I confess that I have an affinity for dolled up chocolates. I cannot deny the aesthetic pleasure I derive from these little confections that can be nestled in designer boxes and cushioned individually with molded seats to protect their delicate bodies.
Since there were many celebratory events lately, I was lucky to be the receiver of many- a boxed chocolate. Case in point: my grandma. Grandmas are like year round Santas that give, but unlike Old Saint Nick, they will give whether you’re naughty or nice (for the record… I’ve been quite nice lately).
So, I was delighted to be on the receiving end of my grandma’s recent giving -kick one day. When I arrived home from work, I was greeted by a basket of wrapped goodies. I tore into each one as if it were Christmas day. When I finished, 3 items lay before me: hazelnut hot chocolate, Baci chocolates, and a Lindt milk chocolate hazelnut bar. Coincidence? I think not. It was a sign. I needed to make a hazelnut dessert.
I gravitated towards a simple brownie recipe using ratios I was quite comfortable with. With my impromptu dessert idea, I created the ingredient list in my head.
I saved the bar and the hot cocoa for another occasion and used the boxed chocolates for the brownie base.
With a dash of this and a sprinkle of that, I crossed my fingers and slid the baking tin into the oven. Less than half and hour later, I was greeted by the aroma of nutty hazelnuts and rich chocolate. As I carefully took the pan out of the oven, the sides had inflated as if they inhaled a large amount of air. The middle was just set and the surface of the crust was shiny and crackly. I let them cool on a wire rack before slicing into generous portions.
And the taste of this creation? Pure pleasure with a bit of beaming pride on the side. The chocolate gave the brownie a mousse-y, creamy texture. While it looks rich, because I reduced the amount of sugar to compensate for the sugar already in the chocolate, the chocolate taste itself was nice and light with a nuttiness that lingers in the background. I like the nubbly bite-sized hazelnut pieces that studded the body of this brownie.
To serve it, I placed a dainty quenelle of fresh whipped cream on top and sprinkled over a variety of toasted nuts. This recipe was created by me.
9 oz Baci chocolates, unwrapped
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp natural cocoa, sifted (Valrohna recommended here)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp Frangelico (or vanilla if you don’t want to use booze)
3/4 cup all- purpose flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup toasted and coarsely chopped nuts (I used a combination of hazelnuts and pecans)
Preheat your oven to 325F.
Line a 9 inch baking pan with butter (or oil or cooking spray) and parchment paper. Place the pan on a baking sheet
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour and the baking powder to remove any lumps
Over a large pot of simmering water place a heat proof bowl on top. Do not let the water touch the bowl. In this double boiler you’ve created, melt the chocolate with the butter, salt, and cocoa (stir periodically with a rubber spatula). Take the bowl off the heat and let it cool slightly.
Meanwhile whisk the Frangelico, sugars, and eggs together until thick and light, about 3-4 minutes by hand.
Add the egg mix to the cooled chocolate and stir (not whisk, you don’t want to add any extra air to the mix, otherwise you’ll end up with cakier brownies) until you see no more egg-y yellow streaks.
Stir in the dry ingredients just until you see no more white. Then add the nuts and stir to distribute into the batter. Do not overmix.
Put the sheet with the pan on it and bake for 30-40 minutes (rotating half way through) or until the perimeter of the brownie is slightly puffed, the top is dry, and the centre is just set. Do not overbake!
Take the pan out of the oven and let the brownies cool on a wire rack until they come to room temperature. Cut into hefty or dainty pieces and eat! (Tip: Only if the brownies are cool, when you cut them, use a plastic knife and not a metal one. The plastic glides through the brownie wonderfully without picking up a trail of crumbs and you’ll end up with clean and neat slices.)
Yield: 9 fat brownies or 16 regular sized ones.
Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool dry spot for up to two days. Otherwise wrap them airtight and place in the freezer. They’ll keep for about 2-3 month.