Thursday, January 20, 2011
Brownies, Brownies, Brownies! Oi, Oi, Oi!
Is it un-Australian not to love a lamington? Is it, in fact, un-Australian to use terms like un-Australian anyway?* There are probably quite enough contenders of all shapes, sizes, origins and flavours to contest the title of the national dish, and maybe even the national baked good or dessert.
But perhaps there's a vague sense of patriotic duty about reinventing a lamington to try to take it beyond the often-encountered dry-chewy-sticky-clagginess that might need a cold shandy to wash it down. There are better incarnations out there - fluffy cubes of cake with just the right amount of dark chocolate coating and jammy interior to be neither too plain nor too overwhelming. There might be room for tall poppies in the bakery (especially with the current macaron mania), but not for the likes of the humble lamington.
A few months ago, the idea of crossing a brownie with a lamington and what the resultant offspring might taste like skittered across my mind on a quiet evening. And the thought sat there quietly minding its own business, while other brownies were invented and eaten. Then I came across the Delicious Delicious Delicious Reinventing the Lamington 2011, and my lamington mojo returned!
The lamington experimentation also provided the perfect opportunity to try out my shiny new brownie tray with dividers - a Christmas present from the Other Penguin...
My experiments involved three variations on a theme:
- Brownies with jam baked in the middle
- Brownies with a mix of jam and sweetened ricotta baked in the middle
- Double-decker brownies sandwiched together with jam after being baked
All of the brownies were iced with dark chocolate ganache and sprinkled with coconut - some elements of a lamington were not going to be trifled with!
The verdict was that the sandwiched brownies looked the prettiest, with the filling visible between the two layers - and perhaps most closely resembled a typical lamington. On taste, though (and, especially for a rustic baker like a sticky penguin, it's always going to be about whether it tastes good rather than whether I can get it to look pretty), it was edged out by the other two. The jammy brownies were rich, fruity and very sticky, while the ricotta and jam brownies had a slightly brighter and perkier taste which contrasted with the chocolaty flavour. The jam and ricotta also formed a lilac-tinged layer through the centre which was quite pretty, although there's definitely more practice needed on the presentation front**. Dessicated coconut travels far and wide across the kitchen in inexperienced hands!
If you'd like to try Sticky Penguin's Brownie Lamingtons for yourself, here's how they're made...
What's in them
(the amounts below are for half a normal-sized batch, and made six large brownies)
100 g butter
85 g dark chocolate
60 g caster sugar
30 g soft brown sugar
1½ large eggs (this equates to 75 g of egg, without shells - oh, the bother of halving recipes!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
40 g self-raising flour
10 g cocoa powder
Around ½ to ¾ cup of jam of your choice - I used raspberry and blueberry jam which I'd made the day before - the recipe will go up in a future post
For the jam and ricotta lamington brownies, you will also need 1/3 cup ricotta
200 g dark chocolate
125 ml ( ½ cup) cream
Dessicated coconut for sprinkling
What to do
To make the brownie mixture
1. Line a cake tin with non-stick baking paper (I used 8 sections of a 12-section divided brownie pan - a good alternative would be a loaf pan. If you're making the double-decker brownies, a 9 inch square cake tin will be fine, as the brownies should be half-height to allow for being stacked. Or do them in a loaf tin and have sky-high lamington brownies if you prefer!).
2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
3. Lightly whisk the egg-and-a-half and combine with the caster sugar, soft brown sugar and vanilla extract in another mixing bowl.
4. Add the sugar and egg mixture to the melted chocolate mixture stirring all the time (you don't need to wait for the chocolate mixture to cool down, but whisk as you add it to avoid the eggs cooking). Be careful not to over-mix.
5. Sieve in the flour and cocoa powder and stir until just combined.
6. Preheat oven to 160˚C.
For the jammy lamington brownies
7(a). Put half the brownie mixture into the prepared tin*** and refrigerate for half an hour. Spoon jam evenly over the chilled brownie mixture, going right to the edges. Pour the remaining half of the brownie batter on top, ensuring that all the jam is covered. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the sides of the brownie are just coming away from the pan. The top will have crackled quite a bit, and it may still look a little squishy in the centre - this is a very fudgy, gooey brownie.
For the jam and ricotta lamington brownies
7(b). Put half the brownie mixture into the prepared tin and refrigerate for half an hour. Mix the jam and ricotta until combined and spoon evenly over the chilled brownie brownie mixture, going right to the edges. Pour the remaining half of the brownie batter on top, ensuring that all the jam and ricotta mixture is covered. Bake for 25-35 minutes (as noted for the jammy brownies).
For the double-decker lamington brownies
7(c). Put the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes (for half-height brownies) or 25-35 minutes (for full height brownies). This mixture doesn't need to be put in the fridge - this step is to help firm up the base layer so that fillings baked inside don't sink to the bottom.
To make the ganache
8. Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a mixing bowl.
9. Heat the cream in a medium-sized saucepan. As soon as the cream reaches the boil, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Put the ganache aside in a cool place (or the fridge if making these in an Australian summer) until the brownies are baked and cooled.
Note: You could probably get by quite comfortably with half this amount of ganache - I'm a little wary of making ganache in small batches in case it misbehaves, so went with the more equals better approach (which leaves extra ganache either for snaffles or for another project - it will keep for several days in the fridge).
10. Allow the brownies to cool completely in the tin before removing and placing on a flat surface.
11(a). For the jam and the jam and ricotta lamington brownies, spread the brownies with the ganache and sprinkle with dessicated coconut. Allow to set before cutting into squares.
11(b). For the double-decker lamington brownies, cut the brownies evenly into pieces. Spread half the pieces with jam, and stack another brownie on top. Spread the tops of the stacked brownies with ganache and sprinkle with dessicated coconut. Whether it's less messy doing this assembly process in a slightly different order (cut, ice, stack versus cut, stack, ice) is something I'll experiment with when doing these a second time...
* And to ask annoying semi-rhetorical questions and use double negatives at the start of a post...?
** This was my first time making lamingtons of any kind (I've not tried to make the traditional variety yet), as well as my first time having a go at an online baking round-up.
*** This is a fidget if using a divided pan and trying to get equal-sized brownies, and a very quick exercise with a normal baking tin. But in a divided pan, you can try making three different types of brownies at the same time.