Monday, October 12, 2009

Barcelona Brownies

Brownies are my go-to baked good. They are simple, satisfying, and oh so yummy. The Barcelona Brownies are no exception. While slightly more complex to prepare than traditional brownies, they can still be made by hand and if all of your ingredients are at the correct temperature, they will come together in a snap.

All good brownies should be moist, have a deep, dusky chocolate taste, and have the right balance between fudgy and cakey. The Barcelona Brownies meet this criteria and then some (especially if you use the ganache plugs). And then there are nuts...there is nothing more disheartening than to be tempted by brownies at a funeral luncheon only to discover they contain -- what my husband calls "pecan's ugly cousin" -- WALNUTS. I share this view, partly because I've had one too many BAD walnuts, and also because there are other, better nuts to use in the place of a walnut, such as the lovely pecan. These brownies have pecans, and that made me smile.

I tend to avoid nuts in baking because I have a tendency to burn, rather than toast them. I always think, "Oh, I only have to bake them for 5 minutes" and casually avoid setting the timer and begin working on the rest of the recipe. 20 minutes later the smoke alarm goes off and I remember, "Oh, nuts!" Not this time, I set the timer for 7 minutes and forgot about the nuts. 7 minutes later, after wondering why the stove was beeping, I remembered the nuts and they were perfectly golden even though I didn't stir during baking as recommended by Rose.

I am a firm believer in reducing the quantity of dishes one uses, so I made some slight modifications to the recipe. I combined my Lindt Piccoli (58% instead of suggested 60-62%, but close enough, I say) and butter in my mixing bowl and melted the chocolate and butter using 10 second intervals in the microwave (instead of double-boiler). Rose uses the microwave for chocolate melting, so I figured it was ok.

The recipe is really simple from here...keep adding ingredients and whisk.

Here's the Green and Black's Cocoa:

Followed with the sugar.

Next the eggs and vanilla are whisked into the batter. The recipe says to whisk "until the mixture becomes thick and glossy." I remember thinking, "Is this enough?" when my arm suddenly got tired. At that very moment, the sugar crystals in the batter dissipated, it became ultra thick, and of course, it became glossy. Perhaps it should read, "Whisk until your arm feels like it's about to fall off!"

After that, change your implement and use a wooden spoon instead of a whisk and add the cream cheese, followed by the flour and salt, and then the nuts. Simple!

My reservations about baking the brownies were related to not having the appropriate pan. I only have a Wilton silicone baking mold that has 6 hearts. Each heart holds 1/4 cup of batter, so that at least was the same as indicated by the recipe. But the shape is much wider than the financiers mold, but what's a girl to do?

I portioned out 45 g or so into each mold and popped them in the oven. It was apparent after 15 minutes, that these were going to take longer to bake. After about 25 minutes they were ready. Hallelujah, Rose! She even gives a temperature for the baked brownies. How useful is that?!

Because my hearts are wider than the finaciers, they didn't bake up as high and were quite difficult to remove until I inverted the pan. Voila!

I wasn't worried about the pile of batter that was still in the bowl. Since brownies don't contain leavening, this wasn't an issue. I simply covered the bowl with plastic wrap. I did find I was a bit short of batter,though -- I should have made 14 brownies at the 45 g portion size, but I only was able to get 12 (I added a little extra batter to the last 6) -- and no, I was not helping myself to unbaked brownie goodness.

The recipe gives directions for making ganache plugs. I planned to use up some of the Caramel Ganache I made a couple of days ago (caramel and pecans are a perfect fit!), so I just put that in a zipper bag and snipped a corner to pipe it. In the recipe, Rose states that the brownies should be kept in the pan if making the ganache plugs. I didn't have time to let them cool, as I was using only one pan. Instead, I just set the brownies on the counter after cooling for 10 minutes and made my depressions with a cake dowel. I didn't have any problems with this method, except that I sometimes hit a pecan and my holes wouldn't be very deep. I suppose this may be trickier with the financiers as they are not as wide and would need the exterior support.

A word on the Caramel Ganache. It's been awhile since I've made caramel, so when I was adding the cream to the sugar syrup, I forgot how vigorously it bubbles. I thought it was done bubbling and added more cream, but it wasn't done bubbling, and I ended up with a huge mess on my stove. (Sorry, no pics, way too intense). I lost a fair amount of cream and sugar in the mishap. I was running out of time as my 1.5 year old was napping and caramel and kids don't mix, so I just added what remained to the chocolate. Wow! What an intense ganache. It used 99% chocolate and I didn't have all of the cream and sugar to add to it. It was very thick and quite bitter, so I improvised and added some heated cream and corn syrup. Not exactly as written but it worked. I suspect the corn syrup is responsible for the sheen.

Thoughts on the brownies...

I think what I like best about the brownies is the flavour and texture. Whenever I eat a cocoa based brownie, I think, "next time I should try a chocolate based brownie." And of course, when I eat a chocolate based brownie, I think, "next time I should try a cocoa based brownie." This recipe contains some of each. The cocoa really gives the dusky flavour and color (more noticeable on the inside). The chocolate provides more subtle flavours. The cream cheese is indiscernible, and does help create a moist brownie. And the texture is really a cross between cakey and fudgy. I recall Rose stating somewhere that her brownies don't need to be chased with a glass of milk, and I do believe it's true. But I still like to do it anyway.

My husband said, "Not too sweet." Which is as close to a complement I can get from him when I bake something other than pastry.

My mom thought they would be cakey looking at the appearance, but after tasting it she loved that it was fudgy too.  And my chocolate loving sister only wished the brownie was bigger :)  I served them slightly chilled and it really accentuated the fudgy texture (my favourite), but also enhanced the chocolate flavours.  The caramel ganache went extremely well with the brownie, especially since pecans were used.  A very, very good brownie recipe that will be made again and again.  I will have to try it in an 8" x 8" to simplify it even more.


  1. I used heart-shape pans too! :) caramel ganache sounds delicious!

  2. I love the heart shaped pan! Great compromise. :)

    I think I'd like them best slightly chilled too.

    Great photos!!

  3. Hi Sherrie - you don't have to coat your ribbon if it's florist's ribbon (waterproof and greaseproof), but if you use grosgrain, yes.

  4. To answer your other question... the cake I made was a 6-8-10 cake. The slices were 4-inches tall and about 1/2-inch thick.

  5. I really like the heart shaped pan. "Not too sweet" - I laughed when I read that part about it being a compliment :)

  6. Super cute shape!! And it looks nice and moist. Great job!


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