Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Extreme Brownies" by Connie Weis - Birthday treats!

Date I made this recipe:  October 19, 2016 – Happy Belted Birthday to me – dessert!

Extreme Brownies – 50 recipes for the most over-the-top treats ever by Connie Weis
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 978-1-4494-5032-8; copyright 2014
Purchased at Barnes and Noble
Recipe:  Holy Heavenly Hash Brownies – p. 37-38

My birthday was a few weeks ago but I didn't really get my birthday cake.  Oh sure, I had cake and ice cream for dessert at Spoon and Stable, but it wasn't really "birthday cake" birthday cake which is to say it didn't have frosting.  It was "fancy" cake  - a lovely honey cake with sweetened condensed milk ice cream and caramel and...stuff.  It was the type of dessert for which restaurant pastry chefs win James Beard Awards. The presentation was spectacular, it tasted divine, but it wasn't "cake" cake.

When it comes to cake, it seems to me that people are either "cake" people or "frosting" people, but not normally both.  I am a frosting person.  Final answer. Cake is okay (my husband likes cake) but I am all about the frosting.  ALL about.  The more the better!  My favorite is Seven-Minute Frosting, a frosting my mother favored for the angel food cakes she made for all of us for our birthdays, but it would have been unseemly for me to make and then eat an entire bowl of it, wouldn't it?

So, I punted.  Instead of making or buying a cake, I, for the first time ever, had birthday brownies.

I love brownies.  I love brownies better than cake.  Maybe it's because brownies are a lot more dense and the flavor stands out more.  Or maybe it's because brownies are portable:  I cannot tell you how many times I stuff a cling-wrapped brownie into my purse for "sustenance."  (Cookies get the same treatment).  Cake is much harder to transport and of course, frosting, nearly impossible!

And folks, were these brownies ever good.  Really good. Plus, and I am chuffed to say this, my brownie looked exactly like the brownie featured on the cookbook cover – exactly!  That almost never happens.

But I have to tell you, I am not sure I can take credit for this success because it was a matter of following directions. Granted, there are many steps involved in making these but I was patient and I also made them over the course of two days.  I started the brownie layer one night but then ran out of time to do justice to the other layers so I started anew the next afternoon.  Sometimes taking a leisurely approach has its benefits.

Since my cookbook collection is ever-growing, I often box up and store cookbooks once I have used them but not this time around.  This time around, there's potential for reuse because of all the scrumptious recipes found in this book, of which today's featured brownie is one of them. 

And I'll just say that if you cannot find a brownie to suit in this book, it's because you are not looking hard enough.  There are "chip" brownies, fruit brownies (like raspberry), coffee brownies, mint brownies (ew), candy brownies and cordial brownies.  And then there are blondie brownies with all kinds of flavors and toppings, such as apple walnut and lemon coconut and even fruitcake blondies.  I love both kinds of brownies but I had to go with chocolate and happily, there are several other delicious chocolate brownie recipes that I might have to double back and try.

So.  Things to know about this recipe for Holy Heavenly Hash Brownies are that you'll use several kinds of chocolate and chocolate chips (bring it on!) and also a small amount of chocolate extract.  Let's discuss this last ingredient.

I tried to find chocolate extract before I made these brownies, but after trips to three different grocery stores (a few that were upscale), I didn't find it and wanted to get these brownies baked before I aged another year.  It would figure then, that about a week after I made them (and we inhaled them), I stopped at Penzy's (spice store) who didn't have them but referred me up the street to the Golden Fig Fine Foods.

I've mentioned the Golden Fig before; it's a specialty foods shop on Grand Ave in St. Paul. And sure enough, they had chocolate extract and a few other extracts that might come in handy.

Since owner Laurie McGann Crowell was there that day, we had a little chat about the extract and how it just adds a nice, smooth, subtle chocolate flavor to baked goods.  Plus, it had an expiration date of 2018 so that was in its favor; longer is better.  It's a little pricey compared to other extracts, but I think it was worth it. And of course, it gives me another reason (as if I needed one) to make these brownies again.  Sold!  By the way, you can mail order this item if Laurie's store is not in your neighborhood.  The brand is Nielssen Massey and you can find it online.  Pricewise, Sur La Table is the "best" of the online bunch, coming in at $8.00.  My bottle cost $6.95 and looks like that was a steal; Amazon's price is $14.99 – yikes!

Now I'll warn you that the ingredient list looks long (and hopeless) but it's really not.  If you bake at all, you likely have three-quarters or more of the items you need already on hand.  And I must confess to leaving out the almonds.  Much as I like almonds, I just didn't want them in my brownie.  And since it was going to be my birthday brownie, I got to do what I wanted. 

