Now that I feel I have successfully defended my honor, let me explain what I mean. I always try to outdo myself, baking something more complicated than the last time I cracked the spine on a cookbook; I splurge on expensive sea salts and the best chocolate I can find; I slave over (okay, not so much, but work with me here) the hot oven for hours to make a from-scratch masterpiece happen. And you know what? They want the basics. They want plain chocolate chip cookies without walnuts. They want chocolate cake with no frills. No raspberry fillings, no ganache, no salted caramel frostings. It's heartbreaking.
I gave my work-husband the choice for anything he wanted for his birthday, and he asks for Oreos. Oreos. The cookies I've made him like twelve times already and that's his only request. My brother, David, and his roommate only ever ask for chocolate chip cookies, that can't have anything extra in them, and certainly no toasted walnuts. That leaves a hole in my heart, the absence of buttery, toasted walnuts studded in my cookie. My mind swims with confusion over the thought of it, why would anyone willingly kick the walnuts out of the batter!? (Breathing into a brown paper bag.) My younger brother is no better, he swings into the kitchen (sans shirt, which has become his natural state for the past few years, stopping to flex his pecs in the kitchen mirror before asking me what I'm going to do with myself once summer rolls around) and airs his grievances over why I can't make something he likes.
The sheer ungratefulness of it, people, the ungratefulness! But you know what? If I make a pound cake, it'll just sit there on the cake stand, peering at me with such sadness and demanding to know why I'm not eating more of it. I just can't do it alone, I have to have help, and the help 'round these parts has the palate of a five year old. So I buckle every now and again, I make something I know they'll eat and I won't have to convince them of it's worthiness along the way. I tried my hardest not to be offended when Justin announced that these ganache topped fudge brownies (with walnuts! eat that, brother!) were probably the best thing I've ever made with a close call between the brownies and the salted white chocolate macadamia nut cookies that lured him into my arms in the first place. So I guess that's okay, I'll make him brownies if he wants.
These brownies are cocoa based, but you'd never know it. They're just as fudgy and chocolaty as a brownie made with melted chocolate and please, please don't skimp on the walnuts. Their nutty crunch is a perfect open-palmed smack on the behind to the bittersweet of the chocolate. It's the right thing to do.
Walnut Brownies with Chocolate Ganache
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup walnut or pecan pieces
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. (You can also do this in the microwave.)
Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan (I put mine in the fridge or freezer, cold brownies are a joy in life and they will be easier to cut, it's a win-win.) Top with ganache and refrigerate or freeze until set.
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares. (I use a knife dipped in hot water to slice them for nice clean lines.)
* I used leftover ganache from coconut macaroons so I had just enough to cover the top. This recipe is the same but you may have some leftover, depending on how thick of a layer you put on top your brownies.