Greetings, my insomnicakes!
Tomorrow evening a group of quite interesting and many well-known artists will be descending upon my place of employ to discuss Art and Science and Important Things. I would like all of these Interesting and Influential People to think I’m the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread, so I have some fairly ambitious brownie plans for this evening, courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen: Grasshopper Brownies.
This looks as though it will fill a great many needs of mine:
- Ganaches look gorgeous (or so I hope they will), and therefore this will be an impressive dessert item to present
- Since this dessert comes in layers, it appears super labor-intensive, (which actually it kinda is)
- I’m full of POWERFUL EMOTIONS, and all the stirring and whatnot will be an excellent outlet for my Untapped Wells of Rage and my unending Need to Capitalize
So! Onto the baking:
- I preheated the oven to 350, and lined my brownie pan with tin foil, which I then buttered.
- In a medium saucepan, I melted 10 ounces of bittersweet chocolate (or almost all of a 12 ounce bag), 3/4 cup unsalted butter (the fancy European style kind, because I’m classy that way), and 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar. Generally I would say “fuck it” and just melt everything in the microwave, but I imagine that you want the sugar to fully dissolve. I melted it stove-top style like the Domestic Goddess I am.
- While that was melting, I lightly beat together 3 eggs in a small bowl because they had been very, very naughty.
- Once the chocolate in the saucepan was nice and smooth, I whisked in the 3 eggs and a little vanilla until combined. Then I added 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup-and-a-little-bit-more Dutch processed cocoa powder, and a few generous grinds of the sea salt mill.
- It’s totally wonderful that you can make the entire brownie batter portion of the recipe all in the saucepan. Like, for serious, that’s awesome.
- You know what else is awesome? Making brownies, that’s what. I feel as though my day is melting away.
- I poured the brownie batter into the buttered foil, then let them bake for what turned out to be 22 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, I brought almost 1/2 cup heavy cream to a simmer, along with 10 ounces of white chocolate. Smitten’s recipe notes mention that her ganache seemed “too soft”, so I decided to experiment a little bit. I used slightly less cream than the recipe calls for, and heated the chocolate and cream together. I was using Toll House white chocolate (not the best brand), so I had to stir pretty vigorously to keep the chocolate from separating. Which is kinda icky.
- Once the chocolate was all melted, I poured it into a medium-sized bowl, and added a teaspoon of mint extract and 2 drops green food coloring. I was going for that artificial green color you only get in mint chocolate chip ice cream, the kind you could get off the ice cream truck that waited outside the community pool.
- There’s a childhood memory that’s always haunted me involving an ice cream truck. When I was 8-ish, my grandparents gave me a shiny 50-cent coin. It was heavy and looked antique, and I loved it. It looked the way I thought money should look– imposing and imperious. It became my lucky charm, and I carried it everywhere. One day, the ice cream truck passed by my house while I was there with a friend. I didn’t have many play-dates, so the fact that I could treat my friend to ice cream (material possessions can buy friendship, after all) was especially exciting. I was short on change, and all I had left was my 50-cent piece. Which was exactly the amount we were short. The ice cream man was restless, complaining he had other houses to get to. I hesitated, but was mortified I might look cheap in front of my friend. So I parted with my lucky charm in exchange for an artificial sugar treat that was gone in seconds. I’ve always looked back on that moment with regret. Can’t clearly say why.
- ANYHOO, for the chocolate ganache, I decided to follow the directions more closely. I brought 1/2 cup heavy cream to a simmer, poured it over 10 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, and then waited one minute. Then I whisked the chocolate into the cream. I still had some chunks of chocolate floating around, but I paid them no mind. That’ll do, Chocolate, that’ll do.
- By this time, the brownies had finished baking, so I took them out to cool (1 1/2 hours! For serious! You guys!).
- I put some plastic wrap over the ganaches, and set them softly in the fridge. I need to let the mint ganache chill for a full hour, and while the chocolate ganache only needs 30 minutes. Which is irritating, as I need the mint first. I left them in there, and stirred them occasionally.
- The white chocolate ganache has a plastic-y, artificial sheen to it. It’s actually quite pleasing to the eye.
- Since I was busy waiting for all the brownies and ganaches to chill, I allowed myself to do the same. I could have continued watching Friday Night Lights, but I have to say the charm of the show has been lost of me. Instead, I watched the Futurama episode “Where the Buggalo Roam”. Futurama is clearly the best television show ever made. If you can watch “Jurassic Bark” and not get misty, then I don’t want to know you.
- After 40 minutes, I was restless. So I spread the still-chilling mint ganache over the still-cooling brownies. The ganache kinda melted into the brownies, but it seemed salvageable. There didn’t seem to be enough ganache, however. If I did the recipe again, I would make at least 50% more.
- I covered the brownie pan and the melted ganache in foil, and put it into the freezer to chill a bit more quickly, then put it back in the fridge.
- The chocolate ganache seemed well and truly thickened, so I took it out of the fridge.
- I’m new to working with ganaches. Hopefully in time I’ll get more comfortable with how thick they’re supposed to be. I feel so lost!!
- After 10 minutes or so, I checked on the brownies. My cheapo white chocolate ganache appeared to have separated a bit, but otherwise okay. I put the thing in the freezer for faster chilling. It was nearly 2am, and while my insomnia is indeed epic, I did have work the next day.
- Whilst waiting sleepily for the ganache to set, I watched an episode of the new Doctor Who (Season 3, “The Lazarus Experiment). While Tom Baker will always be my Doctor, David Tennant just a hunka hunka burnin’ nerd-love, and Martha Jones is amongst my favorite Companions.
- Once the mint ganache was “set but still slightly sticky,” as Mrs. Smitten Kitchen told me it should be, I took it out of the freezer.
- To spread the chocolate ganache, I dropped it on in glops and then pressed the glops together with a small spoon in order to get a textured surface. I prefer a thick layer of chocolate, and could have used about 50% more of the stuff.
- Still, gor-gee-ous.
- The brownies need to chill for another 2 hours, but there was no way in hell I was going to sleep not knowing how these babies taste. I cut off a small corner and was instantly in chocolate-peppermint heaven.
Verdict: No joke, you guys, these things are magical. You can taste all the flavors distinctly; the ganaches are soft and creamy, the brownies rich and fudgy. I feel confident than my guests tomorrow evening will be well and truly impressed with my efforts this evening.
The downsides, if there are any, is that this is a messy and time-consuming recipe. For those not plagued with Insomnibaking, I would recommend setting aside at least 3 hours to make these (including clean-up– thank goodness for my dishwasher).
However, the result is absolutely worth the messy dishes and the constant screaming doubt. You’ll have a dessert that looks fantastic and tastes dreamy.
And with that– sweet dreams.