No, these are not potato chips with the brownies, although that might not be a bad combination, either.
Today I emptied out my cupboard, to see what I could still use, and to throw away what has expired. I was saddened to see that I had about a pound’s worth of different chocolates–some in the form of unsweetened chocolate squares, others as half full bags of chocolate chips. I need to be wiser with my chocolate purchases.
I did find some crystallized ginger leaves, and about a cup of cocoa, though! And some espresso powder that had just expired. So…brownies it is!
I don’t even remember the last time I made brownies. But I do remember making a refrigerator chocolate cake that had some candied ginger in it, so I thought I’d chop up this and put it in a brownie, along with some almonds and espresso powder.
The crystallized ginger and espresso powder adds some pizazz to a basic brownie recipe, but the beauty of brownie recipes is that you can usually make substitutions or omissions, depending on how you feel. Today I had some shoulder pain that made sleeping almost impossible for the last two days, so I needed some pizazz! I’m hoping the pain pill will kick in soon so I could get some sleep. Oh, and if you are someone from work and reading this and wondering why I called in sick if I’m well enough to bake and write this, I may be well enough now, but this morning and afternoon would not have made a very good worker. But I’m hoping to show up bright eyed and bushy tailed. Or at least functional.
So, if you really don’t like ginger or espresso, leave it out. I like more than just chocolate flavor. Usually I put nuts, and today I had some leftover almonds that worked just fine for this. Toast the almonds before you use them if they’ve been in storage for awhile, to freshen them up. Maybe about 8-10 minutes on 325 degrees F.
The base brownie recipe I used is from Alice Medrich’s book. Gooey, Chewy, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-your-mouth Cookies, and there are a ton of really good recipes, including many gluten-free things that really work because they use a combination of flours that don’t give off strong odors or flavors, and so are perfect for sweet things. I made gluten-free carrot cake once with a store bought mix that contained some bean flours, and even after I frosted them with my favorite cream cheese frosting, I could still detect something that was a little off-putting. They tasted like fish cupcakes with frosting! Ha! Would’ve made a good practical joke!
Anyways, follow the recipe, and don’t leave out the 40 vigorous strokes, and you’ll be rewarded with really good brownies. If you use dutch-process cocoa, the brownies are darker; the natural cocoa gives you more reddish colored brownies that have a more fruity flavor. I like the natural cocoa variety, but whatever blows your skirt.
Ginger Almond Brownies (this is close to the recipe from the above book)
11 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar (I used half brown sugar, and half regular granulated sugar)
3 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 vanilla beans
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup toasted chopped almonds (optional)
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, cut into small pieces
1 Tablespoon espresso powder, dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8 X 8 square pan with parchment paper and let the paper hang out on two opposite sides. I sprayed with baking spray, but you don’t have to.
In a double boiler, over medium heat, melt the butter with the sugars, cocoa powder, salt, and vanilla. When butter is melted, remove from heat and stir until all is mixed together well. It might be gritty, but that is okay, because the eggs with smooth it out. Add one egg at a time and mix with a spoon or spatula after each addition. After the eggs, dump all of the flour at once and stir vigorously for forty strokes. The batter will be smooth and shiny. At this point, add your additions, if desired. I added the chopped nuts and ginger together and espresso/water mix and stirred it all in. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes on 325 degrees F. Cool on wire rack in pan. If you want really defined edges when you cut, put it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes, then cut with a warm knife. Sprinkle with the sugar from some of the crystallized ginger, if desired.