Triple Layer S'mores Brownies | Tara O'Brady + Seven Spoons

I have no intention of relying on phone photography here, but I am a bit in love with this shot. It wasn't my plan on sharing this recipe either, as snapping the pic was a spontaneous thing, and the recipe was a bit thrown together, in the aim to perfect a birthday wish. But we'll get to that. First, to explain.

My freezer storage is divided into three distinct, but unequal zones. The largest is ingredient storage. It's where I keep nuts and grains, plus seeds and cacao nibs, and things like wheat germ and bran. Flours and shredded coconut. There's fruit from the summer stacked in flat packs, and bananas black-ripe and ready for bread. Ginger root I grate while still rock hard, chiles, and lime leaves. I am rarely without frozen spinach and sweet peas.

The smallest category is full of odds and ends; ice cubes, egg whites, and parmesan rinds. A package of homemade puff pastry, unbaked streusel from when I made too much, discs of pie dough, and bones for stock.

Between the two are the prepared leftovers. There is enough tomato sauce for one pizza, cooked rice, some savoury hand pies, Julia's turkey meatballs, and cakes. A lot of cake. It's not just that the pace of our consumption rarely keeps up with the celebrations around here. It's also one of those rarely-discussed byproducts of recipe testing. The spoils are regularly parcelled for giving away, but a small stash is always kept behind. Right now, my inventory includes the thinnest slice of walnut cake from Divali, a quarter of a vanilla bean cheesecake, bagged muffins, a coffeecake that's a work in progress, and s'mores brownies.

Those brownies though, they're celebratory through and through. Benjamin turned 11 in January. He's all knees and elbows now, and has strong opinions. He's had a thing for s'mores for years, and this birthday wasn't any different. He asked for a repeat of last year, brownies with chocolate ganache and a seven-minute frosting to billow on top. When I've made s'mores cupcakes in the past, the inclusion of graham crackers added essential contrast against all the dense-chocolate-marshmallowyness going on. I like them as rebar in the ganache rather than rubble in the brownie itself. Somehow they make more of an impact that way. Toasting the grahams in the oven crisps them up, the process and effect amped up with a sugar syrup glaze. 

I use my own brownie recipe, but as it was included as a preorder inclusive for my book, I made the squares this week with another favourite, from King Arthur Flour. As advertised, their brownies exist ideally between squidge and cake. You can use my recipe, if you have it, or theirs, or your preferred. One thing I'll say though, is resist the urge to use an intensely fudgey one. When combined with the ganache and the meringue frosting, it is a combination that can careen into headache-inducing real quick.

The brownies are over the top. They bring out the childlike and exuberant, and are the antithesis of refined. They are unbridled and unrestrained, and remind me of the happiest days. Don't let the fact that there were leftovers steer you into thinking they went unloved. Sometimes, you want to make the good things last. And, as brownies never fully freeze, a skinny slice on a Monday midmorning with coffee, falls into that category. 

For the record, that was exactly what I was planning when I took the photo.

Have a great week, pals. xo

 

TRIPLE LAYER S'MORES BROWNIES

The brownie recipe is this recipe from King Arthur Flour, halved.  The marshmallow frosting owes it loft and stability to Stella Park's revolutionary Easy Swiss Meringue

Makes an 8-inch pan

FOR THE BROWNIE BASE

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons | 55 g dutch process cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon medium grain kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2  teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup | 115 g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons | 225 g sugar
  • 3/4 cup | 95 g all-purpose flour

FOR THE GRAHAM CRUNCH AND GANACHE

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 graham crackers
  • 8 ounces | 225 g bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  • 1/4 teaspoon espresso powder, optional
  • A good pinch medium grain kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup | 160 ml heavy cream

FOR THE MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

  • 4 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup | 150 g granulated sugar, preferably toasted
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • A good pinch medium grain kosher salt
  • Seeds scraped from a vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

METHOD

Make the brownies. Preheat an oven to 325°F | 165°C.

Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking tin, then line with a piece of parchment paper with a 1-inch overhang. Press the paper into the pan and then remove. Line the pan with another piece of parchment paper, then place the first piece, buttered side up, across. Set aside.

Crack the eggs into a bowl. Sift in the cocoa, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt. Add the vanilla. Beat for four minutes on medium speed (you can do this while melting the butter in the next step).

Place the remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Pour in the sugar. Heat over medium low, stirring, until the butter is melted. Continue to cook until the mixture is hot but not bubbling, maybe 1 minute more. It should go shinier as it heats. 

Stir the hot butter and sugar mixture into the beaten eggs until smooth. Sift the flour over top and mix it in. 

Spread the batter into the baking dish, nudging it to the edges as needed. Bake until the top begins to crack, 32 to 35 minutes or so. Cool on a wire rack.

While that bakes, make the graham crunch and ganache. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, dissolve the sugar into the water. Bring to a boil over medium heat then simmer for 5 minutes. Brush both sides of the graham crackers with the syrup then arrange on the prepared baking sheet (there will be syrup left over. Save it as a sweetener for coffee, oatmeal, or fruit). Bake the crackers until toasted, 8 to 10 minutes, flipping once. Set aside to cool then snap into pieces, some small, some large bite-sized.

Tumble the chopped chocolate, espresso powder, and salt in a large heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Once steaming, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 5 minutes, undisturbed. After the time is up, stir until smooth, starting at the centre of the bowl and working outwards. Fold in the graham crunch. Pour the rubbled ganache over the brownies and spread to an even layer. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until set.

Finally, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure that the bowl has some clearance. Heat, stirring attentively and scraping down the sides of the bowl periodically with a silicone spatula, until the mixture reaches 175°F | 80°C on a candy thermometer, about 8 minutes. Transfer the whites to the stand mixer with the wire whisk attached. Beat, starting slow and increasing the speed steadily, until the mixer is on full. Whip until the stiff, glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.

