Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Unforgettable Desserts: Almond-Apricot Brownies with Tart Cherry Ganache

Photos by Alexandra Grablewski
Photo styled by Brian-Preston-Campbell

Welcome to my first Blog Post including a recipe from my new book, Unforgettable Desserts (Wiley 2009), which just became available. My intent with this book is to bring truly memorable desserts to the home baker. Desserts that create memories - and I hope, encourage you to dash back into the kitchen to bake some more! The idea was born when my editor and agent asked me why I thought my desserts tasted so good; why people seemed to go on and on about them. I pondered this question and truly, it comes down to specifics. Baking is an art but also a science. If I suggest that you use a certain flour, or a particular chocolate and you substitute another kind, the results will not be the same. Specific measuring techniques, specific ingredients and specific equipment can indeed make the difference between a good dessert and a great one that you always remember.

Now, while this may seem picayune, it is! But if you want to bake desserts that people go nuts over, I have given you all the information you need in each recipe to ensure fabulous results.

The picture above is for a very fancy bar/brownie. It begins with a buttery shortbread layer, which is topped with a layer of almond paste and a layer of apricot preserves. Crowning that is a brownie, topped off by a ganache studded with moist, plump tart cherries. Getting hungry yet? While this recipe does have several components, none of them are difficult to make and the results are fancy, mouthwatering and delectable. This dessert Does taste as good as it looks!
(PS: not all the recipes in the book are so complex. Some are simple and their "unforgettable-ness" lies in how easy they are). Happy Baking!

Almond-Apricot Brownies with Tart Cherry

Tart cherries and apricots both blend so harmoniously with almond paste I can never decide which to use, so I have used both in this sophisticated, multi-layered bar. A crisp almond shortbread forms the base; next comes a layer of 100% fruit (no sugar) apricot spread topped with a layer of almond paste. A fudgy brownie is baked right on top and after cooling, the entire creation is spread with a bittersweet chocolate ganache bursting with moist pockets of tart cherries. (PS: This recipe uses the term “marzipan” because it sounds so much more melodious than “almond paste”; make no mistake, you need almond paste for the recipe).

Makes 32 brownies

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (such as King Arthur)

Middle Layers:
1/2 cup apricot spread
10 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, such as Ghiradelli (60%), Callebaut (71%) or Scharffen Berger (70%)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (such as King Arthur)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups tart cherries packed in water and drained, or frozen and defrosted
3 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno liqueur
2/3 cup heavy cream
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, such as Ghiradelli (60%), Callebaut (71%) or Scharffen Berger (70%)

For the Shortbread: Position rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch pan with nonstick spray.

Beat butter until creamy with flat paddle on medium-high speed, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually and continue to beat, about 3 minutes at medium-high speed, until very light and fluffy. Beat in almond extract. Add the flour and beat just until combined. Press dough evenly into pan.

Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until dry and just starting to color. Place on rack while preparing subsequent layers. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

For the Middle Layer: Heat apricot spread in a small pan over low-medium heat. Brush or spoon an even layer over shortbread, which will still be warm.

Roll out almond paste on a lightly floured surface to the same size and shape of the pan and about 1/4-inch thick. Place on top of apricot layer. If it breaks into pieces, that’s fine; just patch it together into an even layer, covering the apricot completely.

For the Brownie: Melt chocolate and butter together in top of double boiler or microwave. Cool briefly. Whisk in sugar, then whisk in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt just until no white streaks remain. Pour batter over almond paste layer and smooth into an even layer using a small offset spatula.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until brownie layer is dull, a bit puffed and the edges have begun to come away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center of just the top brownie layer will show a few moist crumbs when removed. Cool completely on rack.

For the Ganache: Drain or defrost cherries, if necessary. Roughly chop them so that most of the cherries are halved, some are whole, but do not chop finely. Stir together with liqueur in small bowl and allow to macerate while you make ganache. Place cream in medium-sized saucepan over medium heat just until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and immediately sprinkle chocolate into cream. Cover and sit for 5 minutes; the heat will melt the chocolate. Stir gently until smooth, then stir in cherries and any liquid. Allow to cool at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about the consistency of soft mayonnaise. Spread evenly over brownies using a small offset spatula. Chill briefly to set glaze. Cut into 32 bars (8 x 4). Refrigerate in airtight container up to 3 days in single layers separated by parchment paper, or freeze up to 1 month.


doggybloggy said...

thanks for the great morning - its me the dishwashing appetizer guy!

HanaĆ¢ said...

That looks delicious! I like that it yields so many servings. Great for a big crowd. Thanks for posting the recipe.

katty said...

This blog is wonderful and interesting, i really enjoyed reading!!! i must to say the apricot is delicious and contain many vitamin. That is why i prefer to eat it frequently. Actually when i bought my house through
costa rica homes for sale i didn´t see an apricot tree. Now i am really happy.