When I go to Europe, I often hear American food described derisively as "burgers and fries," and gourmands kind of wrinkle their noses at it as if omg! burgers! who eats that?! (I bet they secretly do). To me, however, American food is the stuff of summer BBQs, the sunshine and warmth of sunsets on a back patio, the comfort of family and friends - in a word, it's timeless. Certainly, American food is not so delicate as French food and not so exotic as Korean, for example, but there is so much flavor there that I return to it over and over again when I have the luxury to cook to please only myself.
Which brings me to this cold spell Los Angeles is having - rain pattering on the roof, rolling gray clouds and temperatures below 60 (that's COLD for around here!). At times like these, I want something that will be the taste-equivalent of a fleece blanket, and I want it fast. Wherein come these brownies. People: I am not a chocolate person, but these are divine. Meltingly soft when warm and dense and fudgy when cold, intensely chocolaty at every temperature, it was actually torture to package them away for early Valentine's Day gifts. I really hope giving away chocolate puts out some cosmic karmic good vibes, because whew, I suffered when they left my hands, I really did.
First, you start with a lot of chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar, eggs and butter, and then, because clearly, that's just not enough, you add in some creamy mascarpone cheese and a bit of flour to hold it all together, and THEN (yes, you heard me right, there's more), you make a chocolate ganache that covers the brownies with a shiny blanket of awesomeness. Let me pause a moment to let that all sink in. Yeah. They were that good.
Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies
1 cup unsalted butter
3 ounces best quality semisweet chocolate (I use 70%), finely chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
6 ounces best quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 325F and butter an 8-inch square baking pan.
For the brownies: In a small saucepan (or in the microwave), melt the butter and bring it to just below a boil; put the chocolate in a mixing bowl and pour the hot butter over the chocolate. Let stand for 30 seconds and then whisk until smooth and chocolate has completely melted.
Sift in the sugar and cocoa powder and fold into the chocolate.
Beat in the mascarpone cheese, eggs and vanilla, mixing until smooth. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and the salt and then gently fold them into the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes while you make the ganache.
For the ganache: Place chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl; in a small saucepan, bring the cream and the butter to just below the boiling point, over medium heat. Pour this hot cream-butter mixture over the chocolate and let stand for 30 seconds, then stir until smooth; ganache is now ready to use and can be spread over the brownies.
Should you wish to wait a bit, make sure the ganache is warm when you spread over the brownies, as it does firm up which makes spreading hard to do.
Don't cut into the brownies until ganache has firmed up; I find it best to put the brownies into the fridge to speed this along; once the ganache is firm the brownies do not need to be kept in the fridge, though.
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