When someone suggests that you ought to go to graduate school, what they are really saying is that in two to five short years, you will arrive with a master’s degree wearing pants that have become hard to button, permanent under eye circles, and a new distain for structuralism.
All for the cost of a down payment on a house.
I have worked as a dietitian for ten years and gastronomy graduate student for five. Food has become a lens through which I view pretty much everything.
I have examined French nationalism through wine and peered at fascism through a pasta noodle. Viewed the sensorial language of restaurant chefs using a twelve course tasting menu. Analyzed normative gender identity in a professional kitchen. And theorized beer to be a fluid entity built by microbes and societal flux.
And I mention all this because I am tired. I have one more class to go. And have officially hit writer's block.
It turns out the quintessential brownie can no longer be summed up so quickly. That and I desperately need a vacation. So forgive me.
This recipe is a wonderful example of the complication that food often provides. It is the best brownie recipe I have encountered. And it comes from Canada.
Specifically, from a bakery called Olive + Gourmando, which I visited a few years ago during a trip to Montreal. It is the kind of shop that labels pastry baked in a muffin tin with a disclaimer that reads, “this is not a red velvet cupcake,” in typewriter font next to platters of chocolat belge biscuits and thick brownies. A place that can get away with holding its middle finger up high.
An unlikely source of such a treasured archetypal American dessert. And yet, poetically appropriate.
These brownies are of the fudge-like persuasion. They are unapologetically dense and deep, studded with homemade espresso ganache chips that shimmer like moonlight through the pines. They call for advanced planning by a day or two and a shocking quantity of high quality chocolate. But if you are craving sensory overload, there is no better fix.
And if you want them, you had better get on it. This is not the type of recipe built on hastiness. Like so many worthwhile things it requires an investment of time, and of chocolate.
Olive + Gourmando Brownies with Espresso Ganache Chips
Adapted from Dyan Solomon of Olive + Gourmando
for the espresso ganache chips
375 grams (about 13½ ounces) 70% chocolate
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp instant espresso powder
½ tsp cinnamon
for the brownie batter
3 sticks (1½ cups) butter, cubed
455 grams (about 16 ounces) 50% chocolate, cut into cubes ½ to 1-inch
6 eggs, room temperature
1½ cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1½ tsp salt
for the espresso ganache chips:
These need to chill, so plan to make them a few hours ahead (or the day before). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a metal bowl over a pan of slowly simmering water about 1-inch deep. Melt the 70% chocolate in the bowl, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, warm the heavy cream and mix in espresso powder and cinnamon; stir to dissolve.
Pour the heavy cream into the melted chocolate; stir rapidly to combine and pour on parchment paper, smoothing the chocolate out towards the pan edges. Place in the fridge to cool.
for the brownies:
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking dishes with butter and cover with parchment paper—letting the paper sides hang over the dish (this will make it easier to remove the brownies). Grease the parchment paper with butter. (I used a 9 x 9 and a 6 x 12 pan: you may be able to get away with one large rectangular baking dish but it may alter the cooking time.)
Place the butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat to melt; add in the 50% chocolate and stir constantly; taking care not to let the chocolate burn. When the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until it turns a pale, frothy yellow (about 5 minutes).
In a separate small bowl, sift together flour and salt. Remove the ganache from the fridge and break up into bite-sized pieces.
Drizzle the melted chocolate into the egg mixture (the chocolate should be warm but not scalding hot); fold together. With the mixer on low, add the flour in three additions; remove the bowl from the stand.
Fold in the ganache chips and continue to fold until no flour remains, taking care not to over mix.
Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the top looks set and starts to crack. (Since the batter is so rich, it will be difficult to use a toothpick to test for doneness.) Let cool and then refrigerate overnight in the pan; this will aid in creating a fudge-like texture.
Makes about 25 brownies
-You’ll want to use high quality chocolate, especially as it is such an integral part of the recipe, Callebaut or Valrhona are two options.