Happy Birthday, George! Except, not really. George’s birthday was a few weeks ago. He’s an early April baby, an Aries, who shares a birthday with Hugh Hefner, Dennis Quaid, and Blair Waldorf herself Leighton Meester. And this Aries loooves his brownies. He’s probably one of the few guys out there who will choose to make brownies from scratch on a Saturday night just because he’s craving them something fierce. I always bake him something for his birthday and, as usual, this year I asked him if he wants anything specific. He didn’t really have an answer for me so I jumped in with “…because I saw this recipe and kind of wanted to try it.” It was a brownie. It was a pie. And it was from the previously mentioned cookbook Favorite Brand Name Baking that had the super delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie. After the success of that pie, I was itching to try this “Decadent Brownie Pie” recipe. I was particularly intrigued because instead of flour it called for biscuit mix. Interesting, no? I don’t know why that sounded so interesting to me, but I was just dying to see how that would affect the flavor and texture.
Luckily George was game, so the Saturday before his actual birthday (he would be traveling for work on the real day) I got to work in the kitchen. And of course, I changed a few things. The pie recipe calls for a typical pie crust, just like the Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie did. And we both said “Yeah, no, that sounds lame,” just like we did for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie. This time, I made a crust out of pretzels and store-bought shortbread cookies. It seemed more fitting, and the salt from the pretzel crust would be perfect with the chocolate. I wanted to mix it with shortbread cookies because a) the buttery flavor would add a subtle richness and b) the cookies would pulverize to a smaller crumb that the pretzel wouldn’t be able to fully achieve.
And that gooey stuff? Yeah, that’s chocolate ganache. Say it with me now: guh-NOSH. I make a mean chocolate ganache that would even make cardboard delicious (okay, maybe that’s a little drastic). Ganache, if you’re not familiar, is a mixture of heavy cream and melted chocolate to create a liquidy chocolate sauce. You can make it a thick or thin as you like, depending on the ratio of cream to chocolate. While ice cream is always welcome, the real topping you want for this pie is the ganache. Just trust me on this. The brownie has a lighter, milkier chocolate flavor (yes, even if you use bittersweet chocolate. I used 62% from Ghirardelli). The ganache’s darker chocolate flavor and warm, gooey texture marries so well with the pie and really makes it sing. Plus, ganache could not be easier to make. For today’s purposes, I’ll lead you to a link online for ganache because I want to cover my ganache recipe in another lesson another day. (Yes, it will be worth the wait!)
The pie is actually better the second day, if that makes any sort of sense. Normally that’s the kind of thing you say about chili, not baked goods, right? But that’s what happened. If you store it in an airtight container, the flavors and moistness of the pie get to mingle a little longer and get absorbed into the entire pie. I would NOT store it with ganache, since it has dairy. Keep the ganache in a separate container, store it in the refrigerator and heat it in the microwave for a few seconds as needed. If you drizzle it over the entire pie and don’t end up consuming the whole thing like you thought you might, then just keep the whole pie in the fridge (airtight container still applies!).
Alright, that’s enough of that. Let’s get to the good stuff.
::: PRETZEL BROWNIE PIE :::
• 2 cups pretzel sticks
• 10 shortbread cookies
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
• 2 TBSP sugar
• 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (approx 6 oz by weight)
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
• 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
• 1/2 cup biscuit baking mix (I used Pioneer brand)
• 2 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 cup chopped nuts (OPTIONAL! I did not use these. While I like nuts, I don’t like them getting in the way of my homogenous brownie texture, but to each his own!)
1. Preheat oven to 325°.
2. Make the crust. Spray your desired pan (pie pan or springform) with non-stick cooking spray. Measure out your pretzels and cookies, then pulse in a food processor until you have a fine crumb.
3. Melt the butter. Mix melted butter and sugar with pretzel and cookie crumbs. If you need more melted butter to get it to stick together, then knock yourself out.
4. Press mixture to bottom and sides of pan.
5. Next, melt chocolate chips with butter over low heat (or slowly in microwave, in increments of 30 seconds. Stir in between.).
6. In bowl of electric mixer, beat chocolate mixture with sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla, and biscuit mix. Mix until smooth. Pour into pie crust.
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
8. While the pie is baking it’s time to make the ganache! I trust Ina Garten’s recipe, but reduce the ingredients by half. You won’t need the entire amount for this pie.
9. Serve the pie warm or at room temperature. Top with warm ganache and ice cream. Dig in. Enjoy the chocolatey coma.
What do you guys normally do for birthdays? Do you demand the traditional cake, or do you like to venture outside the box?