Monday, September 21, 2015

Bringing Bubble Wrap and Brownies - European Union Brownies


Sunday - after a wonderful evening with friends, a successful if expensive jaunt to the AT&T store (my new phone should be arriving this coming Friday), and a fun trip to the Crayola store on Saturday, Rob and I had nothing more strenuous planned than to sit in front of the TV and have "Breakfast with Baker" on BBC America. Tom Baker, you know, the Fourth Doctor. I see a lot of "Star Trek" influence in this episode, which is kind of weird, but after all, these two science fiction icons have been practically contemporaneous for 50 years. 

My back is breaking from my mall-walking adventure, which is why I have yet to start the meatballs. Must start the meatballs ... a handful of Advil and another cuppa coffee, and I'll be right as rain. Right, ha. Good thing I have this brownie recipe to share with you.

My plan for Friday, as much any of my plans pan out, was to get my butt into the office and finish packing it up. (Never happened. Shooting for Monday.) Seriously. I haven't worked there since March 2, and have been officially separated (I like that word so much better than terminated) since August 27, but nobody seems to be in a rush for me to pack up and leave. Eventually, I expect that the position will be filled, and someone out there with a J.D degree and stars in their eyes is going to want my little office. Friday seemed like a good day.

Since I hate to visit my office peeps empty-handed, I decided to bake some brownies, but of course, not just any brownie: something different, extra-rich, and perhaps even a bit elegant. I had two packages of brownie mix remaining from the four package box I bought in BJs a little while back, and a pantry full of different chocolate chips, nuts, and ... Nutella. Ooh, la la! I started dreaming my way through Camilla Saulsbury's Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book - 745 recipes that start with cake mix, brownie mix, refrigerated cookie dough, or even ready-to-eat cereal. What I came up with was a mash-up, literally, of two of her very best brownie recipes plus an online recipe for a Nutella ganache, and my unquenchable predilection for throwing extra chocolate chips into everything I bake.

I therefore present to you my recipe for European Union Brownies, which is what you get when bakers from Italy, Austria and France all hold hands and sing Kumbaya. The appearance of the baked brownies, like the relationships between certain members of the EU, is somewhat rocky. As I sit and write this, I don't know about flavor and texture - that will have to wait until we cut into it on Friday (which is now set for Monday).

While I was preparing it, I realized that the hazelnut swirl was not coming out the way it was described. Instead of being smooth enough to spoon over the batter and swirl with a knife, the Nutella seized somewhat as I added the eggs and flour, forming almost a crumble, which I finished by working with my hands. It was delicious nonetheless so I crumbled it over the top and then dropped spoonfuls of the raspberry preserves in spots that weren't covered by the crumble.  It is a very damp and humid day here - monsoon season persists - and that may have affected the texture. It also might have happened because part of the Nutella I used had been previously refrigerated, although it was at room temperature when I used it.  Who knows? I guess I'll just have to try these again, someday.

2 - 18 to 19 oz. packages of brownie mix
2 sticks of butter, melted
1/2 cup water    
4 extra large eggs, whisked
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped hazelnuts

1 - 13 oz. jar Nutella, divided in half
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 extra large eggs, yolks only
1 - 18 oz. jar seedless raspberry jam
1/2 cup heavy cream
additional chopped hazelnuts for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray the bottom the the pan with Baker's Joy or Pam for Baking.

In an extra large bowl, combine the brownie mix packets, melted butter, water, and eggs.  Use a wooden spoon to mix everything until blended and all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Mix one-half of the Nutella with the 2 egg yolks and flour.  Drop by spoonfuls across the top of the batter.  Next drop spoonfuls of the raspberry jam across the top of the batter, using about half of the jar. Use a knife tip to cut through the batter to create swirls.  Place in the oven to bake.

I ended up giving this behemoth 1 hour and 10 minutes in the oven, then took it out to cool while Rob and I took care of a few chores. When we got back several hours later, the pan of brownies was still slightly warm, and there were some areas that were still not done. Cursing the great gods of brownie-baking, I rebooted the oven, and not wanting the edges to get any darker, covered the pan with foil. Fifteen more minutes, and the brownies were finally done - I hope.

Remove the finished brownies from the oven and set the pan on a metal rack to cool. When they are cooled to room temperature, prepare the ganache - heat the cream just to boil and immediately pour it over the remaining Nutella.  Stir until the Nutella is completely melted and the ganache is smooth.  Pour over the cooled brownies, starting in the center. Sprinkle the ganache with additional chopped hazelnuts. Store in the refrigerator to keep the ganache firm.

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