Saturday, 15 September 2012

Dark Chocolate and Goat Cheese Brownies

I have a life-long love story with goat cheese. Tangy, creamy, luxurious... When I went to France, I ate like a pig and came back to Montreal with an extra 10 pounds, most of which was probably goat cheese... I had found out that goat cheese drizzled with honey on fresh baguette was insanely delicious, and I abused this knowledge until my waistband was uncomfortably tight. Goat cheese lends itself beautifully to sweet-salty flavor combinations because it is tangy, but not too sharp. Honey, but also maple syrup and dark chocolate can be very good friends to the creamy wonder.

The past few weeks have been completely draining: I finally had time off from work, and it was my birthday. I wanted dessert pretty badly. And it had to have goat cheese in it, as this delicious, heavenly dairy never fails to take me back to the gorgeous, lavender-fragrant French country side where I first discovered its magic.

Yup, I turned twenty-eight last Wednesday! The number is a bit surreal to write down, mostly because I feel crazier now than I did ten years ago. People who say you'll calm down as you get older may be full of it, because it seems to me that the older I get, the more insane and radical I become. Albeit, in a very different way from when I was 17... and not just because my liver seems to have aged prematurely.

I think about a lot of things very differently than I did when I first slathered some Manic Panic in my mane (as would anyone who learned a thing or two over a decade), but my need to speak my mind, stand up for what I believe in and not let myself be swallowed up by society's expectations is stronger now than it was then.

I still adore Jello Biafra and I still think few things are cooler than Mohawks and studded leather jackets, but now I understand the point of retirement plans and of the police force, and I firmly believe that compassion and respect for your fellow human being is the golden rule to feeling better about the world. At the end of the day, I don't think I have changed so much as I have learned and grown. I guess that's the point: learning to be yourself every day of your life.

As much as I think of this evolution in a good way, I occasionally get mixed feelings about it. The pressure to fit in as you get closer to 30 can be pretty intense ("When are you getting married? When are you gonna have a baby? When are you gonna buy a house? Don't you think you have enough tattoos?"... I feel like throwing punches every time I hear those questions), and staying true to your colors can be exhausting. It's easy to be tempted by the idea of getting in line just so people will leave you be or take you seriously.

Such thoughts were another reason why I craved a rich and delicious dessert that would put me in a sugar-coma so I could get some rest and feel less weird about my birthday. When I saw this recipe in Nadia G.'s "Cookin' for Trouble", I started drooling on the book. I usually bake cupcakes for birthdays, but I was too obsessed with the idea of goat-cheese on a brownie to even think about my usual favorite dessert. I invited my best friend over, we got ourselves some bubbles, and here is what we made:

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup chopped unsweetened dark chocolate
2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup creamy goat cheese, room temperature

Heat a double-boiler over medium heat. Add 1 cup of butter and the dark chocolate to the top pan and stir until the chocolate has melted.

Take it off the heat and let cool slightly. Whisk in 2 cups of brown sugar and 3 eggs. With a wooden spoon, fold in the walnuts (if using), all-purpose flour and sea salt. In a large mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1 egg. Blend using an electric beater at low speed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with parchemin paper. Pour the brownie batter into the baking dish, then evenly disperse spoonfuls of the goat cheese mixture over the batter.

With a knife, score the surface into a pattern (I suck at that, as you can see). Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the baking dish on a pan. Cut into bars, remove from the baking dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or 2. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge, with parchemin paper between the layers of brownies.

Trust me, this tastes just as rich and decadent as it looks. The goat cheese is creamy, and gives just enough of a salty kick to balance the intense sweetness of the dark chocolate (and all that butter). We enjoyed these as a knock-out dessert to follow my dearest VĂ©ronique's curry, along with our champagne. I could not have wished for a more perfect dessert for the occasion.

I cut the brownies into 8 large squares, but you can obviously cut them up to whatever size fits your appetite. I am also not insane about walnuts, so I skipped them, but I am sure they give this recipe a very nice crunch. The brownies tasted even better chilled overnight: the texture became dense, almost fudgey. I had half a piece with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream: holy cow, it was awesome!

If you ever feel conflicted about life or about your birthday, these are a very good antidote! They are also perfect for hardcore chocolate cravings. I am lucky to have enjoyed them with my boyfriend and my best friend, two people that make my life wonderful. They also made my birthday evening really great. I raise my glass of milk and my brownies to them! xx

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