Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father's Day Brownie Torte

As a starving student - not quite an accurate term, but I'm definitely on a budget - and a lover of all things kitchen-y, baked things are my typical gift to family members and close friends for special occasions.  Since Sunday was Fathers' Day, I had an excuse to bake!  Love those.

My dad's pretty flexible with the sort of thing he'll eat - as in anything - but he did mention a brownie cake as something he'd really enjoy.  As soon as I heard that, my brain popped straight over to the most insane brownie confection I'd ever seen.  The recipe was by The Pastry Queen and had started to make the rounds in the blogosphere, where everyone who'd ever made it raved about it.  Thus, natural choice.

Then I looked at the ingredient list.
Oh my.
My healthy eating habits took one look at the recipe and knew they didn't stand a chance.
But they'd die happy.
You'll see when you get to the recipe portion.

The original recipe called for instant espresso powder in the filling and frosting, but alas, my mother is so anti-coffee that espresso ceased to be an option, and thus the original toffee bits called for didn't seem to fit either.  However, we did have some gorgeous Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans and extract in the pantry, so the torte got a huge kick in the butt of vanilla.  And I'm certainly not complaining about that - the sweet mildness of the vanilla kept the insanely fudgey brownie layers from feeling too rich.  It turned out absolutely delicious!  Dad and I are still enjoying it.

My waistline, however, is not - thank God for Exercise TV!  Does anyone want to help me eat this??

Annie of Annie's Eats - the blog that can do no wrong from my point of view - has the original recipe posted on her page.  I've posted my vanilla version below, including a garnish that I ran out of time for but think would be gorgeous and tasty.  Enjoy!

Vanilla Fudge Brownie Torte

Yield: about 20 servings

For the brownies:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
16 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
8 large eggs
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt

For the frosting:
3 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla from Nielsen Massey)
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

For the filling:
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1½ tbsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 cup reserved frosting (above)

For garnish:
1½-2 cups white chocolate shavings
Sliced fresh strawberries

To make the brownie layers, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Grease and flour the edges of three 9-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Combine the butter and chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a few inches of simmering water.  Continue heating until the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth, stirring occasionally with a spatula.  Remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.  Transfer the chocolate mixture to a large mixing bowl.  (If your heatproof bowl is very large, transfer to a new bowl is not necessary.)  Whisk in the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract until the mixture is smooth and glossy, about 1 minute.  Stir in the flour and salt, and mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared baking pans.  Gently smooth the batter in the pans.  Bake 20-25 minutes, until the brownies are just firm to the touch.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pans 30 minutes.  Then run a knife around the edge of each pan and invert the brownies onto the rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, add the chilled heavy cream to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until medium-soft peaks form.  Blend in the sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds, whipping just until combine.  Continue to whip until stiff peaks form.  Reserve and refrigerate 1 cup of the frosting for use in the filling.  Set aside the rest of the frosting.
To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla and salt.  Beat on medium speed until well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Gently fold in the reserved 1 cup of frosting with a spatula.
To assemble the torte, lay 1 of the brownie rounds to a large serving platter.  Spread half of the filling mixture evenly over the top.  Layer with another brownie round, and the remainder of the filling.  Top with the final brownie layer.  Cover the top and sides of the cake with the frosting.  Garnish with the white chocolate shavings to cover the top and sides of the cake.  Use any remaining frosting to pipe decorative swirls around the top edge of the cake and decorate with fresh strawberry slices, if desired.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Source: adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

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