Retrieve the brownies from the fridge. Spoon the frosting onto the ganache layer. Use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to swoop and swirl it to your liking. Toast the frosting with a culinary torch or under a hot broiler—watching it all the while. Let cool and set, then use the cross of parchment to lift the brownies from the pan, then slice and serve. Extras can be refrigerated in their pan, loosely covered with cling film, for 2 days. Or, frozen until firm and then transferred to an airtight container for freezer storage up to a month. 

NOTE: 

Thanks to my sis-in-law Rene, for not only hosting the dinner tonight, but also being our photographer. She's especially snazzy.

Sorry about this. Really.

I know, we were chatting about chocolate and coffee just a few days ago. And it seems as though I have had sweets on the brain for weeks now.

But, if ever was there a day when maybe, just maybe dear reader, you could cut me some slack for my repetitive ways, I hope it will be today. Because really, who would begrudge a birthday girl her chocolate wish?

That's right, today was my birthday.

Please excuse my sweet tooth and forgive me for being a trifle scatterbrained just now, but I wanted to stop in to share with you the dessert we chose to celebrate.

Our fancy-dress festivities are not for another few days, so today is all about a night just for family. And for me, if there is one dessert that ties together my thoughts of family and nostalgia all in one ribbon-tied package, it would be my Mum's Mocha Dessert.

When I was little, this Mocha Dessert was the often-requested sweet ending to my parents' dinner parties, parties I considered the height of elegance. Silver was polished to perfection, the good china was brought out, and the menu were planned days in advance. When the night arrived, the men were dapper and the ladies were always dressed to the nines; you can surely imagine how my six-year-old self loved the glamour of dark lipstick and dangling baubles.

I remember their conversations lasting into the night. The deep murmur of their voices, often punctuated by peals of sparkling laughter, made its way through the darkness, up the stairs and to my ears as I strained to catch what was surely exceptionally witty banter. I thought it all terribly romantic.

As an adult, I can appreciate why this simple recipe was the subject of such praise. Layers of graham crackers were sandwiched with coffee cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. After a night's rest in the icebox, the formerly-disparate components relax into each other. The graham crackers loose all their crispness, the cream turns thick and luscious. In the end, everything is mousselike, with a delicate delineation of layers that yield to the slightest pressure from a spoon. A cross between an icebox cake and a tiramisù, I strongly believe that it was this ethereal confection that started my love affair with coffee.

This cake is ridiculously easy to make and decidedly old school. It is not about bells and whistles, or technique and the latest trend. Instead, like all fond memories, it simply makes me smile.

Of course I had a little bit of business to attend to today, and that is the announcement of the winner of the giveaway. I am happy to say that Random.org has selected Angela as the recipient of a one-year subscription to the food magazine of her choice. Angela, please contact me at tara [at] sevenspoons [dot] net with your contact information.

Thank you to everyone that entered and a here's wishing a happy day to each and every one of you!

MOCHA ICEBOX CAKE

Adapted, with thanks, from my Mum. Hers was made and served like a tiramisù, with more cream and less cookie, scooped out for serving. I have turned the dessert out on its head, and added some chocolate whipped cream.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/2 cups heavy (whipping cream), divided
  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 45 honey graham crackers, the single kind
  • 1/3 cup chocolate syrup, see note
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted

METHOD

Line an 8-by-8-inch metal cake pan with a cross of clingfilm, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with a hand blender or whisk, begin to whip 2 1/2 cups of well-chilled heavy cream. Once the cream begins to thicken, sift in 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, the coffee granules and salt. With the mixer on medium-high, whip until the cream begins to hold soft peaks. Add the vanilla, and beat until the cream just holds a stiff peak.

Spread a small amount of the cream on the bottom of the prepared cake pan. Lay 9 crackers, in a 3-by-3 grid, on top of the cream. Spoon 1/2 cup of the cream on top of the crackers. Then, using an offset spatula, gently spread the cream to cover the crackers entirely. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the chocolate syrup over the cream, spreading to form an even layer if desired.

Top with another layer of graham crackers, continuing the layering until you have 5 layers of crackers and 4 of the cream and chocolate. Make sure to reserve a small amount of cream to cover the last layer of crackers (no chocolate on this one).

Cover loosely with a piece of clingfilm, then draw the overhanging clingfilm from the sides up to cover the edges. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours and up to 2 days.

About 1 hour before serving, remove the cake from the fridge and peel back the clingfilm. Invert the cake onto a serving plate, removing the remaining clingfilm from the top and sides. Smooth out the sides with an offset spatula if needed. Place the cake in the freezer, uncovered, to chill for 15-30 minutes.

Prepare the cocoa cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or in a medium bowl with a hand blender or whisk, begin to whip the remaining 1 cup of well-chilled heavy cream. When the cream begins to thicken, sift in the reserved 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar and the cocoa powder. With the machine set to medium-high, whip the cream until it holds a firm peak, but being careful not to over beat.

Take the cake out of the freezer and carefully spread a thin layer of the cocoa cream over the top and sides. Once completely covered, use any remaining cream to decorate as desired. Chill the finished cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, then serve.

Notes:

• If you are going for authenticity, my Mum used Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (the dessert topping in the yellow tin, not the brown squeeze bottle). But if you are feeling posh you can make your own using one of theserecipes.

• For the sake of honesty, I will say that maybe I went a little overboard and used a full 2 cups of cream for the cocoa frosting. The last 1/2 cup looked so sad in its carton, and heck, you only have one birthday a year. Totally not necessary to the cake, but enjoyably decadent. To follow suit, add a bit extra cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar, to taste.

• A pinch or two of instant coffee granules added to the cocoa cream is also a good thing.