One other tiny confession:  I did not freeze the brownie layer for a short time period as directed.  Since I made the brownie base the night before, I just wrapped it up and let it set out.  In hindsight, I might have wanted to at least refrigerate it for a bit.  The brownies were a little squishy (but in a good way) and they probably would have benefitted from firming up just a bit.

Finally, these are very rich, so you might want to consider making a half a batch like I did and then cut yourself a tiny piece a day until they are all gone.  And remember, as with the mini meatloaves I made earlier in the week, there are next to no calories in mini bites. 

Birthday or not, you need to make these!

Ann's Note:  you'll notice the author gives you the ounces needed for each ingredient. Since I have a kitchen scale, I weighed most of mine (but not all) but if you don't, you might want to eyeball some of them because 1 cup is not always 8 ounces. For example, notice that 1 cup of sugar = 7 ounces, not 8 but you will use a full cup (8 ounces) for your light brown sugar but not a full cup for your flour (use 4.5 ounces).  Bakers like to weigh things!

Also, page xvii contains her tips for measuring, baking, whisking and whatnot.  If you have the book, you might want to take a look-see.  That said, I have the book and did I look there?  Nope [insert sheepish look here].

Holy Heavenly Hash Brownies – makes 12 large squares or 24 smaller bars
Brownie Batter
Vegetable shortening for pan
2/3 cup (3 ounces) roasted salted whole almonds
½ cup (3 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup (6 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 packed cup (8 ounces) light brown sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4.5 ounces) bleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

Chocolate Nougat
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
¼ cup (2.2. ounces) evaporated milk
7.2 ounces (1 ½ cups) marshmallow creme, such as Fluff
½ cup (3 ounces) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure chocolate extract (Ann's Note:  Naturally, I didn't purchase mine until after I was done with the recipe.  I couldn't find it before then.  If you don't have it, you can leave it out.)

1 ½ cups (2 ounces) miniature marshmallows
¼ cup (1 ounce) roasted salted whole almonds
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate drizzle
1 tablespoon (0.05 ounce) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon (0.02 ounce) light corn syrup
¼ cup (1.5 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon very hot water

To Make the Brownies
To make the brownies, adjust an oven rack to the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Prepare a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil as shown on page xvi.  Lightly great the foil in the pan.

Cut the almonds in half widthwise and place in a small bowl with the semisweet chocolate chips.  Set aside.

Cut the butter sticks into 1-inch slices.  In a small, heavy saucepan, melt the butter pieces over the lowest setting.  While the butter is melting, chop the unsweetened chocolate into ¼-inch pieces and add to the melted butter along with the bittersweet chocolate chips.  Use a small whisk to speed the melting process.  When the chocolate is melted and completely smooth, turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the burner while proceeding with the recipe.

Using a large whisk, lightly beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Place the sugars and salt in a separate small mixing bowl, then whisk into the eggs just until incorporated.  Briefly whisk the melted chocolate mixture, then gradually whisk into the egg mixture until just combined.  Briefly whisk in the vanilla.  You can set aside the saucepan – no need to wash it – to use for the chocolate drizzle.

Place the flour and baking powder in the small mixing bowl; whisk together to combine.  Sift through a medium strainer directly onto the batter; stir in with a silicone spatula until just combined.  Sprinkle the almonds and semisweet chocolate chips over the batter; fold in until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a small offset spatula. Bake for 28minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes, then transfer the pan to the freezer to chill the slab while preparing the chocolate nougat.

To Make the Chocolate Nougat
Cut the butter into ½-inch thick slices.  Place the butter, sugar, and evaporated milk in a medium (1 ½ to 2-quart) saucepan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until the butter is melted and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to the lowest setting and boil gently for 5 minutes, without stirring.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the marshmallow creme until very well incorporated, then add in the chocolate chips, salt, and extracts, stirring vigorously until the mixture is well blended.  Dollop the nougat over the chilled brownie slab and spread evenly with a small offset spatula.

To Add the Toppings
Evenly place the marshmallows over the nougat, gently pressing to slightly embed them.  Cut the almonds in half, then embed them in the nougat; repeat with the chocolate chips.

To Make the Chocolate drizzle
To make the chocolate drizzle, melt the butter and corn syrup over low heat in the reserved saucepan.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate chips; stir with a small silicone spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Stir in the hot water to think it out.  Use the spatula to drizzle thin, random stripes over the top of the brownie slab.  Let the slab sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, then refrigerate pan for 7 to 8 hours or overnight.

Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Ann's Note:  I mentioned above that I did not freeze the brownie slab for the allotted time, nor did I put the mixture in the refrigerator for 7-8 hours.  I mean come on—after all the work of making them, you want me to sit this out for another 8 hours?  Don't think so!

No comments: