Espresso Brownies With White Chocolate Vanilla Buttercream
3/4 cup soft unsalted butter
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped **
1 T instant espresso powder **
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon **
1 1/2 C sugar **
3/4 C all purpose flour
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped **
1/2 C chopped toasted hazelnuts **
**heavy pinch of salt**
**1 1/2 tsp vanilla**
1/2 C supersoft unsalted butter
1/3-1/2 C confectioners sugar
1-2 T milk
a leftover vanilla bean (seeds already used for another purpose)
4 oz white chocolate melted
Put rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 350 F. Cover a a 9x9 baking dish with foil and grease the inside, then coat with flour ( I used cocoa powder, which i think works much better for brownies).
In a bain marie, combine first amount of chocolate, and butter, and melt.
Stir in espresso powder, then remove from heat to cool slightly. Then beat in eggs one at a time (try to get them to room temperature first, somehow the results always turn out better) and add flour and beat again.
At this point, I also added a heavy pinch of fine ground sea salt. I always add atleast a pinch of salt in my baking, it really seems to help coax the complex flavors out of ingredients. I also added a 1 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract, because, again, with most of my baking, I always add vanilla, I love it, esspecially with chocolate.
Lastly, stir in the nuts and chopped chocolate. I used walnuts, coarsely chopped, then toasted, because I love the way the earthy, meatiness of walnuts plays against the rich depth of dark chocolate. Also, I used broken up pieces of white chocolate, instead of the noted bittersweet.
Pour batter into prepped pan, and position in the center of the lowest rack, and bake for 30-35 minutes. These are pretty thick brownies, so it takes a bit. The originl recipe noted 25 minutes, but mine definitely took closer to 35. As soon as they're done, what i always do, is immediately take the hot brownies, and stick them in the freezer to quick chill, for 20ish minutes. This is a trick i read on bakingbites.com. What it does, is helps the outside of the brownies themselves set , and produce the wonderful crisp all around, it keeps them from geting soggy, or too soft anywhere! Plus it also quickens the cooling time, so you can dislodge and frost them sooner :)
Lift the brownies out of the pan, via the foil (once fully cooled) and make Icing.
To make icing:
So, I first infused the milk with the vanilla bean. I had a bean that i had already used most of the seeds for another recipe, so I had kept the bean, and just threw it in with the milk and heated it slowly, to release some more flavor. It worked beautifully. If you don't have a half-used bean, by all means, used the seeds from about a 1/4 of a bean (its strong stuff, and very delicate, so you don't want too much vanilla flavor) Let that infuse for a bit, then strain out the bean and reserve the milk.
Beat butter into sugar until well acclamated, then add melted chocolate and beat until thick, but smooth.
Now, with mixer still on, slowly drizzle in milk a little at a time until a smooth icing forms. It should almost drizzle off spatula in single stream, but a little thicker. You want to be able to coat the brownies, without it being so thick it tears the flaky bits off when you're trying to spread it.
So now, ice the tops of your cooled brownies, and allow frosting to set up, about 10 minutes. Once they're set, and you've peeled down the sides of foil, take a long sharp knife and cut them into however big, or small pieces you like. I cut mine into 12 squares.
Right before serving, I sprinkled just a hint of ground espresso poweder on top. A great contrast in color, and ofcourse, the hint of that extra espresso works beautifully with the creamy white chocolate vanilla. :0 voila
Pairs Well With
Okay, so the original recipe is from Epicurious, although I did make some modifications/ additions, which I noted.
I made up the icing, aiming for a thin buttercreamish ganache.
** I used 5 oz 72% cocoa solids dark chocolate, with awesome results. Also, about 1 1/2 T espresso powder, no cinnamon, used freshly grated nutmeg instead, 1 cup of sugar instead of 1 1/2, and added walnuts and white chocolate chunks in the end, instead of the hazelnuts and dark chocolate.
I started making these brownies because I wanted a recipe that didn't have too many eggs ( i like fudgy!) and had the option for modifications. I love playing around with mix-ins, like dried cherries or butterscotch chips, or different kinds of nuts. I've also played with different flavorings in the past, no vanilla, and dark rum instead, or cointreau and orange zest. Both with great results, but overall, this version is the best. Its classic, but with a little refinement coming from the espresso powder, and the deep richness from the dark dark chocolate. I also love the icing. The creamy sweetness of the white chocolate and hint of real vanilla bean make it a perfect topper for the brownie. Like a cafe au lait!
Please try this recipe, it comes together much quicker and easier than you'd think, and the results are divine!