To start the weekend this time I thought of a “vintage” baking (Spring 2013) whose main star is an all time favourite: chocolate. Chocolate is the perfect ingredient in baking and pastry: it can be used in different forms (powder, dark, milk, white) that have all different flavours and infer different properties to the baked good; in a recipe, it can play the main role or simply be the supporting act for other great partners; it is extremely versatile for any kind of manipulation to make impressive decorations. But most importantly, it can be transformed into an about endless range of sweets, from simple cakes to decadent sauces, from sophisticated mousses to comforting cookies. There’s basically no sweet recipe that cannot be improved by a bit (or sometimes a lot!) of chocolate.
I personally have nothing against refined and complex patisserie (Pierre Hermé is just my number one pilgrimage destination when I am in Paris) and I am always up to try new recipes and unusual combinations of flavours. But, after all, I am still a simple amateur who enjoys having fun and relaxing by baking in her own kitchen. So when it comes to chocolate I have no doubt that something as simple as brownies are by far its best end (its “death”, as we say in Italy). Brownies are the purest, the most honest, celebration of chocolate and especially of dark one. The more you like dark bitter chocolate the more you can exceed with the “darkness”, up to making something that is not just a sweet anymore but an explosion of different tastes (I also like to add some salt to enhance all the flavours).
Since the results can be very bitter and not exactly to everyone taste, I like to combine these dark chocolate brownies with blondies, their white chocolate counterpart. Although a great fan of any type of chocolate, I always believed white one needs to be used in moderation to avoid that sickly effect that over-sweet things can produce. Therefore I have always been a little sceptical about blondies, but I ended up pleasantly and really surprised by this recipe that brings out the best of white chocolate without being “too much”. Mixing the amazing bitter kick of the dark brownies with the cosy warm “hug” of the blondies shows to me how well they complement each other.
I’m also used to adding nuts because I love them and I think a bit of “nuttiness” can never do any harm, and after several experiments I got to the conclusion that pistacchio (remember “pistacchio” 😉 ) and pecans are the best mates for brownies and blondies, respectively. The recipes that follow here below are some of the simplest and quickest that you could ever find. And even if they might not be fit for the most posh and sophisticated occasions, with a spoon of ice cream (vanilla, hazelnut but even coffee, coconut or whatever you prefer) they will make the most comforting dessert for an impromptu dinner with friends (and it really takes 30 minutes max plus the baking time!). Heart warming stuff, guaranteed :).
For the Brownies:
100g butter, chopped
200g dark chocolate , chopped
100g golden caster sugar
150g brown sugar
90g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
40g cocoa powder
100g pistacchi, peeled, whole or roughly chopped
A pinch of salt
Warm the oven at 180 degrees.
Whisk eggs and sugar at high speed for 5-10 minutes until obtaining a fluffy, light foam. In the meantime melt the chocolate and butter either on a bain marie or in the microwave (see Pistachio Bavarois, 16.02.2014 for directions) and mix all the dry ingredients in another bowl.
When the chocolate and butter are melted, cool slightly and add to the eggs and sugar mixture.
When the chocolate has melted thoroughly add the dry ingredient and mix as little as possible just enough to incorporate the flour with no lumps.
Add the pistacchi, mix roughly and pour in a rectangular cake mould (this bake needs to remain soft a gooey so I highly recommend silicone moulds) and bake for 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes switch off the oven and leave the brownies inside for another 5 minutes. To check if the brownies are ready insert a small knife blade in the middle, the blade has to come out dirty but not completely covered with batter. Different ovens might require different times.
Remove from the oven wait a few minutes then remove the brownies from the mould and cut in square pieces.
For the blondies:
200g white chocolate, chopped
½tsp pure vanilla extract or 1tbs of vanilla paste or the content of 1 vanilla pod
130g plain flour
a pinch salt
100g pecans, roughly chopped
1 tsp baking powder
Prepare the blondies exactly in the same way as the brownies, just check if they are ready at the end of the 20 minutes as they might not need the extra 5 minutes in the oven switched off.