My cousin currently lives in England. Not happy enough being smarter than most of her peers, she felt she needed to sound smarter too (although in her defence she hasn't adopted the “Madonna accent”). As such, I only get to see her once a year when she flies back home for Christmas. Previous to moving there we only really got together for family events, but you don't realize how much you miss someone until it's impossible to see them whenever you want. Anyway, because she was coming back for Christmas, I asked her if there was anything special she would like me to bake for her. The conversation went like this:
Is there anything special you wanted me to make for Christmas Day?
I can't think of anything in particular that I would like. How 'bout I say “anything with chocolate in it”, and you surprise me?
Are you looking for super rich or light and airy?
And thus began my fall into madness.
With a sinister mwuh-ha-ha, I started to plot, but not just plot, I also started to scheme. I wanted to bake something that was both rich and a little unusual. Doing a standard brownie wasn't enough, and a chocolate cake or the like was too obvious. I agonized over what I would do (I'm a dramatic person after all :)). Then all of a sudden I got an idea. An awful idea. A wonderful awful idea. I would create a layered brownie, but not any layered brownie, a layered brownie with multiple types of chocolate and textures.
Imagine if you will:
Layer 1: Oreo crumb crust – dark chocolate flavour, not too sweet, but crispy
Layer 2: A basic semi-sweet ganache fudge – rich, creamy and smooth, borrowed from my birthday cake
Layer 3: Cashews -- Break up some of the chocolate flavour, but keep it rich and add some more texture
Layer 4: My favourite brownie recipe – super rich, soft, chewy and fudgie
Layer 5: Milk chocolate frosting – light, sweet, and creamy.
It seemed just crazy enough to work :). However, I was both excited and nervous, this was an experiment and there were expectations. I knew individually each layer was good, but was it going to be good together?
As I was building the recipe the only thing I was really worried about was the bake time of the brownie layer. Not only was I changing its size but also adding cold layers beneath it. As well, I was a little unsure of what to do with the frosting layer. Eventually I opted to melt the chocolate with a bit of butter to ensure that it wouldn't go rigid when in the fridge.
The next morning when I cut into the brownies and took a taste they were perfect. You could taste each layer individually and there was enough variation in texture that the richness was not overwhelming. Thankfully everyone seemed to really enjoy them as well. On Christmas day I actually brought extra so my cousin would have some to take home (although there was enough dessert that this was almost assured :)). As the night was coming to an end we began the “great dessert exchange” (my goal being to only go home with things I did not bake :)), my Aunt told me that my cousin “took all of the brownies” and wanted to know if this was okay. Nothing could have made me happier than to hear that :).
So if you need more then a standard chocolate fix I suggest you try this sucker out. It's not hard to make it just takes a little time, but it's time well spent. Half the fun of making these brownies is watching the expression on people's faces as you attempt to explain exactly what you have done. I suggest using your hands to represent each layer, but I'm Italian, it's impossible for me to explain anything without using my hands :).
Oreo crumb crust:
1 ¼ cup Oreo crumbs (135g)
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted (57g) – remember to stir melted butter before adding
Chocolate fudge layer:
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (227g)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup halved cashews (approx 140g) – use more if you like
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen½ cup all-purpose flower (65g)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar (225g)
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp cocoa powder (82g)
½ cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter (141g)
2 large eggs, cold
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp salt
Milk chocolate layer:
7 oz milk chocolate (200g)
1 tbsp unsalted butter (14g)
Oreo crumb crust:
Place rack in lower 1/3 of oven, preheat to 325F and line a 9” square pan with foil.
In a small bowl add Oreo crumbs and melted butter. Mix until all crumbs are moistened. Pour crumbs into baking pan and press evenly along the bottom of the pan. Using a fork, poke holes into the crust to prevent it from bubbling.
Place pan in the oven and allow to bake for 7 minutes.
Once done place pan on rack to cool completely (to speed up the process allow to cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes and then place in freezer until completely cooled).
Chocolate fudge layer:
Add chocolate to a medium heat proof bowl. In a small sauce pan on medium heat, heat cream to almost boiling and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 3 minutes.
Add vanilla and stir mixture until smooth.
Pour over cooled crust and place in freezer for 10 minutes.
Remove from freezer and layer cashews over the fudge. Making sure to press down gently so there are no loose cashews.
Return to freezer for 10 minutes
Place a medium heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add sugar, cocoa powder, butter, and salt. Stir periodically until butter has melted and the mixture is “hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test” (verbatim from original recipe, excellent tip).
Remove from stove and allow to cool until mixture is warm.
(It's probably been roughly 10 minutes, don't forget about the freezer :))
Add vanilla to mixture and with a wooden spoon stir to combine. Add eggs one at a time and mix until completely combined. The batter should now be shiny and thick. Add flour and stir until it is no longer visible. Stir batter as hard as you can for about a minute.
Pour batter over cashew layer as evenly as possible. Using a rubber or offset spatula even batter out where necessary (the batter will be quite thick, don't worry too much if you pull up some of the cashews, just replace them and continue to smooth out the batter).
Give the pan a couple of taps and shakes to remove any air bubbles and place in oven.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out a bit moist with batter (this took me 38 minutes. Remember: a slightly underdone brownie is better than a slightly overdone brownie :) ).
Allow to completely cool in pan on rack before adding the the milk chocolate layer.
Milk chocolate layer:
In a medium heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water, add chocolate and butter. Stir periodically until completely melted.
Remove from heat and spoon chocolate onto brownie layer. Even layer out using a rubber or offset spatula.
Allow to cool completely before slicing or moving to fridge.
Enjoy chocolate bliss.