Black Cocoa Brownie with Oreo German Buttercream


 
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.
Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.

Every now and then I come across an ingredient that is a total game changer. Flaky sea salt, caramelised white chocolate, bergamot extract to name a few. And black cocoa. I first baked with black cocoa a couple of years ago, and was instantly hooked. If you haven’t heard of black cocoa, or used it before, it is essentially cocoa powder that has been super dutched - or super alkalised (the process of making dutch cocoa). It’s what is used in Oreos, and has somewhat taken off as a popular ingredient within the baking world. Something super interesting about cocoa is that regular cocoa powder is acidic, so will react with baking soda to provide lift in baked goods, whereas dutch cocoa or black cocoa has been made basic, so will need to have baking powder in the recipe to give the rise - baking powder is heat activated whereas baking soda needs to react with an acid to create carbon dioxide to rise baked goods. Science!

The most recent thing I made with black cocoa was this black cocoa brownie, which I loaded up with an Oreo German buttercream. The Brownie is ever so slightly adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s book, which is one of my absolute favourites to use for base recipes. Sarah makes her brownies in a 9” x 13” (which I sometimes do too, and it makes the most beautiful crackly top and fudgy brownie), but I made this one in a 9” pan to make it a teeny bit thicker, and subbed the cocoa for black cocoa to give it an oreo taste. I highly suggest making this, but I also highly suggest getting Sarah’s book and making the original - they are some of the best brownies I’ve ever had, and the other recipes in the book are also crazy amazing.

I topped the brownie with an Oreo German buttercream. German buttercream is one of my absolute favourites, and the one I turn to the most - it is silky and not too sweet, and the taste of the butter is mellowed out by the pastry cream base. You can infuse the pastry cream with whatever you like (eggnog buttercream coming at you tomorrow!!), so it is extremely versatile. I made a regular vanilla buttercream, then whipped in some ground Oreo cookies. I loaded it up onto the brownie, and then topped it with some flaky sea salt (the best sprinkles IMO), and some more chopped Oreos. While it takes a teeny bit more work than the standard brownie, I love that it is a wee twist on traditional chocolate brownie. If you aren’t down for making the buttercream, the brownie is also perfect just as it is, or even more perfect with a giant scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Enjoy! x

A few wee tips:

  • If you cannot find black cocoa, extra dark dutch cocoa or dutch cocoa will work well, it just will not be as dark as black cocoa.

  • I like to make the pastry cream ahead of time, preferably the night before, but if you are in a pinch, you can spread it in a shallow plate or bowl, then pop it in the freezer to chill, stirring often (greater surface area = faster cooling). If you make the pastry cream before you bake the brownies, it should be cool enough by the time they are cool for you to proceed with making the buttercream.

  • During winter sometimes it is hard to get butter to ‘room’ temperature, which may cause your buttercream to split slightly or not totally come together. If this happens (it looks like there are still chunks of butter in it), you can simply microwave a few tablespoons of the buttercream until melted, and then beat into the mixture. The temperature of the melted buttercream should be enough to warm up the mixture enough for it to come together. Don’t freak out! It happens to me all the time when the weather is cold or your butter isn’t quite warm enough.

 

 

Black Cocoa Brownie with Oreo German Buttercream

- Makes about 16 -

Brownie recipe slightly adapted from The Vanilla Bean Baking Book

Black Cocoa Brownie
113g cold unsalted butter
225g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
50g Black cocoa, or extra dutched cocoa
140g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
120g neutral oil
300g sugar
100g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Oreo German Buttercream
110g sugar
12g (1 1/2 Tbsp) Corn Starch
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
190g whole milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
15 Oreo cookies, cream filling removed, ground finely in food processor or blender
Extra Oreo cookies for garnish, optional
Flaky Sea Salt to garnish, optional

 

- PROCESS -

BLACK COCOA BROWNIE

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Grease a 9” square baking tin and line with a parchment paper sling.

Melt together the butter and chocolate in a medium pan over low heat, stirring well until smooth. Add the cocoa powder and mix well to combine, then set aside to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix until well combined. Add the chocolate mixture and mix until combined. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking tin. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top of the brownie is set and a skewer inserted comes out with still a few crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

OREO GERMAN BUTTERCREAM

In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch, egg, egg yolk and salt. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla to just shy of a simmer.  Remove from the heat.

Using one hand to whisk constantly, pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. This helps to temper the eggs and stop them from scrambling. Whisk until incorporated, and then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan.

Heat the milk and egg mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. It will thicken quickly. Once it has thickened, cook for one minute, then remove from the heat. Pour into a shallow container or bowl of a stand mixer and press some plastic wrap over the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold - at least four hours, preferably overnight. If you need to speed this process up, you can place the pastry cream in a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice bath. Stir frequently.

Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment, and place the pastry cream in the bowl. Whip the mixture on medium until creamy and lump-free. Begin adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, until fully incorporated. It may look curdled at some point but just keep whipping - it will come together! If you are having issues with it coming together, see notes. Add the Oreo crumbs and mix until combined.

ASSEMBLY

Using an offset spatula, spread the Oreo buttercream over the surface of the brownie, adding swoops as desired. Top with flaky sea salt and extra Oreo pieces. Slice using a sharp knife, wiping the blade between each cut.

Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Dark, fudgy black cocoa brownie is topped with an oreo german buttercream and finished with chunks of oreo and flaky sea salt. This is a delicious twist on the traditional brownie.

