One morning, I had a sudden desire to bake a chocolate brownie after scrolling through mouth-watering pictures of blondies. It was one of those greedy mornings. I knew my brownie had to possess several qualities: salted (to contrast with the sweetness of the brownie; fleur de sel should do the trick), and fudgy (because I am obsessed with intense chocolate flavour). Yet there was still an aspect missing; crunch. But this was resolved the very next day when I spotted a box of White Chocolate-coated Macadamia Nuts on the dining table. The ultra long name of this brownie may have been a mouthful especially when informing my guests but there were just too many elements, and each could not be done without the other.
Baking is a momentus task for me, one that requires ample research on ingredients (contrasing texture and flavours, sorted!), presentation (shall I place the nuts neatly aligned in a straight line or haphazardly placed around?), and most importantly the technique (crispy crust and mushy chocolate interior only). For the perfect technique, I looked no further than Yvonne Ruperti who said:
To get that nice, crunchy layer on top, the eggs and sugar need to be whipped. Dissolved sugar will help contribute to a smooth, glossy top, and the whipped air lightens up the mixture so that the sugar rises to the top, creating the crust.
Still, I needed a foolproof recipe and lucky me, Thomas Keller had one which looked very simple! (By the way, his Perfect Roast Chicken is sooo good. The recipe is again so unbelievable simple.) Mr Keller’s recipe required THREE WHOLE STICKS OF BUTTER. Yes, you read it right, all 339 grams will be needed and used to create this sublime brownie. This did freak me out a little but I was going to serve to many relatives, so technically each person would only be consuming a bit.
Here’s how to prepare this recipe. First preheat your oven to 350°F (180 degress celcius). Butter and flour (using unsweetened cocoa powder) a square metal pan. Set aside. Sift together 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup unsweetened alkalized (dutch-processed) cocoa powder or cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a bowl and set aside. These will be know as your dry ingredients. Lay out your white chocolate coated macdamia nuts and start oogling at them but exercise some serious self control to resist popping a few into your mouth.
Melt 1 1/2 sticks of butter in a microwave or small saucepan over medium heat till melted. Place another 1 1/2 sticks of cubed butter in a medium bowl, and pour the hot melted butter in. Let sit for a few minutes then stir until the butter looks creamy with small bits of unmelted butter. You should get a thick creamy butter mixture with coagulated bits and the mixture should be a pale yellow in colour.
Lay out all your materials and marvel at your closet organisational skills.
In the bowl of a stand mixer ﬁtted with the paddle, mix together 3 large eggs and 1 3/4 cups of granulated sugar on medium speed for about 3 minutes, or until thick and very pale. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. On low speed, add about one-third of the dry ingredients, then add one-third of the butter, and continue alternating the remaining flour and butter.
The batter will be very thick and glossy. Dip your finger in there and take a big bite of your amazing baking skills! (Mr Keller also said the batter can be refrigerated for up to 1 week but seriously, can you resist not baking immediately?!?!)
Spread your batter carefully in the metal pan. It will not be easy due to the thick batter but perservere. Neatly place the white chocolate macadamia nuts onto the batter and slightly push them down.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester or wooden skewer poked into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs sticking to it. I baked mine for 40 minutes just for extra fudginess. Cool in the pan until the brownie is just a bit warmer than room temperature. Run a knife around the edges if not using a silicone mold, and invert the brownie onto a cutting board.
Slice the butter-laden brownie into little squares and place some small fleu de sel on each cube.
Here’s what the inside looks like. It is so dark and intense. The brownie emits this intense chocolate fragrance as it is cooling down. Biting down, it is so just so rich. The high butter content ensures the brownie will never dry out. Finishing with the fleur de sel brings out the chocolate flavour even further and tempers the sweetness. It prevents the brownie from becoming too one-tone. It would also be amazing if the brownies were warm when served. All my relatives were clamoring for second pieces.
I am so very glad my first attept was a huge success so give it a bake but try not to consume the whole thing by yourself. 😉