Barcelona Brownies

i promised to write about my recent trip to barcelona but that was before i knew that in three days i would be doing 5 demos, 2 newspaper interviews, 2 t.v. shows, and a 5 hour photo session! i never saw much of barcelona but i did eat and drink wonderfully! i'll just have to go back on vacation some day soon.

the visit officially began with a demo in a chocolate museum school, followed by a lecture to the baker's guild of spain. the challenge presented by the demo was to offer a recipe that was chocolate, was uniquely american, didn't take long to prepare or bake, showed off the lékué silicone bakeware--my host--and not be dependent on either flour or leavening. it has been my experience that european flour produces vastly different results from what i am accustomed.

after much deliberation, it turned out that there was only one perfect possibility: the beloved brownie, baked in individual molds. the traditional small ingot shape of the financier mold seemed like an excellent choice. and now that i've perfected this recipe i'll probably never make brownies in the usual square pan again! in the silicone financier pan, the brownies pop right out--each with a perfect shape and size and fine crust all around that keeps them from staling. it's far easier getting the batter into the molds than having to cut them afterwards! You can even use the batter to make madeleines.

this batter can be made ahead and transported as there is no leavening to dissipate.


these brownies are light in texture but get their exceptional moistness from cream cheese and fudginess from the best quality cocoa and chocolate. for extra creaminess optional little plugs of ganache are poured into holes made with a chop stick after baking. it was gratifying to see the students casually pop a brownie in their mouths expecting something ordinary and then watch their eyes widen in glad surprise. chocolate never gets better than this.

Oven Temperature:  325°F.

Baking time:  ­12 to 15 minutes

Makes:  Fourteen 3 inch by 1 inch by 1  1/8 inch high brownies

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Special Equipment:

Financier molds, preferably silicone, filmed with baking spray with flour or shortening and flour.

Preheat the Oven

20 minutes or longer before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

Toast the Pecans

Place the pecans on a cookie sheet and toast them, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until very lightly browned.  Cool completely.

Melt the Chocolate and Butter

In a double boiler over hot water or microwave-proof bowl, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring 2 or 3 times.

Mix the Batter

Beat in the cocoa, then the sugar, beating until it is incorporated.  (If you are doing this by hand, use a whisk.)  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.  When incorporated, beat in the cream cheese until only small bits remain.  Add the flour and salt  and mix only until the flour is fully moistened.  Stir in the nuts and scrape the batter into a piping bag or freezer-weight zipseal bag. (You can use a spoon but it's a lot faster and easier to use a pastry bag or zipseal bag with one corner cut.)

Fill the Molds

If using a silicone mold, set it on a baking sheet and pipe the batter into the cavities, filling them about three-quarters full (1.5 ounces/45 grams in each). With a small off-set spatula or the back of a spoon, smooth the tops.

Bake the Brownies

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the batter has set. The batter will puff and rise a little above the top of the cavities but sinks slightly on cooling. An instant read thermometer should register about 194˚F. and if pressed lightly with a finger tip they will spring back.

While the Brownie are Baking, Prepare the Ganache

Melt the chocolate in a microwave, using 15 seconds bursts on high power and stirring several times, or in a double boiler over hot but not simmering water, stirring occasionally.  Add the cream and stir gently until the mixture is smooth and dark.  If necessary (if the cream was too cold and the mixture not entirely smooth), return it to the heat until totally fluid and uniform in color.

Fill the Brownies

As soon as the brownies are removed from the oven, grease the end of a wooden chopstick or dowel (1/4 inch diameter) and insert it into the brownie, at 3 evenly-spaced intervals, all the way to the bottom, twisting slightly as you insert and withdraw it.  Fill the holes with the ganache until slightly rounded above the surface of the brownie.

Place the pan on a wire rack and cool completely.  The ganache will sink in as it cools and more ganache can be added, to fill in any depressions, as long as the brownie is still warm enough to melt it.  (If necessary, you can set the brownies under a lamp to heat the ganache puddles and make them smooth.) If making the optional ganache plugs, allow it to sit at room temperature until the puddles are firm to the touch. Then invert the mold of if using silicone, push each out with your finger pressed against the bottom of the mold. (If not making the ganache the brownies can be removed after 10 minutes of cooling.

Store wrapped airtight in plastic wrap and stored in an airtight container: 1 week at room temperature, 1 month refrigerated, or several months frozen.  Try eating them frozen or chilled if you like a chewy brownie, room temperature for a softer creamier texture.

Cherry Version

Replace nuts with 2 ounces dried tart cherries, chopped plus 2 T Cherry Herring or half Kirsch half water.