One of my favorite parties of the year is the late fall dinner my husband and I host for his freshman seminar class at Amherst College. The students, bright, lively, and engaging, come from around the country as well as from several continents. This year the group hailed from New York to California and from cities in Ethiopia, Uruguay, and Viet Nam. So, I decided to plan a menu with global accents, and offered as openers baked Medjool dates filled with Gorgonzola Dolce and almonds, followed by vegetarian Greek moussaka and French daube de boeuf à la provençale. All-American brownies, prepared with an unexpected flavor combination, made a fine finale.
The dark chocolate, fudgy brownies, studded with chopped pistachios and scented with fragrant orange peel, quickly disappeared and were given a thumbs up by the crowd. I was delighted since I had spent several days tweaking the recipe, replacing traditional nuts with pistachios and omitting vanilla in place of grated orange zest. Extra festive touches included decorating the brownies with a zigzag pattern of ganache and adding a sprinkle of finely chopped verdant pistachios.
These brownies are petite and slim perfect for a holiday indulgence. A single recipe yields 16 squares and can be stored for several days in the fridge. I was so pleased with their popularity that I’m making another batch for a neighborhood potluck this weekend!
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Dark Chocolate Brownies with Pistachios and Orange
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced, plus extra for the baking pan
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 tsp grated orange zest
1/4 tsp sea salt such as fleur de sel
2 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup flour plus extra for the baking pan
1/2 cup (2 oz.) shelled pistachios, chopped and preferably toasted and unsalted (see note)
Glaze and garnish
3 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 tbsp heavy or whipping cream
1- 1 /2 tbsp finely chopped pistachios
A squeeze bottle, optional
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan. Then using a sheet of parchment cut 7 1/2 by 15 inches, line the pan so that it covers the bottom and extends over two opposite sides of the dish. (This will make it easier to lift the cooked brownies from the pan.) Butter the bottom and sides of the paper.
2. Place the butter and the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over but not touching a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Remove from heat and set aside to cool 10 minutes.
3. With a wooden spoon stir in the sugar, orange zest, and salt. Then add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition, until mixture is well blended. Add the flour and pistachios and stir well until no traces of flour remain.
4. Spread batter in prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until a tester inserted into center comes out with a moist crumb, 22 to 25 minutes. Be careful not to overbake.
5. Cool brownies in the pan to room temperature. Then lift from the pan using the overhanging parchment. Discard the parchment. Cut into16 squares and place on a baking sheet.
6. For the glaze, place the semisweet chocolate and cream in a medium heatproof bowl set over but not touching a saucepan of simmering water. Stir constantly until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and warm. If you have a squeeze bottle, transfer the warm chocolate to it, and drizzle the chocolate in a zigzag pattern over the top of the brownies. Or, use a teaspoon to drizzle the warm chocolate over the brownies. Sprinkle the top of the brownies with pistachios.
7. Refrigerate the brownies until the glaze is set, 1 hour or longer. Then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. (Brownies can be prepared 3 days ahead; keep refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before serving.) Makes 16 brownies
Note: My local Trader Joe’s sells shelled 8-ounce bags of pistachios that are toasted and unsalted for $5.99
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2014