When preparing to go to Paris to attend pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu, I studied David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris like a high school girl cramming for a final exam.
You often hear of the peculiar ways of Parisians but David captured their peccadilloes best in his hilarious account of adjusting to life in Paris. If you haven’t already, read the book. If you don’t laugh out loud, well, then there’s just no accounting for your sense of humor.
So color me thrilled when David made a stop in Austin recently to teach a class at Central Market Cooking School. I was lucky enough to see the class announcement the day it went out and made a reservation immediately, assuming, rightly so, that it would be a sell out. There were twice as many people on the waiting list as there were seats for the class.
David was just as funny and engaging in person as he is in his book. He totally charmed us; not only with his funny tales but also with his delicious desserts!
Brownies with Caramelized White Chocolate
Of all the incredible desserts David served- a ginger snap cookies sandwiched with Meyer lemon frozen yogurt, a goat cheese soufflé, Ile Flottante (Tangerine Floating Island- a meringue that floats in crème anglaise and is drizzled with a tangerine caramel sauce)- it was the chocolate spice cake with an amazing caramelized white chocolate sauce that most captured my taste buds. I knew I had to make it so I did a rendition on David's Dulce de Leche brownies using caramelized white chocolate. White chocolate gets short shrift from chocolate snobs and for good reason in some cases. Often a cheap coating product made of crappy, hydrogenated animal or vegetable fat, in lieu of cocoa butter, is passed off as white chocolate. Thankfully, US regulations now require that products labeled as white chocolate contain defined minimum amounts of cocoa butter and milk fat. While I agree that white chocolate can be a tad too sweet to eat alone, I’ve found that it is an excellent addition to many of sweet treats. It works well with citrus and is an excellent counterpoint to darker, slightly bitter chocolate, and when combined with coconut, is divine. But when you caramelize it, it is truly a revelation.
Caramelized White Chocolateadapted from David Lebovitz
12 ounces (340 g) white chocolate
1-2 pinches of flaky sea salt
1. Preheat the oven to 250º Fahrenheit (120 C). If you’re using a block of white chocolate, chop into pieces.
2. Spread the white chocolate pieces out on a rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for approximately ten minutes to melt the chocolate. When melted, remove the pan from the oven and use an offset or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate into a thin layer that covers the baking sheet.
3. Continue to cook the chocolate for approximately 30-60 minutes. Throughout the baking time, check the caramelization progress and stir the chocolate at 10 minute intervals. The end product should be a deep golden brown, similar to the color of peanut butter. Stirring will help to smooth out the caramelized chocolate. David noted the following points: Don’t freak out if it looks lumpy; keep stirring and it will smooth out. If the chocolate becomes grainy, push it through a fine mesh sieve. If you couldn't find a high quality white chocolate with a high cocoa butter ratio, add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or cocoa butter, if available) to the chocolate at the beginning to help with ensuring the chocolate melts smoothly. If all else has failed, put the caramelized chocolate in a food processor or use an immersion blender to smooth it out.
4. When the chocolate has caramelized to the desired color, stir in a good pinch or two of sea salt. Store at room temperature until ready to make brownies. Makes approximately one cup (250 ml).
adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz
8 T (115 g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces + additional for greasing pan
6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 c (25 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 c (200 g) sugar
1 t vanilla extract
1 c (140 g) all-purpose flour
1 c caramelized white chocolate
1. Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit (175 C). Line an 8-inch square pan with a sheet of aluminum foil that covers the bottom and reaches up the sides. If the entire pan can’t be covered with one sheet, overlap with a second sheet placed crosswise. Grease the bottom and sides of the foil lined pan with butter.
2. Place chopped up butter in a medium saucepan and melt over low heat. Then add the chocolate and melt over low heat while constantly stirring. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the cocoa powder. Whisk the butter, chocolate and cocoa powder mixture until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and stir in. Last add the sugar, vanilla, and then the flour. Stir the mixture until smooth.
3. Use a spatula to scrape half of the batter into the foil lined pan. Using another clean spatula, drop half of the caramelized white chocolate over the brownie batter. Swirl the caramelized white chocolate through the batter with a butter knife. Spread the remaining brownie batter over the top, add the other half off the caramelized white chocolate and swirl as described previously.
4. Cover the pan with another piece of foil to prevent the caramelized white chocolate from burning and place the pan in the oven to bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Do a finger test to check for doneness- when the center feels just slightly set, the brownies are done. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely. When cool, remove the brownies from the pan using the foil overhang to lift them. Peel off all foil and cut. Makes approximately 9 large brownies. The brownies can be stored in an air tight container for up to three days.