Rose and cardamom scented Truffle Brownies

Our garden is currently a study in schizophrenic behaviour. While it should be responding to autumn and preparing for a nice long sleep, it is frantic with activity.  The strawberry plant is turning out fruit like a plant possessed. The hibiscus has decided that now is the time to burst into riotous scarlet explosion. (I’m deeply thankful for this since no other flower reminds me of home more. We used to have several of these plants in constant bloom all around my building.) The Indian summer of this region has everything to do with this madness. The biggest surprise are the Gerbera daisies, which we thought had breathed their last gasp end of July. The plant had all but disappeared, but it then surprised us by bursting out in a brave show of health. It has begun throwing out several blooms a week.

The air is charged with a cold streak,  the kind that makes you reach for a jacket even though you look outside your window and see brilliant sunshine. Perhaps, it is because that sunshine is slow to show up and low in its bearings, its fiery gold reminiscent of early sunsets and late sun rises. Nevertheless it makes you want for the substantial things. The fresh fruits that were more than enough as dessert in their raw, unadorned form only recently simply won’t do now. I find myself reaching for the ghee or some spices to cook them into warm things. Those are the nature of dishes we’re starting to crave; the oozing unctousness of a spiced pie, the savoury headiness of a steaming bean stew, the joyous rich comfort of a perfect chocolate brownie.

I have a pan in my kitchen that I use specifically for brownies. It is a basic thing, made of cooking grade aluminium. We bought it on an impulse at a sale because of the fact that it came with a lid, making it a perfect cook-and-store utensil. This pan has proven its worth to me more than anything else in the kitchen. It has lost its sheen and has taken on scratches of careless cutting over the years, but it still bakes fantastic bread puddings and cakes. It excels at its primary purpose, rich brownies with a crisp-ish edge.

Aside from the fact that we both love them, brownies are a convenient dessert to make in a pinch. Most recipes ask you to melt the butter and chocolate together. This means that I can have brownies for a quick chocolate fix in the evening. Doesn’t matter if my butter is sitting in my refrigerator door nowhere near the room temperature I’d need it to be for a cake or chocolate chip cookies. I default to brownies most days when the chocolate craving strikes.

Brownies can be cake-like or fudgy. While either will work if all you want is chocolate goodness, in autumn – when the weather can turn wintry in the blink of an eye – what you want is a sense of rich chocolate decadence – a brownie that stares the cold down with a full-bodied cocoa flavour. The added rose water and cardamom bring a touch of the exotic warm east, just enough to create your virtual sunny place. The mix comes together easily enough. You melt the chocolate and butter over some simmering water, whisk the eggs and sugar together, fold in the flour, pour in the chocolate and you are three-quarters of the way to chocolate heaven in just about double the time it would take to read this post. The batter bakes up in about twenty minutes or so. Pull it out and you will find a glossy brown veneer on the top which is oh-so-fragile and will shatter into lacy shards as you insert a toothpick to check for crumbs. Your home will smell of goodness and welcome.

I dare you to walk away from that pan without braving third degree burns trying to get to a piece before it cools.

Rose and cardamom scented truffle brownies
Makes a 9″ X 9″pan full

For the brownies:-
Bittersweet chocolate – 6 oz, chips or a solid bar cut into chunks.
(somewhere between 60 to 70% cacao ought to do)

Unsalted butter – 9 oz or 10 tbsp
Eggs – 3
Sugar – 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
Vanilla extract – 1-1/4 tsp
Rosewater – 1/2 tsp
Cardamom powder – 1/8 tsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
AP flour – 1 cup
Walnuts – 1 cup, toasted and coarsely chopped

For the ganache:-
Bittersweet chocolate – 6 oz, chips or a solid bar cut into chunks.
(somewhere between 60 to 70% cacao ought to do)

Rose water – 1/4 tsp
Cream – 3/4 cup

To make the brownies –
– Pre-heat your oven to 350 deg. F. Butter the surface of a 9″ X 9″ pan or line with parchment paper and butter the paper.
– Over a saucepan of simmering water, place a glass or steel bowl. Melt the chocolate and butter and rosewater together, stirring occasionally until a smooth sauce consistency is achieved. Move off the saucepan and cool slightly for a few minutes.
– In a separate bowl or in an electric mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together until they are a frothy pale yellow mix. Add the vanilla, cardamom and salt and whisk to incorporate.
– Slowly add the chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs and sugar, stirring all the while or mixing on low speed to bring it all together.
– Add in the flour and fold into the batter. Gently stir in the rose water and the toasted walnuts.
– Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 24 to 26 minutes. You want an inserted toothpick to come out with crumbs, not clean.
– Take the brownies out of the pan to cool.

To make the ganache :-
– In a saucepan, bring the cream up to a simmer.
– Add the chocolate, stirring till it melts, then stir some more until you have a smooth sauce.
– Add the rose water and stir to incorporate.
– Take to pot off the heat and cool the ganache down to room temperature.

To assemble:-
– Place the brownie slab back into the pan.
– Pour the cooled ganache over the brownie.
– Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for the ganache to set. Alternatively, you could let it set at room temperature, but it will take a couple of hours.
– Cut into smallish squares (one inch square) for serving.

 Cook’s notes:-
This recipe makes for a rich fudgy batch of brownies. The rose and cardamom just hint that there is something different with this brownie, adding floral overtones and extra warmth to every bite. I’m a firm believer in nuts in a brownie. You could easily replace the walnuts here with toasted pistachios.
For those of you looking for a neat appearance, I should add that in my experience, chocolate bars cut into pieces melt better than chocolate chips. I’m not sure why this is, only that this is what I’ve noticed. This doesn’t stop me from using chocolaty chips though. I like the nubby character it brings to my brownies. Still, if you are looking for glass-smooth, bars may be the way to go
Feel free to amp up or down the rose water or cardamom quantities to your liking within reason. Be warned, though, a little goes a long, long way with both ingredients. You don’t want the chocolate to be overwhelmed.
Sometimes, I replace half the chocolate chips in the ganache with butterscotch chips. It tends to give it a toffee-ish flavour which marries with the brownies in wonderful fashion.
A batch of brownies will be good for up to a week in the fridge if stored in an airtight container. Not that it will last that long though. It is entirely too difficult to keep away from them.