There are some things in life that just shouldn’t be messed with and brownies are one of them. But I decided to mess with them anyway. Double Chocolate Brownies with Crushed Almond & Espresso
I have the ultimate brownie stored in my memory banks. It’s my childhood brownie. It’s fudgy and a bit messy. It has a crackly top and it’s less than an inch thick. Brownies should be imperfect. Sometimes they don’t even hold together. These are my mother’s brownies from the 1970s. They did not contain too much flour. She did not use baking powder or baking soda, so they didn’t really rise and get cakey. They were always best either gooey and hot straight from the oven (with ice cream) or as a hand held treat on the second day. Even as a kid I noticed how the texture was just right on day two of brownies.
I don’t make brownies much. In fact I don’t bake or make sweets very often. But come on, I should have a brownie recipe that’s all my own.
In my world I believe if you’re going to mess with a classic you best know what the hell the baseline is. So, just what is a brownie? It seems to be a truly American creation, so that tells you something. A brownie should not be subtle. Most brownie legends begin with an absentminded housewife who forgot to add leavening to her cake. It’s become accepted that a brownie with baking powder is not really a brownie. As expert baker and author Nick Malgieri said “leavening is about as useful in brownies as it is in mashed potatoes”. Which means basically that a brownie is a sweet chocolate treat stripped down to its essence.
That essence of course is deep, dark (brown) chocolate. So when I decided to “mess” with brownies I decided to add ground almonds and a touch of espresso. Not because I wanted to taste almonds and espresso in my brownies. I did it because I think these ingredients highlight a brownies deep dark (brown) chocolate essence.
I’ll admit the nuts change the texture somewhat (I’m not sure my childhood self would approve). So they’re not my mother’s brownies. Then again– they never could be could they? GREG
- 1/3 c sliced almonds (about 1 ounce)
- 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
- 1/4 c all-purpose flour
- 1 t baking powder
- 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
- 1 pn kosher salt
- 1 c sugar
- 1/2 t vanilla extract
- 2 T espresso, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 c semisweet chocolate chips
- confectioners sugar as needed for dusting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 8 x 8‑inch glass or ceramic baking pan, then line the bottom with a piece of parchment cut to fit cleanly. Butter the top of the parchment as well. Set aside.
On a baking sheet toast almonds in middle of oven until golden, about 7 minutes. Place the toasted almonds into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until the almonds are coarsely ground. Add the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and a pinch salt. Run the processor again until the almonds are finely ground into the flour mixture, about 30 seconds. Transfer the flour and almond mixture to a medium bowl.
Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
In a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water melt unsweetened chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Stir in sugar, vanilla and espresso until well combined. Remove from heat and let cool somewhat– about body temperature is good. Quickly whisk in egg until well combined. Scrape the chocolate mixture into the flour and almond mixture along with the semi-sweet chocolate chips. Beat until just combined. Spread batter into the prepared pan and bake on the middle rack, 40 to 45 minutes. (Center will be a bit fudgy but almost cakey.)
Cool brownies in the pan on a rack 5 minutes. The turn them out onto a new piece of parchment paper. Peel away the older parchment from the bottom of the pan if necessary and discard. Use a fine meshed sieve to thoroughly dust the top of the brownies with confectioners sugar. Carefully flip the unsliced brownies and dust the other side as well; then cut the brownies into serving pieces. Brownies will keep in an airtight container 3 days or frozen up to 2 weeks.
NOTE: You may use a metal pan but the brownies will cook faster so watch them.