High Country Baking: Black-tie brownies
High Country Baking
Life is finally moving toward normal, and oh how sweet it is! Whether you’re hosting a high school graduation party or just a mask-free evening with friends, this pretty dessert will add a festive touch to the event. Serve these chewy, moist brownies cut into rounds, topped with chocolate ganache, whipped cream and a raspberry. Expect swoons.
Be careful, though: Too much flour or too much time in the oven will mar your results. To measure your flour, gently sprinkle tablespoons of it into the cup until it’s overflowing and level it with a knife (you don’t want to compact it). Bake them until barely set, and then immediately remove them from the oven. If you want to double the recipe, bake it in two 8-by-8-inch pans; if you use a large pan (9-by-13, for example) the edges of the brownie slab may get hard and crusty before the center is done.
Recipe works at any elevation. Make in an 8-by-8-inch shiny metal baking pan. Makes nine 1 3/4-inch round brownies.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick)
- 1 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably baker’s
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Scant 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
- 1 cup mini chocolate chips
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- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
- 2 to 3 teaspoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the pan with nonstick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the baked brownie. Grease any part of the pan that’s exposed and the regular foil with a baking spray that contains flour.
In a large bowl (if using microwave) or saucepan (if using stovetop), use low heat to melt the butter. Remove from the heat, add the sugar and whisk to combine well. Add the cocoa, espresso, salt, baking powder and vanilla and whisk until blended. One at a time, whisk in the eggs until the batter is smooth and shiny. Stir in the flour in three additions. Before adding the last addition, add the mini chocolate chips to the flour and toss them until they’re coated (this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter) and then add the flour and chips to the batter. Don’t overmix when adding the flour; stop as soon as each addition is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake until the edges of the top are set but the center is barely set. A tester inserted in the middle should come out with a few moist clumps sticking to it. (If it comes up with a glob of chocolate on it, it probably hit a chocolate chip, so try again in another spot.) Start checking at about 20 minutes. Err on the side of removing them too early as they’ll firm up some more while they cool. Remove to a rack and cool completely. (At this point the brownie slab can be stored, covered airtight overnight or frozen for a month.)
Cut the slab when it’s slightly chilled. Use the foil handles to remove it from the pan and place it on a firm surface. Cut the circles with a sharp-edged, 1 3/4-inch round, metal cookie cutter, greased with a little butter. Firmly press it straight down through the slab and don’t twist it. The brownie circle may stick in the cookie cutter. Remove it by gently pressing it down until it slides out. Clean and regrease the cutter between uses.
Make the ganache frosting: Heat the heavy cream to almost boiling. Remove it from the heat, add the chopped chocolate, submerging it all, and set it aside for a few minutes while the chocolate melts. Gently stir (don’t make air bubbles) until it’s smooth and shiny. Then set it aside until it thickens but is still pourable. Spread about 2 to 3 teaspoons over each brownie round with an offset spatula. Refrigerate them in a covered pan until the frosting is set.
Whip the cream: Place a metal or glass bowl and the beaters of your electric mixer in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Remove them, add the cold cream to the cold bowl along with the sugar and vanilla, and beat with the cold beaters until firm peaks form. Pipe a rosette or spoon a dollop in the center of each frosted brownie round and top with a raspberry.
Add the toppings about one to two hours before serving. Store in the fridge but serve closer to room temperature.
Editor’s note: This recipe is a variation of one published by King Arthur Flour.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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