There are many events in the food blog world that I truly enjoy. Especially those that are desserts related. The reasons are obvious : beautiful, drool-worthy pictures, fantastic recipes for bookmarking, and simply put, a feast for the eyes! Ironically, I keep missing on two events that mesmerized me for months. Maybe it's my lack of confidence, or just my procastination, or quite possibly a mixture of both!Since this is my birthday month, I feel invincible and decided to tackle both. One at a time, of course.
One of the food blog event that I enjoy immensely is no other that Myriam's Browniebabe of the month! It's simply mind-boggling to see how creative other bakers are when it comes to something as humbly as brownie. You will know what I mean seeing these two past browniebabes'creations here and here.
Seeing what they have made, it made me feel impossible for anyone to make something that can surpass their achievements. But then we are talking about dozens of talented bakers out there, and you have to see the roundup at Myriam's Once Upon a Tart to believe that nothing is insurmountable for these fearlessly creative people. In fact, I have seen a few favorites from my daily blog-hopping.
So what's the point of submitting yours if you don't think you stand a chance to be the next browniebabe, you ask. That's a good question. For a start, it's my birthday month and hence I am wishful that lady luck is on my side. Secondly, I need to use up some of the best cocoa I bought before we move.(lame excuse)Third and most importantly, it's one good brownie that I believe will make the first brownie baker (whoever that is) smile and nod for approval in her grave.
Without further ado, I present to you, my first ever browniebabe entry- The best Matcha Cocoa Brownie.
The recipe is adapted from none other than the chocolate queen Alice Medrich. I was very sceptical when I first saw the recipe a year ago. A brownie with no REAL chocolate? Are you kidding? The last brownie I made used almost a pound of chocolate, and here she is telling me that some cocoa powder will do the same wonder as those with a pound of chocolate, if not better. Of course I must admit I was pretty ignorance back then,haven't had my first taste of bakes from the best cocoa powder yet.
Here I am a year later, with more experience and faith with what wonder good cocoa powder can do. Hence I am ready to give Alice's Best Cocoa Brownie a try. No wonder people say, "a year older, a year wiser". I can certainly attest to that. Now, before we proceed, I must stress on the important of using the best cocoa powder you can get. For I am sure, disappointment would ensue had I used the same inferior stuff I used one year ago. SO, USE PREMIUM QUALITY COCOA POWDER in this brownie recipe. Period.
One thing I observed/learned from the past browniebabes is to be creative and come out with unusual but solidly great brownies/blondies. As good as Alice's recipe, I know it needs something more. I love marbled brownie, but there are lots of great versions out there, one being shared by Myriam .
A bite of the brownie reminds me of the fudgy toffee candy from childhood. I wasn't sure where the toffee candy were made of though. But the fudgy and chewy texture of this brownie reminds me of that. And the cocoa powder does a great job in packing lots of chocolate flavor in the brownie. It tastes almost as if I have melted a pound of real chocolate in the batter. Because the matcha cream cheese is not marbled in the brownie batter, it is seen prominently on top of the brownie. Inspite of its vivid color, the matcha flavor here is mild. And can only be tasted if you leave it on the tip of your tongue. Don't ask me why.(because we have sensory nerves for different taste at different parts of our tougue. see here). A good way to introduce matcha to the uninitiated, I figured.
The amount of matcha cream cheese batter is too much for the brownie, so I used it to make some cheese tarts. But that will be for another entry.
With this, I leave you the recipe for my first entry for Browniebabe of the month, and may the best brownie wins!
Best Matcha Cocoa Brownie
adapted from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet
For brownie batter:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)
Special equipment: An 8-inch square baking pan
For Matcha cream cheese batter:
1 block (225g) cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 tsp matcha powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp lemon zest
1 egg yolk (at room temperature)
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
For cream cheese batter:
Beat cream cheese with granulated sugar until light and creamy.Add in the eggyolk and beat until well mixed. Scoop out about 1/2 cup of cream cheese into a small bowl and stir in matcha powder. Pour the matcha cream cheese mixture into a small ziplock bag. Add the lemon zest into the remaining cream cheese, and pour into another small ziplock bag.
Using a scissor, cut a small hole on the edge of the ziplock bags and pipe out whatever pattern that strike your fancy on top of the brownie dough.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.
Chocolate note: Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it's more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.
p/s: I just realized that the best cocoa brownie recipe is also available on epicurious.com and it garnered 123 solid reviews from those who have baked it. :)