Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Turbo-Charged Brownies with Praline Topping
I made the first brownie recipe in the Pastry Queen, Caramel Filled Brownies, a while back and liked them quite a bit. This recipe didn't look as appealing to me when I flipped through the book, but I decided to go ahead and give them a try tonight. Brownies with a hefty amount of coffee flavor, topped with a homemade praline -- nothing sounded bad about it... it just didn't sound like a knockout recipe.
The recipe is good, no question about it, but it didn't make my short list of favorite brownie recipes. The caramel brownies were much better, and the Dorie Greenspan peanut butter brownies were WAY better (I don't have a link for that recipe, guess I'll have to make them again... bummer.)
This recipe doesn't actually have much chocolate in it, which is tragic as far as brownies go. It only has 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate for an entire 9 x 13 inch pan. I thought it was a typo at first, but I'm pretty sure that's what she intended. It also has 1 tbsp of espresso powder which gives them a strong coffee flavor with only a hint of chocolate. The praline topping was incredibly sweet and offered a nice complement to the chocolate/coffee combination, but I didn't have heavy cream and had to use milk instead so my praline topping wasn't nearly as thick and rich as it should have been.
I suppose if you're not a huge chocolate fan these would be great, because they are nicely balanced as well as being super rich and sweet. Once again, I come back to my brownie problem -- if I am going to have a brownie, I want it to be chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. I have four other brownie recipes on this blog in addition to the Peanut Butter Brownies I mentioned ealier -- Peppermint Brownies, Bittersweet Brownies, Ginger Brownies, and Caramel Brownies -- and from all of those recipes, what I have concluded is that most of the additions -- peppermint, ginger, caramel, and espresso powder -- simply distract from the chocolate experience I prefer.
Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed all of the recipes, but when I think brownies, I think pure chocolate with either pecans, walnuts and/or chocolate chips to add some crunch. If you use high-quality chocolate, and a proper fudgy brownie recipe -- all of that other stuff is unnecessary. The one exception was those peanut butter brownies -- a thin, fudgy, uber chocolaty brownie, topped with peanut butter frosting, and then another layer of bittersweet chocolate -- that was definitely a superior brownie.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 tbsp boiling water
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet with foil, leaving several inches hanging over the short ends of the pan. Grease the foil with butter or cooking spray.
In a large metal bowl set over a pan filled with 2 inches of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Stir in both sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla all at once and stir until the batter is smooth and shiny. In a small bowl, combine the espresso powder and the boiling water; stir into the brownie mixture. Stir in the flour and salt.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it evenly. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the brownies have just begun to shrink slightly away from the sides of the pan. Do not overbake; the brownies should be slightly wet inside. Cool completely while making the praline topping, about 1 hour at room temp or 15 minutes in the freezer. Leave the oven at 350.
To make the topping: Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast fro 5-7 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. Break the nuts into large pieces.
Combine the cream, brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a 2 1/2 quart saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until the mixture is smooth and the butter has melted. Bring to a slow boil; boil without stirring about 6 minutes. (If the mixture starts to boil over, you've set the heat too high. Turn the burner down a notch.) Remove the mixture from the heat and let cool about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and pecans. Pour the topping over the cooled brownies, spreading it with a knife or spatula to cover evenly.
Let the topping cool at least 15 minutes at room temp. Lift the brownies, still in the foil, out of the pan and cut them into pieces.