This past week, Aaron and I were having intense cravings for something chocolaty and delicious. We didn't feel like cake or cookies, but we did feel like homemade brownies! As if that weren't enough, I've also been wanting to make chocolate ganache (ganache is just a fancy word for melted chocolate and cream). Then I thought, why not put the two together? They turned out to be a match made in heaven! These brownies have a wonderfully deep chocolate flavor, which was just what we needed to cure our cravings.
The dilemma of making a dessert is not having enough mouths to eat it. Don't get me wrong, if left to my own devices, I'm sure I could polish off a cake or a mountain of cookies... in due time. But I find desserts to be the perfect excuse to get together with friends. With this in mind, I met up with said friends in Central Park, took a long walk (much to my dog Lady's delight) and had these scrumptious treats ready to welcome us home. Coffee, homemade brownies and good friends. It doesn't get much better than that.
This brownie recipe is the creation of Nick Malgieri, from his book, Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers. It was also featured in Saveur Magazine, Issue 113. I've changed it just slightly, and of course smothered it with ganache and toasted hazelnuts. You can use any brownie recipe you please (but this one's to die for), and simply add the ganache and nuts. It seems so many people have nut allergies that, to avoid a catastrophic allergic reaction, I don't bake the hazelnuts into the brownies. Instead, I sprinkle them on at the end. This allows me to leave a few nut free, so no one's left out, but you can certainly add the nuts to the batter if you please.
Adapted from a Nick Malgieri recipe
2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 16 tablespoons (plus more for greasing)
8 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (I used a combination of both), finely chopped
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. sea salt
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with butter and line with parchment paper (allowing enough to hang over the sides to use later for ease in removing the brownies). Grease paper and set pan aside.
Pour enough water into a 4-quart saucepan that it reaches a depth of 1 inch. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Combine butter and chocolate in a medium bowl; set bowl over saucepan. Cook, stirring, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the coffee powder. Set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt; whisk to combine. Pour chocolate mixture into bowl through a fine mesh strainer and stir to incorporate. Fold in flour. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes (switching pan position halfway through cooking time, to ensure even baking). Let cool to room temperature on a rack.
Yield: 12 large brownies
12 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate (I used a combination of both), finely chopped
12 fl. oz. (1 ½ cups) heavy whipping cream
¼ cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Place the chopped chocolate in a large stainless steel bowl. Pour the heavy cream in a small saucepan and bring just to a simmer, being careful not to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute then whisk well to combine, making sure all the chocolate has melted. Allow the ganache to come to room temperature, about 2 hours, or cover and place in the refrigerator overnight (let return to room temperature once removed from fridge).
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, toast the hazelnuts over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Watch them closely to see that they don't burn. Set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
Once the ganache has reached room temperature, transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, mix on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes to attain a light and fluffy texture. Evenly spread ganache over the room temperature brownies. Sprinkle with the toasted, chopped hazelnuts and place in the refrigerator to set for 10 minutes. Remove and cut into twelve 3 ¼" by 3" squares and serve. Store brownies in one layer in well-sealed plastic containers.