High Country Baking: Black-Tie Brownies
High altitudes make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Life is finally moving towards normal! And, oh, how sweet it is! Whether you’re hosting a high school graduation party or just a mask-less evening with friends, this pretty dessert will add a festive touch to the event. Serve these chewy, moist brownies, cut into rounds, topped with chocolate ganache, whipped cream, and a raspberry and expect swoons.
Be careful, too much flour or too much time in the oven will mar your results. To measure your flour, gently sprinkle tablespoons of it into the cup until it’s overflowing and level it with a knife (you don’t want to compact it). And bake them until barely set (see #3 below), then immediately remove them from the oven. If you want to double the recipe, bake it in two 8×8 pans; if you use a large pan (9×13, for example) the edges of the brownie slab may get hard and crusty before the center is done.
Black Tie Brownies
Recipe works at any elevation
Make in an 8×8 inch shiny metal baking pan
Makes nine 1-¾ inch round brownies
8 (eight) tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick)
1 (one) cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
½ (one half) cup plus 2 (two) tablespoons Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 ½ (one and a half) teaspoons instant espresso powder
½ (one half) teaspoon salt
Scant ½ (one half) teaspoon baking powder
2 (two) teaspoons vanilla extract
2 (two) large eggs
¾ (three fourths) cup bleached all-purpose flour (spoon and level)
1 (one) cup mini chocolate chips
½ (one half) cup heavy whipping cream
4 ½ (four and a half) ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ (one half) cup heavy whipping cream, very cold
2-3 (two to three) teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
1 (one) teaspoon vanilla
1. Make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line the pan with non-stick or regular aluminum foil, extending it several inches on two opposing sides to use as handles when removing the baked brownie. Grease any part of the pan that’s exposed and the regular foil with a baking spray that contains flour.
2. In a large bowl (if using microwave) or saucepan (if using stovetop), use low heat to melt the butter. Remove from the heat, add the sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the cocoa, espresso, salt, baking powder, and vanilla and whisk until blended. One at a time, whisk in the eggs until the batter is smooth and shiny. Stir in the flour in three additions. Before adding the last addition, add the mini-chocolate chips to the flour and toss them until they’re coated (this will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter) and then add both the flour and chips to the batter. Don’t overmix when adding the flour, stop as soon as each addition is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake until the edges of the top are set but the center is barely set, and a tester inserted there comes out with a few moist clumps sticking to it (if it comes up with a glob of chocolate on it, it probably hit a chocolate chip, try again in another spot); start checking at about 20 minutes. Err on the side of removing them too early; they’ll firm up some more as they cool. Remove to a rack and cool completely. (At this point the brownie slab can be stored, covered airtight, overnight, or frozen for a month.)
4. Cut the slab when it’s slightly chilled. Use the foil handles to remove it from the pan and place it on a firm surface. Cut the circles with a sharp-edged, 1¾-inch round metal cookie cutter, greased with a little butter. Firmly press it straight down through the slab, don’t twist it. The brownie circle may stick in the cookie cutter, remove it the by gently pressing it down until it slides out. Clean and re-grease the cutter between uses.
5. Make the ganache frosting: Heat the heavy cream to almost boiling. Remove it from the heat, add the chopped chocolate, submerging it all, and set it aside for a few minutes while the chocolate melts. Gently stir (don’t make air bubbles) until it’s smooth and shiny, then set it aside until it thickens but is still pourable. Spread about 2- 3 teaspoons over each brownie round with an offset spatula. Refrigerate them in a covered pan until the frosting is set.
6. Whip the cream: (Add the toppings about 1-2 hours before serving.) Place a metal or glass bowl and the beaters of your electric mixer in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Remove them, add the cold cream to the cold bowl along with the sugar and vanilla and beat with the cold beaters until firm peaks form. Pipe a rosette or spoon a dollop in the center of each frosted brownie round and top with a raspberry. Store in the ‘fridge but serve closer to room temperature.
This recipe is a variation of one published by King Arthur Flour.
Dr. Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco). She’s lived in the Rockies since 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at email@example.com.