn very solid and will not be spreadable.

Spread a layer of fudge frosting over the cheesecake. Warm the dulce de leche slightly in the microwave for 20 seconds, and drizzle over the fudge icing in dollops. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and pecans and some melted chocolate all over.

Source: Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury. Available at amazon.co.uk

Chocolate Caramel Tart

Chocolate caramelIt’s been so cold here these past two weeks. The kind of weather which makes you want to stay inside and eat comfort food. Unless…you can go ice skating! This is THE activity when the canals freeze up. I had a bit of ice fever this past weekend as well and went ice skating with my dad. The signs at the canal said ‘Dangerous’ and ‘Enter at own risk’, because the ice wasn’t thick enough in some places. Still, that didn’t stop us and the other 100 people or so from having some fun on the ice. The Dutch are well-known for lots of things, obedience isn’t one of them. A few laps around the shoveled natural ice rink and, as if that wasn’t daring enough, my dad suggested we’d skate to the windmill and the ‘koek and zopie’ stand (literally a cookie and drink stand). With no clear path because of the snow, we skated to the koek and zopie stand for some hot chocolate. Could it be more Dutch? Having a hot chocolate on ice skates with a windmill in the background. I think not! But, it is pretty awesome when you think about it.

Chocolate sugar

Anything that’s hot or has chocolate (preferably both, like hot chocolate) is a winner with these kind of temperatures. Then again, chocolate in my book is always a winner. Not to speak of chocolate and caramel. Mars bars are the first thing that come to mind. Sometimes I really crave them. The silky milk chocolate and the soft caramel are just such a delight. The recipe posted today kind of reminded me of it. Although, it’s definitely more decadent. The ganache is made of dark chocolate which creates a fuller flavour and the chocolate crust gives this extra texture.

Chocolate caramel

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe from Saveur for ages, but recipes with caramel tend to scare me. Not just the failing part and ending up with something black and solid in the pan. It’s the actual pain I’ve had from caramel recipes gone totally wrong. I once tried spun caramel as part of a decoration on a dessert. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get three fingers burnt on each hand. Very very painful. So, whenever I see a caramel recipe, my sore blistery fingers are the first thing I think of (kind of Pavlov right?). This weekend, I practiced my caramel making skills once again and it went quite well (Extinction! I should have thought of that sooner being a psychologist and all).

Chocolate caramel tart 

So many people have commented that their caramel burnt way before they hit 340 F. With an accurate sugar thermometer you should really get to 340 F without having problems. If you’re not sure about the accuracy of your thermometer, make sure to watch the colour of the boiling sugar mixture. It can be difficult to see the actual colour, because of all the bubbling going on. I took a teaspoon of the mixture every so often and dropped it into a glass of cold water. You really want dark golden in this recipe, not yellow. The mixture will smell just a tad bit burnt. After reading all the comments about the caramel leaking out of the tart at room temperature, I decided to try reheat the caramel back to 250 F after adding the cream and butter. Even though the taste was great, the caramel was just a bit too hard (some bits more like toffee). So my advice would be to follow the recipe as is and just keep it refrigerated. Next time I make this, I will make the crust just a bit thinner and make a little less ganache for the topping. This will make the caramel stand out more, like it deserves.

For the crust

  • 1 1⁄2 cups flour
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 1 tbsp. dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed and softened
  • 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tbsp confectioners sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, preferably at room temperature
  • 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the caramel

  • 1 1⁄2 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. crème fraîche

For the ganache

  • 1⁄2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz (113 gr) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • Gray sea salt for garnish

1.  Make the crust: Heat oven to 350˚F (177˚C). Combine flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until mixture is pale and fluffy; mix in yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Transfer dough to a 9″ (23 cm) fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

2. Make the caramel: In a 1-qt. saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 6 tbsp. water and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340°F (171 °C). Remove pan from heat and whisk in butter, cream, and crème fraîche (the mixture will bubble up) until smooth. Pour caramel into cooled tart shell and let cool slightly; refrigerate until firm, 4–5 hours.

3.  Make the ganache: Bring cream to a boil in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in hot cream; let sit for 1 minute, then stir slowly with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour ganache evenly over tart and refrigerate until set, 4–5 hours. Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice, and serve chilled.

Source: Saveur