Monday, 24 August 2015

Woody's Black and White Brownies

So, that bourbon eh? I've discovered it's quite nice. Very nice, in fact. I was pretty hazy about bourbon before this recipe but turns out it's a whisky-type spirit. I also discovered that a couple of spirits commonly known in Australia by their brand-names, are actually bourbon. For many of you this is probably not the surprise that it was for me.

The bourbon is used in the chocolate ganache icing for this week's Alpha Baker project, Woody's Black and White Brownies. Woody, who works with Rose Levy Beranbaum, based these on brownies his mother used to make at Christmas. I'm a sucker for a baked good with a sweet back-story and these brownies turned out to be as delicious as they are heartwarming (and not just because of the alcohol).

Inspiration hit me as I stared at the supermarket shelf; hazelnut and chocolate is a great combination. And if I have to sully chocolate with something then it should be hazelnut. Plus I was in a small neighbourhood supermarket, the selection was minimal and the hazelnuts were pre-skinned. Pragmatism and preference happily coincided.

This is one over-the-top brownie. It has a rich base with dark chocolate, cocoa, pecans hazelnuts, eggs, butter, sugar and even cream cheese. Then it's topped with white chocolate buttercream and dark chocolate ganache flavoured with bourbon. No wonder it was a Christmas treat. Kind of an ultra-deluxe rum ball.

If you read the recipe's description of how to line the cake tin you will know that the picture below is not how you should do it. Sorry Woody. But on the whole there's not enough time in the domestic cook's life to put more than one, at a pinch two, layers of covering into any one cake tin. Plus there must be some terrible flaw in my character that won't allow me to take so much time over this kind of thing. It worked anyway; nothing stuck; nothing leaked. It didn't look pretty.

The baking of the brownie takes a bit of courage. It looks quite wet in the middle when you take it out of the oven. I lost my nerve and put it back in for 5 minutes but I think it would have been better if I hadn't cooked it for the extra time. It was still luscious.

That is not white chocolate buttercream under that chocolate ganache. As we established above, my natural bent is to choose quick and easy over complex and time consuming. I'm also not overly fond of buttercream. So what we have is white chocolate ganache which was meant to be whipped ganache but due to a sudden blackout at time of whipping (when I kept whipping by the light of the laptop), it became grainy instead. I added a bit of cream but it didn't improve it. I could have asked the other Alpha Bakers for advice on how to fix it, but the chocolate ganache was waiting in the wings. I sampled some white ganache on a piece of 'breakfast brownie'* and it was delightfully delicious.

*I both approve and disapprove of the trend to legitimise any item for breakfast by putting the word 'breakfast' in front of it. e.g. breakfast cake, breakfast brownie, breakfast galette.

I did wonder how whisky would taste in icing (I've heard of it in cakes but not icing). The answer is delicious. 

The white chocolate ganache was a great substitute for the buttercream. I'd call these special occasion brownies - just like Woody's mum.

Next week we're baking Flaky Cream Cheese Scones.


  1. I love your posts :) and I love the addition of hazelnuts! Aunty Clare was a great believer that whisky made everything better, so I'll believe you with the ganache. We all should have breakfast at your house at least once!

  2. Great post! Love it when preference and convenience and pragmatism collide!!

  3. I would have loved hazelnuts in the brownie, good call! Also a good call to go white chocolate ganache over the buttercream. I don't understand the need to put breakfast in front of a desert just to justify eating it for breakfast. Just eat it for breakfast! No shame in that. I have a category on my blog, "cakes that are good for breakfast." These made the cut, as any excuse to have booze before noon is good :)

  4. Good idea using hazelnuts! I'm going to try that next time.. kinna like nutella in brownie? I eat desserts for breakfast..if I am eating any breakfast at all. :)

  5. Hazelnuts was truly inspired! Is Nutella as popular in Australia as it is in the U.S.? White chocolate ganache sounds incredible. Going to remember that! Baking by the light of a laptop...only a dedicated Alpha Baker!

  6. Sounds like you had fun improvising, and that it turned out great. I would have preferred bourbon in the ganache, but this time had to settle for vanilla because the guests do not use alcohol. Next time will figure a way.

  7. Great idea on the hazelnut. Definitely a good chocolate match. Love the white chocolate ganache! Considered it too until I found my bag of caramels :)

  8. Oh yes, hazelnuts are wonderful! Perfect pairing. I recently had shrimp sauteed in bourbon and wow were they good. I didn't expect to like them as much as I did.

  9. I think the best thing to do would be to assume that breakfast is implied in anything that would be delicious for breakfast. No need for nomenclature! Pie for breakfast is always acceptable.

  10. Chocolate and hazelnuts is such a lovely pairing. I too love a good story behind a recipe! These brownies look wonderful, bet they taste great. I love how you lined your cake pan. It worked!