Saturday, January 20, 2018

Chocolate chestnut brownies

A little while ago, I made these brownies for the first time. I love chestnuts and I tend to use them in savory and sweet dishes regularly, especially during the autumn and winter months, but never had I used them before in brownies. It was a revelation.

Chestnut and chocolate is, unsurprisingly, a match made in heaven, and these brownies are a shining example of this match. They are fudgy and dense yet soft and light. They have the full, intense flavor of dark chocolate and cocoa powder, with the sweet earthiness and nutty flavor of the chestnut and the salty kick of sea salt flakes that brings all the flavors to life, balancing the sweetness of it all.

The swirls of chestnut cream, soft and gooey, peaking out from the fudgy, dense brownies or hiding inside them, revealing themselves with each bite, create a flavor and texture contrast that I love.

Ordinarily, I don’t prefer the edges of brownies but the center pieces; with these brownies, though, where the chestnut cream meets the edges of the brownie and it becomes deliciously chewy, it makes those edges utterly irresistible to me. Perhaps this will happen to you to. Let me know if you do make them.

And if you’re in the mood for more sweet and savory recipes with chestnuts, check out these:
Sweet chestnut cream (Crème de marrons)
Chocolate and chestnut truffles
Chestnut cream truffles
Chestnut tiramisu
Chestnut ice cream
Chestnut soup with Port
Chestnut crêpes with creamy wild mushroom filling

Chocolate chestnut brownies

No need to bring out a mixer, this is all done by hand, albeit it needs some elbow grease to achieve a smooth batter. So if you’re having trouble handling it by hand, use an electric hand-held mixer but don’t overbeat the eggs and the rest of ingredients as you don’t want to incorporate too much air into the batter. We’re going for fudgy texture, not light and airy.

I’ve made these brownies with both homemade sweet chestnut cream and ready-made, and I have to say that I like both versions. The homemade chestnut spread is somewhat more creamy and smooth and less dense/sticky than the commercial one. If you choose to use ready-made sweet chestnut spread, make sure to use good quality because it will make a difference.

*Don’t use chestnut purée instead of chestnut cream because they are different both in flavor and texture. Chestnut cream or crème de marrons is puréed chestnuts with sugar and vanilla, it is sweet and has (obviously) a creamy texture, whereas chestnut purée is cooked and then puréed chestnuts, it is unsweetened and has a very thick and dense texture.

Yield: 16 brownies

115 g unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
170 g good quality dark chocolate (55-60% cocoa solids), cut into small pieces
25 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3 large eggs
200 g caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
140 g all-purpose flour
300 g sweet chestnut cream/spread (not unsweetened chestnut purée, *read more about this above), homemade or store-bought
Sea salt flakes for sprinkling on top (I use Maldon)

Special equipment: 20 x 20 cm baking pan, baking paper, large wire whisk

Preheat your oven to 175°C.

Butter the bottom and sides of the pan and line with baking paper, leaving an overhang on all sides.

In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the butter and melt over a medium-low heat, stirring often with a whisk. Once melted, add the chocolate and stir continuously until it melts. Take the pan off the heat, add the cocoa powder and whisk until incorporated and you have a smooth mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking vigorously until you have a smooth and shiny mixture before adding the next egg. Then add the sugar, the vanilla and a pinch of sea salt and whisk vigorously again to combine. Finally, add the flour and whisk just until incorporated and there are no visible white patches from the flour.

Pour half of the brownie mixture into the prepared baking pan and smooth it out. Add 1/3 of the chestnut spread in dollops on top of the brownie mixture and using a skewer or the handle of a spoon, marble it gently. Pour the rest of the brownie mixture on top, smooth it out and, finally, dollop the rest of the chestnut spread on top of the brownie mixture. Again, marble it gently. Don’t overdo it as you want to have patches of chestnut spread in your brownies. Sprinkle the top with 3 good pinches of flaked sea salt, rubbing it between your fingertips to make it a little finer as you sprinkle it.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake the brownies for about 30 minutes. The center of the brownies should feel just slightly firm.

Take the pan out of the oven and place on a wire rack. Leave to cool for 30 minutes, then using the overhanging baking paper take the brownies out of the pan and leave on the wire rack until completely cool. Then slice into 16 squares using a long and thin knife.

They keep excellently for 5 days at room temperature in an airtight container, or for a week in the fridge. I prefer to keep them in fridge as I like their taste better when they’re cold.

1 comment:

  1. Wow what an interesting take on brownies! They look so fudgy too!