I blame my friends. That’s right, I blame them for this habit of mine – ours. But I suppose that’s okay, right? I mean, there’s not all that much wrong with a midnight snack . . . especially when it’s freshly baked!
I love our late night baking (even when that usually means dumping brownie mix into a bowl, whipping it with some eggs, throwing it in the oven, and then returning to the episode of Law and Order: SVU that we’re watching). And I love being able to enjoy the smell coming from the oven before the brownies are ready to be eaten. I even love the anticipation of waiting for them to cool down just enough so that we don’t have to worry about burning our mouths off on piping hot brownies.
I just love the tradition. It’s perfect.
With that tradition in mind, it was easy for me to decide on an appropriate name for this blog. Likewise, it was just as easy for me to choose the first recipe that I would feature.
But before I make this thought process sound like a piece of cake – err, brownie (yeah, I know . . . that was really corny), I knew that I had to think beyond a boxed mixed. For this occasion, that just wouldn’t do. And neither would a standard brownie.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do love a straightforward, fudgey-as-ever brownie. But I wanted this one to be a little unique, without being overly fussy.
Ingredients. Aha! I have found the answer to my . . . baker’s block. (Yes, I did just create that phrase. Awesome, I know.)
If you just did a double take at this picture, don’t be alarmed. You are seeing correctly.
Pretzels. Almonds. Dark chocolate. Total win.
I love the combination of salty and sweet, hence the pretzels in this recipe. I combine them with some almonds in the food processor, mix with some butter and brown sugar, and place the mixture atop the brownie batter right before putting them in the oven. Good idea? I think so.
The brownie base itself is pretty typical. Melted butter and chocolate, some sugar and flour. Perhaps a splash of vanilla, too. What more could you want?
So now that I’ve overwhelmed you with pictures (I couldn’t resist! Thank you, Nikon.), I suppose now would be a good time for me to share the recipe with you. How ’bout it?
Dark Chocolate Brownies with Pretzel-Almond Topping
adapted from Joy the Baker
For the TOPPING:
3/4 C. Whole Almonds
1 1/2 C. “Mini” Baked Pretzels (I used Bachman’s because they have more salt than other brands)
2 Tbs. Brown Sugar
3 Tbs. Butter, Melted
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Orange Zest
Place almonds and pretzels in the food processor. Pulse until the pieces are roughly uniform, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch in size. (If you prefer the pieces to be more uniform, you might want to give the almonds a head start, then add the pretzels in a few pulses later). Transfer to a medium size mixing bowl. Then add the melted butter and brown sugar. Toss until everything is well-coated, then finish with the cinnamon and orange zest. Set aside.
For the BASE:
8 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (aim for 70-75% Cocoa), Coarsely Chopped
12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
1 C. All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
4 Large Eggs
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Line the pan with foil and butter the foil. This will make brownie removal much easier.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
Place butter and chopped chocolate in a medium sized heat proof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, being sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the boiling water. Stir until chocolate and butter are completely melted. Use pot holders to remove the bowl from over the boiling water. Lets mixture sit for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium sized bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Whisk until pale and thick. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Whisk until completely incorporated. Add the flour mixture all at once and whisk to incorporate. Pour into the prepared pan and then top with the pretzel mixture, being sure that it is distributed in an even layer. Very lightly press the topping into the brownie batter- you don’t want it to sink into the batter, but rather stick to it.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out just about clean (don’t let them dry out!). Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
This is Gingie. The anticipation was killing her.
Well, to be fair, the anticipation was killing me. So, I decided to spend the time torturing her with my camera and begging her to hold still for pictures. But you can see why, right?
Not to get sidetracked . . .
Fresh from the oven. Malty, caramel-y, chocolate, salted deliciousness.
Oh, yeah. We did good. And I’ve got the evidence to prove it.