Sometimes, you have to be able to hit two birds with one stone, and this week I took a simple recipe, dressed it up one way for a wedding shower, and then transformed the leftovers into a birthday cake. Keeping everybody happy with chocolate and creamy goodness, both events were a huge success.
With limited time and resources, I wanted to deliver a dessert to the shower that was not traditional. While I love a good home-made Nanaimo bar, I wanted to give the bride a two-bite-bit of a chocolate dream that really made you want a glass of good, cold milk. Less sugar more chocolate; most desserts have a sweetness that can be overbearing, but this little gem, was dressed to kill in a rosette of dark chocolate ganache that really balanced the sweetness of the brownie.
The recipe is super easy and great just as a brownie. Served warm with ice cream and strawberries, it is hard to beat. But for the shower I wanted to take the rich gooey brownie idea, add some elegance with garnish and I wanted it to be single serving size. The versatility of toppings is endless; I used ganache, raspberry reduction syrup, and toasted hazelnuts. Crab apple infused whipped cream, a toasted marshmallow, or fresh cut strawberries would have been equally beautiful and tantalizing.
I baked the brownie in a 9×13 sheet pan to keep it thinner and more delicate. Then to get individual servings, I used a cookie-cutter to create even portions. This is where you could really have some fun and cut whatever shape you choose; the brownie is firm, yet flexible enough, to respond well to extreme cutter shapes like stars.
Cutting after baking keeps the cut edges sharp. For example cutting shapes from rolled cookie dough isn’t as showy because as the cookie bakes, the lines soften and lose their precise edge. On a white platter the clean lines of the dark brownie really were something to behold. Also, in consideration of transportation, I was able to use the natural gooeyness of the brownie to keep it set in place on the platter. Over 50 miles those brownies bounced and jarred in the back of a camper fridge, and not one of them moved on the platter.
It can be very difficult to produce beautiful food that travels and stills looks appetizing. Mechanics of food production often means you have to consider using a glue; something with adhesive properties like icing or melted chocolate help to secure items on a platter. Not having to do this step saved time, and time is a precious commodity as the end of summer looms upon us.
So here is the best part of the whole story. If you use cookie cutters, there is always waste, or trimmings. But with chocolate brownie trimmings, you can’t in good conscience throw them away. I decided to try something risky, but in the end it paid off with stellar results. I took all the trimmings and crumbled them into even sized pieces. Then I took a small springform pan and pressed them into the bottom so it was completely covered and even. I baked it for about 7 minutes until the brownie was just warm enough to melt back into itself and pulled it to cool.
What I had then was a pretty ingenious base for a birthday dessert. It baked into solid, firm brownie that cut very well and could withstand almost anything you wanted to top it with. Fresh fruit, whipped cream, pudding, ice cream, cream cheese, mousse; I could go on for days with ideas.
I topped it with whipped cream, chocolate and toasted hazelnuts then froze it so the cream would cut nicely. It was a very well-received birthday cake that had people going back for more.
To keep the spirit light and fun, and the mood in the kitchen exciting and full of adventure, take something basic then dress it up in new and experimental ways. Take a classic recipe and transform the end product to create something that is capable of hitting two birds with one delicious and chocolaty stone.
- 1 cup of butter
- 2 cups of brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp of vanilla
- 4 tbsp of cocoa
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 cup chocolate chips, optional. (I left them out because if you are going to cut shapes out of the brownie the chips will create an inconsistent edge.)
Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
Melt butter, beat in brown sugar, vanilla, egg, flour, cocoa powder.
Spread into a 9×13 baking sheet ensuring it is even throughout.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the brownie is just set and doesn’t jiggle when shaken.
Let cool before cutting or icing.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 1, 2012