"Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on." - Mary Oliver, from 'Wild Geese.'
I won’t say much here, rather, what I will say, is I know these are the ones you’ve been waiting on. Rich with dark chocolate, ultra-fudgy to the point of near molten, intense with undertones of espresso, thickly frosted, and slightly salted. I’ve made countless batches of these brownies within the last few weeks, more than I care to admit. They’re that good. And I wanted them to be perfect before I shared them with you all. Also, one of the pictures below is shot on my iPhone. Please don’t hold it against me, I loved the way the light reflected across the shiny-crackled crust. Make sure to keep an eye out on this space within the next few weeks too, there’s something more to come.
This recipe heats the butter and sugar over the stove until the mixture is dissolved and glossy. This is one of, not all of, the key elements to ensure a perfectly shiny-crackled crust. If you have a candy thermometer, make sure to use it here. The mixture is at the right temperature when it registers at 50 Celsius.
I always say this, but it’s true. The chocolate is the star, so, make sure to use a kind that you wouldn’t just bake with, but that you would eat. I use Callebaut callets for my chocolate chips, which consist of about 70% cocoa solids. You could use a chocolate that's a little lighter in percentage, but, please do not use milk chocolate here. Make sure to use chocolate chips too, not chunks from a block. From experience, I’ve found that chips, when folded into the batter and spread with a palette knife into the pan, help to produce that shiny crust.
Make sure to use Dutch processed cocoa powder, not natural or Bournville cocoa powder. Dutch processed cocoa powder is alkalized, meaning, that it is much darker, smoother, and flavourally more intense than the other forms of cocoa.
I personally love the depth that the espresso brings to these brownies but I understand that some people don’t or can’t have it. In that case, feel free to omit the amounts of espresso powder specified within the ingredients.
SALTED ESPRESSO FUDGE BROWNIES
For the brownies:
85 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp espresso powder
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
175 g unsalted butter, cubed
300 g granulated sugar
3 large eggs
75 g dutch processed cocoa powder
1 tbsp vanilla bean extract
200 g dark chocolate chips
Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Grease and line a 20-cm square baking pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides.
Whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Put the butter and sugar into a medium-sized saucepan. Heat, over medium-low and whisking often, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture shiny and smooth. Do not allow it to bubble or foam. If you have a candy thermometer, you can tell it is ready when it registers at 50 Celsius.
Whilst the butter mixture is melting over the stove, whisk the eggs, cocoa and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until it is glossy and flows like lava, about 2 minutes. Set the mixer speed on medium and slowly stream in the melted butter mixture. Whisk until evenly combined. Pause mixing and sift over the dry ingredients. Again, whisk until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. Use a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chips until evenly incorporated throughout the batter. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and use an offset palette knife to smooth out the top.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until the brownie is firm around the edges and just set in the middle. A wooden skewer inserted into the middle should not come out clean but with a few moist crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and allow the brownie to cool completely in its pan. Once cool, coat the top of the brownie with the salted espresso frosting before sprinkling with salt and serving.
For the frosting:
120 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
200 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
400 g confectioners’ sugar
100 ml heavy cream
50 g dutch processed cocoa powder
2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
Flaked salt or fleur de sel, for finishing
First, melt down the chocolate. Place the chocolate into a medium-sized heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan filled with a few inches of barely simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water below. Heat, over medium-low and stirring often, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Set the mixer speed to medium-low and slowly stream in the melted chocolate. Return the speed back to medium and beat until well combined, a further 2 minutes. Beat in the cream, cocoa, espresso, and vanilla until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for a further minute, or until the frosting is lightened in colour, smooth, and aerated.
When you’re ready to frost the cooled brownies, use an offset palette knife or the back of a metal spoon to thickly spread the frosting over the top of the brownie. At this point, I like to chill the brownie for about half an hour to slightly set the top so it’s easier to cut, but, you could serve the brownies straight away. Make sure to sprinkle over a little pinch of flaked salt or fleur de sel, right before serving.