I seem to have food magazines everywhere. Bedroom, bathroom, foyer table, family room and or course kitchen…really, just everywhere. Sometimes they’ve been around long enough I see past them and that’s surely the case with the one where I got the basics for this absolutely decadent brownie. Food and Wine, July 2010. It had been forced into play on my bed as a surface for my laptop mouse (I am stubborn…a touch pad is not my friend, I SO prefer a mouse) and the other night I actually glanced inside the magazine a bit.
This issue included Food and Wine magazine’s ‘Best New Chefs’ and ‘Italian Restaurant Dishes Made Easy’. I have to assume when I received it last year that I went straight to one of those articles because I never saw the one on ‘The Year of the Pastry Chef’ and I’ve always loved making all things pastry. I’ve learned to accept that the results in Denver might tend to visually disappoint me more than I like (more on that in a bit!) but I don’t stop; making and bringing desserts to friends is one of my all time favorite things.
The original recipe is from Anne Quatrano from ‘Star Provisions’ in Atlanta and her version had only three pertinent flavors: chocolate, butter and walnuts. I decided to up the espresso flavor just a bit with some Kahlua and when all was said and done…it just seemed to literally cry out for some caramel. It was so dark chocolate intense that I wanted something to play against that and who doesn’t love caramel and of course the flavor du jour…salted caramel. I added a touch of salt to the caramel but also topped it with some Maldon salt flakes. If you are using salt as a finish on any of your foods; you really need to get some Maldon, it is so pretty! I also increased the walnuts to 2 cups…I’m tired of adding what is specified but seeing a photo that makes it apparent way more were actually included…that was the case here. Two cups was the right call. And don’t skip the toasting. Before toasted walnuts I was not quite the believer. Now…my favorite nut; yes I am California Walnutz!
My first experience with the flavor combination of chocolate, espresso and salted caramel was actually at a local Starbucks in the beautiful Aspen Grove shopping center several years ago. I had ordered coffee but my daughter Emily decided to try the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. Oh my. My coffee was suddenly beyond mundane so I ordered one too but asked if I could have it with a shot of espresso and a love affair had begun.
This is a rich, rich brownie. Did I say rich? A pound of butter and the serving suggestion is 12 rectangles? Although the caramel layer adds some more butter, I fully expect to get at least double the serving pieces than what is suggested.
Though terrific with coffee or milk, I plan to have some friends over for dessert and serve it with some port wine. I just LOVE port with deep rich chocolate desserts and this fits that description to an absolute T. And that hint about high altitude ‘issues’ ? I did what I normally do. Increased oven temp 10 degrees and shortened cooking time; eliminated a bit of flour and baking powder and added more moisture (an excuse for the Kahlua for sure!). Still…it looked a bit like a big sink hole, the sides had risen more than the center section. So that caramel sauce became my friend. I took a chef’s knife to the outside; leveling off the pan before pouring the caramel over everything. Turns out it needed the caramel in more ways than one!
By the way, getting closer to my big project of re-branding…well, ME! Everything will be Creative Culinary; this blog, Twitter, FaceBook, StumbleUpon and RSS feed and well…everything. What a job this has been but I think at some point I just have to pull the plug so hoping my next post will be the big announcement that the site is ready (or ready enough). I could use a lot of crossed fingers and toes; this is undeniably NERVEWRACKING. But I remain happy I’m doing it. The full story of the why’s and wherefores will follow but suffice to say I won’t mind never saying the words again, ‘No, I’m really not a wine blog.’
I hope you will stay tuned!
Dark Chocolate Brownies with Espresso, Toasted Walnuts and Salted Caramel Glaze
1 hour 15 minutes
A decadent brownie with espresso, Kahlua and toasted walnuts finished with a salted caramel glaze
For the Brownies
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 pounds bittersweet chocolate, use chips or chop larger pieces (The bittersweet keeps the brownie from being too sweet; perfect with a sweet glaze but semi sweet can be substituted)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp Kahlua
- 2 Tbsp strong-brewed espresso
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
- 2 cups walnut halves, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped - Don't skip toasting them, makes all the difference.
For the Salted Caramel Glaze
- 1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream (Most recipes call for heavy cream which I seldom have on hand. Half and half works just fine)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 Tbsp butter, cut in pieces
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2-3 tsp Maldon Flaked Sea Salt
To Make the Brownies:Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray.
- In a double boiler, melt the butter with the chopped chocolate over low heat. In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt.
- Beat the eggs with the sugar at medium-high speed until pale and thick, about 4 minutes.
- Beat in the Kahlua, vanilla and espresso. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.
- Beat in the melted chocolate and butter mixture at medium speed. Using a spoon, stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 1 hour, until the top is shiny and lightly cracked, the edges are set and the center is still a bit jiggly.
- NOTE 1: At altitude I have to increase oven temp a bit and then shorten cooking time but I suggest that even at sea level you start checking early. I took this out at 45 minutes and am so glad I did; start checking at 50 minutes to make sure it does not get over-baked.
- NOTE 2: Though I occasionally will discuss altitude issues, I always include ingredients for what we call, 'flatlanders' in Denver, so unless you are also at a higher altitude the specifications here work for the majority of people.
- Transfer the dish to a rack and let cool completely.
- Pour the caramel glaze over the brownies and smooth into a thin layer.
- Sprinkle with the Maldon salt and allow glaze to cool.
- Cut the brownie into 12 large rectangles and serve. (I say 24 but hey...it's up to YOU!)
To Make the Caramel Sauce and finish the Brownies:
- In small saucepan over low heat, warm heavy cream but do not boil.
- In separate medium saucepan, combine sugar & water but DO NOT STIR. Place over medium-high heat & bring to a boil. Cook until mixture turns an amber color; watch closely, it can quickly go from the perfect color to burning! (10+ minutes); keep a close watch on it.)
- Once mixture is amber, remove from heat and add warm cream, butter, and 1/2 t. kosher salt.
- Stir gently using a whisk until smooth & well combined. Pour over brownies, tilting the pan to coat. Sprinkle with Maldon salt or more kosher salt.
- Allow glaze to set before cutting/serving.