“She was my darling: difficult, morose - But still my darling." - Nabokov, an excerpt from 'Pale Fire.'
I realise that this post has been waiting longer than anticipated. But then Paris happened, so, my schedule went completely out the window. Life is consuming. Time, even more so. I still can’t believe that it’s only four months to the end of the year.
There’s a wealth of s’mores related desserts out there. And for good reason. They’re delicious, in any form. If I could, I would s’more anything. And these S’mores Brownies? They’re too good not to share. The brownie base is my personal favourite cocoa brownie. A brownie that’s extremely fudgy and darkly rich with chocolate. A little hint of espresso too. There’s a layer of salty brown butter streusel over the brownie, along with a generous slather of fleur de sel ganache. And torched swiss meringue, to coat. A sprinkling of flaked salt to finish, not mandatory, but, not entirely optional either. Always do the salt.
This recipes makes for a lot of brownie (i wouldn't have it any other way). if you're not too keen on making a large slab brownie, the recipe's are easily adaptable into being made into half batches - just use a smaller tin for the baking process.
The brownie is incredibly dense and fudg-y. as such, i don't like to put it into the refrigerator for too long, as it firms up and can lose that delicious chocolate chewy texture. if you do, i recommend always bringing the brownie to room temperature before serving.
It's a little hard in Australia to source graham's, so, if you can't find them or don't have them on hand - you can substitute another biscuit into the streusel. speculaas would work wonders.
For the brown butter streusel:
75 g unsalted butter, cubed
85 g graham crackers, roughly crushed
2 tsp granulated sugar
¼ tsp fleur de sel
Place the butter into a small saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is golden and melted. Increase the heat to medium-high and continue to cook, swirling the pan occasionally but not stirring, until the butter is beginning to turn amber in colour and smells nutty in fragrance. The butter will begin to foam, but will subside as it continues to cook. Some brown butter solids should just be beginning to form at the base of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Place the roughly crushed graham cracker crumbs in a small bowl. Stir in the sugar and fleur de sel. Pour in the brown butter and mix until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Set aside.
For the brownie:
210 g unsalted butter, cubed
415 g granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla bean extract
1 tsp finely ground espresso granules dissolved in 1 tsp boiling water
120 g dutch processed cocoa powder
75 g all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
Pre-heat the oven to 175 c. Grease and line a 32 x 22 cm rectangular baking tin with non-stick parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment and let the paper slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.
Place the butter into a medium sized saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, stirring often, until the butter is golden and melted. Then, pour the melted butter into a large sized mixing bowl. Add in the granulated sugar. Whisk, until combined. Add in the eggs, one at a time, whisking until smooth and glossy. Add in the vanilla bean extract and espresso. Whisk until incorporated.
Sift over the dutch processed cocoa powder, flour and salt. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to fold the dry ingredients into the mixture until smooth and well combined.
Pour the brownie batter into the prepared baking tin. Use a spatula to spread the mixture to the edges of the pan. Smooth out the top then roughly scatter over the brown butter streusel. Bake, for 16 to 19 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the middle is puffed and set but still remains slightly soft in the center. The streusel should also be deeply toasted. Remove from the oven and set the brownie aside to cool completely.
For the fleur de sel ganache:
200 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
150 ml heavy cream
¼ tsp. fleur de sel
Place the finely chopped dark chocolate into a medium sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
Place the cream into a small saucepan set over medium-high and bring the cream to a rolling boil. Pour the hot cream all over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit, undisturbed, for 1 minute to acclimatise. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the mixture together until it is silky smooth. Make sure to concentrate your stirring around the edges of the bowl. Stir in the fleur de sel.
Once smooth, pour the ganache all over the top of the cooled brownie. Use a rubber spatula to evenly level out the top. Set the brownie in the refrigerator to harden the ganache whilst you make the meringue, about 20 minutes.
For the meringue:
80 ml egg whites
100 g granulated sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean pod or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the egg whites and sugar together to combine. Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2.5 cm’s of water and over medium-low heat. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Heat the mixture, until it reaches about 70 Celsius on a candy thermometer. Make sure to whisk the mixture with a fork often and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl to avoid any sugar crystallization.
Once at temperature, remove the bowl from the heat and place it in the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Set the mixer speed to medium-high. Whisk, until the mixture forms that of stiff and glossy peaks, about 6 minutes. Add in the vanilla bean seeds and continue to whisk until evenly combined. The bowl should be cool to the touch and all the steam will have escaped from the meringue. Stop mixing and remove the bowl from the stand mixer.
Carefully turn the brownie out and onto a serving plate or tray. Use the back of a metal spoon to spread the meringue over the top of the set ganache, in a swoop-and-swirl motion, to get those meringue peaks. Use a kitchen blow torch to char the top of the meringue until it is evenly toasted. Make sure to keep the kitchen torch as far away from the ganache layer as possible so that it doesn’t melt. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle over a little extra fleur de sel or flaked salt over the top of the brownie, before slicing. Serve at room temperature. The brownie will keep for up to 3 days, stored in an air-tight container, in a dark-cool place.