Berries & Cream Brownies

They look pretty innocuous with the swirl of cream cheese icing and berries on top.   Ah, but underneath that light summery exterior lurks a heart of darkness, full of rich, luscious chocolate brownie.

The brownie recipe below is my basic brownie recipe that I’ve used for years.   After mucho tiempo experimenting in the brownie lab (aka my kitchen), these brownies came out on top for the serious chocaholic.   I don’t put nuts in my brownies.  Okay, occasionally, but only if making them for someone else.  Me, I like them unadulterated.  And chocolatey (yes, it’s a word.  Would I lie?).   These will always be extra special to me as they got me a gig writing a baking column in the Epicure section of The Age a while back.  That was cool and a lot of fun while it lasted.   I got lucky and had it published (Kamikaze Brownies, page 46, Epicure Chocolate: Recipes from 20 Years of Indulgent Ideas).  That felt pretty awesome too.  And bizarre.  Point is though, I won’t make any outlandish claims to them being the best ever but they are seriously good.  You tell me.  Try ’em.  Rate ’em :-).

To make the brownies, I used my favourite couverture, Valrhona Araguani (72%).  I do a happy dance when I say the word Araguani … uh, there I go again.  Use whatever dark chocolate you like, but do choose a good quality chocolate.   Beware of inferior chocolate.  I hear it causes biblical plagues and maybe even the apocalypse.  It’s just bad ;-).   The Manjari would be good too as it goes really well with fruit, particularly berries.  But for something smooth, rich, warm and nutty … Araguani.  It will leave a lingering taste that’s heavenly.  I digress …

If frosting the brownies at all, I tend to top them with a whipped ganache.   They are very rich though so this is a great alternative in summer.  Two versions we like at home, both of which are lovely, it just depends on your preference.  This time I made cream cheese and lime frosting.  Sometimes I like to use sweetened whipped cream with lemon or lime.  I’ve used lime here as lime with chocolate is quite a subtle but beautiful combination.  Lemon works too, if you prefer it.

They are small, but trust me, they are rich.  Enjoy!

Makes 20 brownies

Brownies (adapted from Epicure Chocolate: Recipes from 20 Years of Indulgent Ideas)
300 grams dark chocolate/couverture
125 grams unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Créme de Cassis (optional)
1/2 cup plain flour, sifted

Cream Cheese & Lime Icing*
125 grams icing sugar
250 grams cream cheese
110 grams unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice

20 each raspberries and blueberries
5 strawberries, quartered and stems removed
40 small mint or lemon balm leaves

*see below for Lime Cream variation.

Preheat oven to 175°C.   If using a fan-forced oven, lower the temperature to 165°C.

You will need 20 x 4cm (mini) cupcake liners.  Place the cupcake liners on a baking tray.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, in a bowl over simmering water, until smooth.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar and liqueur.  I use a hand-held whisk to do this.  The idea is to not incorporate too much air into the mixture or the brownies will rise unevenly, create internal air pockets, causing the top to crack.

Stir in the melted chocolate-butter mixture with the whisk, until incorporated.  Sift the flour and stir into the batter until smooth.  Tap the bowl on the bench to make sure there are no large air bubbles in the mixture.

Carefully fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with the brownie batter.  Tap the tray on the bench to even out the batter in the liners and remove any remaining air bubbles.

Bake the brownies for about 18 – 20 minutes.   It is better to under-bake these so keep an eye on them after about 15 minutes.  Cool the brownies on a wire rack.  When cool, they are ready to decorate.

Make the Cream Cheese Icing: Using a hand-held whisk, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.  Sift the icing sugar and add to the cream cheese.  Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is light and creamy.

Whisk the cooled butter until slightly thickened and add it to the cream cheese mixture along with the lime juice.  Whisk the frosting until light.  If making ahead, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Place the cream cheese icing into a disposable piping bag fitted with a small decorative tip.  You can use whatever you like, even a plain round tip.  Pipe the frosting on to each brownie and decorate each with a mixture of berries.  I used one each of the raspberries and blueberries and one-quarter of a strawberry for each brownie.  Finally, add two small leaves of mint or lemon balm.  My preference is for the lemon balm to match the subtle citrus flavour in the icing.  I’m all for matching …

They’ll keep for a few days, stored in an airtight container, in the refrigerator.  If they last that long.

Variation – Lime Cream
400 millilitres double cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice

Place the cream in a bowl.  Sift in the icing sugar and add the lime juice.  Using a hand-held whisk, whisk the cream lightly until slightly thickened.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to decorate the brownies.  Decorate as per the directions above.


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