A fellow food writer recently asked me to name several items that are always on my holiday grocery list. Butter was at the top, followed by eggnog, beef tenderloin, and cranberries. Somehow I forgot to mention chocolate, nuts, Medjool dates, and champagne, other favorites that make frequent appearances in my grocery cart.This is the season of celebrations, so why not a few indulgences!?
Dark Chocolate Cashew Brownies are definitely a guilt-free pleasure: rich, decadent, and
addictive, these confections are made with a pound of semisweet chocolate, plenty of butter, and a touch of crème fraiche (France’s brilliant answer to sour cream). Oh, and did I mention that roasted cashews are stirred into the batter as well?
The brownies are two-tiered with a dense, chocolate bottom layer studded with nuts and bits of chocolate and a silken smooth ganache topping. You could offer these delectable squares as gifts. (I stack 4 or 5 on a small plate, wrap them in cellophane, and tie the package with ribbons.) Or, make them the star attraction at a caroling or trim-the-tree party. Better yet, simply keep them on hand to savor with a cup of coffee to stave off holiday stress.
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, divided
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
2 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup flour
6 tablespoons cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process if available
1/2 cup cashews, roasted and coarsely chopped (See note)
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup crème fraiche (See note.)
Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit. Lightly butter the paper.
1. For brownies, chop 6 ounces of the chocolate and place it and the butter in a heavy, medium saucepan. Chop the remaining 4 ounces of the chocolate and reserve to fold into the brownie batter. Set the saucepan over very low heat. Whisk constantly, until the chocolate and butter have melted and mixture is smooth. Remove and cool to room temperature.
2. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, until mixture is thickened, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and gradually beat in the melted chocolate mixture, and then the flour and cocoa powder. Stir in the cashews and reserved 4 ounces of chopped chocolate.
Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake until a tester comes out just clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate until cold, 1 hour or longer.
3. For glaze, place chocolate in a medium, heavy saucepan over low heat and whisk constantly until melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and then the crème fraiche. Pour glaze over the top of the brownies and smooth with a spatula. Refrigerate brownies until glaze is set, 1 hour or longer.
4. Cut the brownies into16 squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving. (Brownies can be prepared 4 days ahead; keep refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before serving.) Makes 16 brownies.
Note: To toast cashews, place on rimmed baking sheet and place in a 350 degree F oven until lightly browned, about 6 minutes or longer. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.
Note: Crème fraiche is available in the dairy section of many supermarkets. If you can’t find it, whisk 1/3 cup sour cream into 1 cup heavy cream. Let stand at room temperature until thickened, 6 hours or overnight. Refrigerate for up to 1 week. Makes 1 1/3 cups.
© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2011
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