Chocolate Macadamia Brownies with Pumpkin Cream
The base of the dessert is a layer of chocolate macadamia brownie. I filled the rest of the bowl with a pumpkin cream made with mascarpone cheese. It has a light and creamy texture that is the perfect backdrop for the decadence of the brownie. To top off the dessert, I added some whipped cream dusted with cinnamon. A few brownie crumbs make a nice final touch, as well as sign of what's to come as your spoon cuts through the pumpkin cream.
We love brownies and make them more often than we probably should, but until now I've never served them to guests. This was my attempt to dress up a brownie into a dessert that could be served at the end of a nice dinner party. I'm happy to report that the dessert went over very well. Brownies have an incredible ability to turn anyone who even looks at them into a kid again, and it was a wonderful way to end an elegant meal.
Yields: 10 verrines3 eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1/3 cup macadamia nuts, roasted and slightly crushed
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
16 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon imitation brandy extract (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon extract
1/8 teaspoon anise extract
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 clove, ground into a fine powder
2/3 cup pumpkin purée (see tips)
3/4 cup whipped cream, chilled
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, for garnish
For the chewy brownie:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the granulated sugar until you get a pale, yellow foam; the texture of the egg yolk will be thicker. Add the vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon of brandy extract (if used).
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, coffee and salt. Sift the dry ingredients.
In another bowl, cream 7 tablespoons of butter with brown sugar.
Place a pot filled with hot water (at a gentle simmer), topped with a piece of cloth so the bowl does not move and place a stainless-steel bowl filled with the finely chopped chocolate on top. Stir until melted. Turn off the heat. Another option is to heat the chocolate for 30 seconds in the microwave. Watch the chocolate carefully; it could burn easily in the microwave! Add the butter mixture to the melted chocolate. Stir well. Add the egg mixture, slowly add the dry ingredients in 3 batches and finally add the crushed macadamia nuts.
Apply a thin layer of butter (approximately 1 tablespoon total) to a 24-bite-size-square silicone mold pan (see tips). Pour the brownie batter into each cavity. Bake for 5 minutes at 350°F; lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for another 40-45 minutes. The texture of the brownie should be a little flaky on top and soft on the inside, just oozing chocolaty goodness.
Reserve 10 squares; allow them to cool completely. (Check out the tip section to see what we did with these extra brownie squares...)
For the pumpkin cream:
In a bowl, combine 4 tablespoons of butter, cinnamon extract, anise extract, powdered clove, ground ginger and pumpkin purée. Use a stand-mixer so you'll get a more even texture. Add the mascarpone cheese and beat for another 2 minutes until the texture is smooth and creamy.
Clean your mixer blades in hot soapy water. Always make sure the beater blades are completely clean prior to whipping cream for optimum results. The whipping cream should be whipped cold. Whisk the heavy cream for about 2 minutes at a low speed. Add the powdered sugar and remaining brandy extracts (if used) and increase the speed of your mixer and keep beating for another 2-3 minutes until it forms soft peaks. Don't over-beat or the texture will become grainy. Reserve about 1/3 cup of whipped cream in a bowl and chill it in the refrigerator.
Using a silicone spatula, mix 1/3 of the whipped cream with the pumpkin mascarpone to soften it. Add the rest of the whipped cream and gently in fold the cream to get an airy batter. Plastic-wrap and chill the pumpkin cream in the refrigerator until ready to serve (or fill the verrines right away if the brownies have already cooled completely).
Line up the verrine glasses. Un-mold a brownie square, place at the bottom of the verrine and fill with the pumpkin cream to the top. Use a spreader to remove the excess cream. Repeat until all the brownies and pumpkin cream are used. Plastic-wrap each verrine and chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.
When serving, unwrap the desserts and top with a dollop of the reserved whipped cream. Garnish with a few brownie crumbs. Dust with a little cinnamon powder using a fine mesh shaker or a strainer.
FYI: 1/2 cup of butter = 8 tablespoons = 1 stick of butter.
If you want to repeat the hint of coffee in the brownie, you can top the heavy cream with a chocolate-covered coffee bean to accentuate it.
Sifting dry ingredients helps to get rid of lumps of flour and also to aerate the mixture when liquid is added. It's very important for all of your baking so you get a moist result.
Little reminder on how to roast the macadamia nuts (at very low temperature): Preheat the oven to 170°F. Spread the nuts onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Roast the macadamia nuts for about 10 minutes. Let the nuts cool completely.
I served the dessert in small verrines. Verrine is just a fancy word for glasses; they're the latest trend in French cooking. Depending on the height of the verrines, you might want to trim the thickness of the brownie a bit. Count 1 part brownie to 2 parts pumpkin cream.
If you don't have a bite-size square silicone mold pan, you can always bake the brownies in an (8 x8-inch) square pan and serve the dessert family-style or spoon the brownie into the verrines.
You might wonder what we did with the rest of the brownies and the answer is: we ate them all!December 19, 2009.