Every recipe from Heavenly Cakes that requires you to do something ahead of time has a note at the beginning of the recipe called Plan Ahead. After I got the book I went through it and underlined all the "Plan Aheads" so I would be sure not to miss them because I know I'm prone to do just that. And yet, inexplicably, I ignored my clearly underlined "Plan Ahead" that told me to make the ganache at least an hour ahead of time. Dear readers, I hope that none of you do the same thing, because, as you will see, the result is a big chocolate mess in the kitchen and brownies that are less than photo-worthy. Have you ever heard of Dark Restaurants where all the food is served in pitch-black surroundings? No lights, no candles? This is how I plan to serve my brownies. If you want to see what they're supposed to look like, you must look at the picture in the book.
Before you start mixing the batter, you toast some pecans for about seven minutes. One advantage of using pecans over walnuts is that you don't have to try to take the skins off of pecans. I love avoiding that step. I also love pecans.
Next you melt some bittersweet chocolate with butter.
Mixing up the rest of the batter couldn't be easier. It's just add and mix--sugar, eggs, vanilla, cream cheese, cocoa, flour. Then the pecans, and it's ready to spoon into the financier pans.
Here's where everything started falling apart. Jim said, "Are you making the brownies or the ganache?" I said, "The brownies, of course." He said, "What about the instruction to make the ganache plugs one hour ahead if you're using them?" I was dumbstruck. Damn! What could I say? So I claimed to have planned it this way. I believe he was unconvinced.
I also ignored the instruction to use a pastry bag when filling the financier pans, even though I remembered using it last time I made financiers and it was easier. Nevertheless, I decided it was a pain to get my metal pastry bag out of hiding and read the instructions. So I filled the financier pans--quite messily--with a spoon.
I smoothed them out and put them in the oven to bake. Then I turned to the ganache, which was supposed to have been made an hour before I even started.
Again, an easy ganache, but I couldn't buy enough time. I melted some chocolate, heated some cream, and mixed them together.
After a few minutes, the chocolate melted into the cream, but it was still very liquid. I put it in the refrigerator, hoping that it would turn into a spreadable consistency by the time I needed it.
By this time, the brownies were ready to come out of the oven, and to have three small holes punched in each one. I used a wooden chopstick, as recommended. That was fun. I've never poked chopsticks into brownies before.
But the ganache was not spreadable yet. I decided to use it anyway and hope for the best. Then I couldn't remember how to put the pastry bag piping attachment and when I turned the bag upside down, half of the ganache dripped out onto the counter. I shrieked. Then I decided I might as well taste it, so I swooped some up on my finger. Ummm. Very delicious. The deliciousness gave me some hope, even though it was now apparent that the looks of these brownies were going to be decidedly amateurish.
Can you see that I have chocolate all over my hands? You can't see that it's also on my arms and my sweater. The ganache kind of melted into the holes instead of filling them up niciely. I managed to get some more from the bowl and use the bulb baster to fill up some of the holes, but the end result wasn't pretty.
Despite their general lack of attractiveness, they served very well as Jim's birthday cake.
And I didn't make good on my promise to serve the little cakelets without any lighting. After all, you have to have a candle on a birthday cake.
I've cooked enough of Rose's recipes to know that you have to work to screw it up so much that it's inedible. It may not be pretty, but it's probably going to taste okay. In the case of these brownies, the taste was better than okay. I wish that I'd read the recipe ahead of time, and that I'd actually planned ahead on the "Plan ahead" part. But I'm willing to forgive and forget because the brownies are so good--moist and chocolatey, with the unexpected crunch and flavor of pecans and the smoothness of the ganache. Just about a perfect brownie. My guess is that some of you will actually read ahead and do what you're supposed to do. Then you'll have a perfect brownie that also looks perfect.
Sarah: "This texture is perfect, and the ganache totally makes it. The nuts add a lot of flavor and texture."
Jim: "They have a great chocolate flavor. The mixture of textures is wonderful--the crust, the nuts, and the softness of the ganache. I'm glad I took two."
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We've added another baker: Rebecca Khair, from www.sugarmother.blogspot.com. She's from Australia, and her cookbook hasn't crossed the Pacific yet, but she'll start baking as soon as she gets her copy.