An incredible number of you commented that you would make black cocoa brownies, and the more I read about black cocoa brownies, the more I started to really crave them. Yes, the power of mob persuasion and mass suggestion at work. So, the logical course of action was of course to whip up a batch of my own black cocoa brownies, just so you all know that it can be done. And the results? Fantastic.
Super chocolate-ty, super dense--nice and robust and dark. Mm... this is what a brownie should be. And, I am of the camp who believes that chocolate is greatly enhanced by a touch of salt, so the version I made here is salted black cocoa brownies. I buttered the pan with salted butter (rubbing in a little bit of extra salt, just for good measure) and then topped the brownie batter with liberal sprinklings of coarse sea salt before baking. The end result was a brownie that is so incredibly dangerous to have around the house, because it's so dark-chocolate-ty and yet not too sweet at all, hence you can just keep popping them into your mouth before you realize that you've devoured them all. *looks about innocently* I did manage to stay away from one pan of brownies (by wrapping them up in layers of saran wrap) long enough to take them into class today--at which point one person told me that she hesitated to even call these brownies because "brownie" did not seem worthy enough a name. :-)
Of course, being me, I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I present to you another use of these salted black cocoa brownies, if you manage to stop eating them long enough to make it to this point: the Eyjafjallajokull parfait. Yes, you will ask--why in the world am I naming these parfaits after Iceland's recently-infamous volcano? Well! First of all, these parfaits are made with plain Icelandic skyr, which are the perfect base of smooth, creamy, thick, and tart goodness. Then, layered underneath and on top are alternatively the season's first strawberries, macerated in lemon juice and vanilla sugar, and chopped up cubes of salted black cocoa brownies. For some reason, the skyr made me think of Iceland, and then the strawberries and black cocoa brownies made me think of lava and volcanic rock, respectively, sitting on top of a rich mountain of skyr, and thus was borne the name "the Eyjafjallajokull parfait." Or, if you don't want to try pronouncing that, you can just call it the "Strawberry, black brownie, and skyr parfait."
Oh man, did these make the perfect afternoon snack yesterday or what. The bites of dark chocolate and chewy brownie were balanced out really well by the lightness of the strawberries and the creaminess of the skyr. Mmmm... I should have made them in larger mugs. :-P
Anyways, thank you guys all again for your wonderfully sweet and thoughtful and awesomely fun to read comments in the last post! Here are a few answers to a couple of recurring questions, just so I don't forget to address them later:
1. I made the chocolate trees on the cake out of dark chocolate couverture, mixing in black cocoa powder to make the color darker (which, by the way, is another great use of black cocoa powder, as base for dark food colorings). Then, I piped the melted chocolate onto silpats/parchment paper in the shape of trees and let dry completely. You can also do this with tempered chocolate, and it will probably be even sturdier, but chocolate couverture is a good quick-and-dirty cheat. :-)
2. Yes! the walk through the forest totally reminded me of the video game Myst. Actually, the original title for "Descent" was "Descent into Mystverse." I am a geek, just like the rest of you.
3. Someone mentioned self-saucing pudding cake. I am *so* intrigued by this. Can anyone point me in the direction of a recipe?
4. For those of you who have asked if you can buy prints: I just showed my collection so I haven't had any time to think about prints beyond the limited edition ones of the collection. I will look into this further (maybe via imagekind) and get back to everyone! If you are interested in the limited edition prints from the entire collection, in their original intended sizes, please contact me individually at s "at" shihbakes "dot" com.
[P.S. How awesome is the word macerated, by the way?]
Read on for recipe...
Salted Black Cocoa Brownies
makes one 9 x 13" brownie or two 8" brownies
salted butter, for greasing the pan
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/3 cup black cocoa powder
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tspn baking powder
1 tspn salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 tspn vanilla extract
coarse sea salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using the salted butter, grease the bottom and sides of the pan(s). Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powders, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
4. Combine the wet ingredients with the prepared dry ingredients, folding until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Batter will be very thick and difficult to stir.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops. Sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes if using a 9 x 13" pan and for 25-30 minutes if using two 8" pans. Be careful not to over-bake.
7. Remove the brownies from the oven and let cool completely before removing from pans and cutting. (This part is the most difficult--resisting until they are all cool!)
the Eyjafjallajokull Parfait
I don't have exact amounts here because it's basically layering however much skyr, strawberries, and brownie you want. :-)
strawberries, hulled and chopped
freshly squeezed lemon juice
vanilla sugar (recipe here)
half-and-half (or milk or cream)
salted black cocoa brownies, chopped into small pieces
1. Combine and toss together gently the strawberries, a sprinkling of lemon juice, and vanilla sugar to taste. Let sit while you prepare the skyr.
2. Pour a small amount of half-and-half into the skyr and stir together, until the skyr's consistency resembles thick yogurt.
3. Layer between and top skyr with chopped brownies and macerated strawberries.
[My set-up for this shoot]