Totally Amazeballs: Creole Brownies

My husband Tom gave me a copy of The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook for my birthday, and I had great results with two of the candy recipes (Butter Mints and Caramel Popcorn Balls) that I made for our holiday party. For my first baked goods recipe from the book, I chose "Creole Brownies." The recipe is a bit unusual in that it includes a ganache frosting and calls for nibs in the brownie batter. Normally I avoid baking brownies with frosting -- under the theory that if the brownie requires frosting, it's probably not very good -- but the photo of the brownies in the cookbook looked so appealing that I couldn't resist (you can see the photo here, if you scroll down below the cupcake recipe).

The brownie itself is very quick to assemble: melt unsweetened chocolate and butter in a double boiler, add sugar, salt, and vanilla, mix in eggs one at a time, and fold in flour and then cocoa nibs. The baking time for the brownies is fairly short (the recipe says 20-22 minutes, but mine were done in 24 minutes).

You make the ganache frosting by heating heavy cream, butter, sugar, and salt, adding bittersweet chocolate, and then mixing in hot brewed coffee (the recipe suggests New Orleans-style chicory coffee and I used brewed espresso) and vanilla. I can't tell you how many hours of my life have been spent waiting for ganache to cool enough to reach a spreading consistency. So I didn't delay and made the ganache immediately after I took the brownies out of the oven. By the time the brownies were completely cooled, the ganache was thick enough to spread. As a finishing touch, I sprinkled a bit of fleur de sel on top of the ganache.

As I was making the ganache, I kept thinking that there was way too much of it. The ganache recipe (for a 9-inch by 13-inch pan of brownies) calls for a cup of heavy cream, a stick of butter, and a full pound of bittersweet chocolate. The ratio of ganache to brownie seemed improbably high -- but I didn't want to waste any of the ganache, so I spread all of it onto the brownies. As you can see in the picture above, the brownie to ganache ratio was approximately 3:2.

The brownie itself is ultra ultra fudgy. The nibs were my favorite part because they give the brownie a delightful texture -- almost like nuts, but more tender. The ganache is insanely good, even in light of (especially because of?) its excess. It's smooth, intense, and slightly astringent from the bittersweet chocolate and coffee. The combination of the fudgy brownie and thick layer of ganache is a sinfully decadent chocolate overload. If I ever do another Brownie Tasteoff, these are going to be a leading contender.

Tasters were practically swooning over these brownies. The only word I can think of that does them justice is one that Time Magazine has proposed banishing for 2013: "Amazeballs."

Recipe: "Creole Brownies" from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook by Griffith Day and Cheryl Day.

Previous Post: "The Brownie Tasteoff Finals: A Brownie Champion is Crowned," September 27, 2011.