Mixed Nut and Dulce de Leche Brioche Knot


 
Brioche dough is spiked with vanilla bean and muscovado sugar, and spread with dulce de leche and sprinkled with mixed nuts. The finished knot is dusted with powdered sugar - the perfect christmas treat to feed a crowd.
Brioche dough is spiked with vanilla bean and muscovado sugar, and spread with dulce de leche and sprinkled with mixed nuts. The finished knot is dusted with powdered sugar - the perfect christmas treat to feed a crowd.
Brioche dough is spiked with vanilla bean and muscovado sugar, and spread with dulce de leche and sprinkled with mixed nuts. The finished knot is dusted with powdered sugar - the perfect christmas treat to feed a crowd.
Brioche dough is spiked with vanilla bean and muscovado sugar, and spread with dulce de leche and sprinkled with mixed nuts. The finished knot is dusted with powdered sugar - the perfect christmas treat to feed a crowd.
Brioche dough is spiked with vanilla bean and muscovado sugar, and spread with dulce de leche and sprinkled with mixed nuts. The finished knot is dusted with powdered sugar - the perfect christmas treat to feed a crowd.

I do not, in any way, shape, or form, have my shit together for Christmas. We don’t have a single decoration up (and tbh we probably won’t), and I still feel like I have a zillion things to make recipe wise (probably won’t do that either), but I have a few things lined up for you between now and Christmas - starting with this mixed nut and dulce de leche brioche knot. I took my standard brioche dough, spiked it with some vanilla bean and muscovado sugar, and spread it with dulce de leche and sprinkled with mixed nuts. I then rolled it up into a log, cut it lengthwise babka style, then twisted it into a swirly knot. The creamy caramel and crunchy nuts are perfect alongside the fluffy dough - this will give you a little Christmas in your life, even if you have zero of your shit together like me.

I love brioche because it is super versatile and this is no exception - you can make this all in one day, or you can make the dough the evening before and do the first rise in the fridge, in which case you can skip the step of chilling the dough when it is rolled up, as it should already be cold enough to work with.

A few wee tips:

  • I made my own Dulce de Leche by boiling a can of condensed milk. To make this, peel the wrapper off a can of condensed milk, and place it on its side in a large pot. Cover with water by at least 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the can for 3 hours, checking often to make sure the water is well above the level of the can, and topping up when necessary. Remove from the pot with tongs and allow to cool completely, then chill overnight. You can use store bought too if that is easier for you.

  • This is easier to braid than you think! All you do is cross one end over the other, and then tuck the ends under. You look super fancy, but it's super easy. 

  • Depending on the weather the dough may need a teeny bit more liquid - add this a teaspoon at a time in the first kneading stage if it is having a hard time forming a soft dough.

  • If you can, don’t skip the toasting of the nuts - they really give them a great depth of flavour.

 

 

Mixed Nut and Dulce de Leche Brioche Knot

- Makes one brioche knot - serves about 8 -

Bread Dough
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
200g (3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp) whole milk, lukewarm
4 Tbsp (50g) muscovado sugar, or dark brown sugar
565g (3 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
115g (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Filling
65g Pecan halves
65g Hazelnuts
65g Walnut halves
150g (1/2 cup)dulce de leche (see notes)
2 tsp flaky sea salt

Egg wash - 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
Flaky Sea salt to finish (optional)

 

- PROCESS -

BREAD DOUGH

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, milk and 2 Tbsp of the muscovado sugar. Mix well, and leave to sit for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, salt, and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar. Mix briefly to combine. Add the eggs, vanilla, and foamy yeast mixture to the bowl. Mix on low for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is starting to come together. It may look slightly dry but do not worry - it will mix together nicely in the next steps. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for another 10 minutes, until the dough is soft and smooth. 

Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add the butter a little at a time, waiting until it is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next piece. This process should take 3-4 minutes. Once the butter is fully incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium, and mix for a further 5 minutes, until the dough is very soft and smooth. 

Transfer to an oiled bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot until doubled in size, approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours. 

 

FILLING AND ASSEMBLY

Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Place the Pecans, Hazelnuts and Walnut halves on a sheet pan, and roast for 10 minutes, shaking the tray often. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then, if necessary, rub together the hazelnuts and discard the skin. Chop the nuts roughly and set aside.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough out into a 16" x 24" (40 x 60cm) rectangle. Using an offset spatula, spread the surface of the dough with the Dulce de Leche, and then sprinkle with the chopped nuts and flaky sea salt.

Starting from the long side of the dough, roll up the dough into a tight spiral. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, curving the sausage a little if needed. Cover with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for an hour.

 Line a 9" cake tin, springform pan or skillet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, straighten out the chilled sausage of dough. Using a sharp knife, cut the sausage of dough in half lengthwise, leaving a small section approximately 1 1/2 inches long intact at one end. Turn the halves carefully so the filling is exposed. Cross the dough halves over each other, then repeat the process until you have a long, twisted piece of dough. 

Cross one end of the twist over the other, and tuck the ends under, forming a knot. Gently shape into a round if needed (I found it easiest to practice with a rolled up tea towel at first). Transfer to your prepared baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, or until puffy. While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. 

Brush the knot with egg wash, and sprinkle with additional flaky sea salt. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown and baked throughout, and registering 200˚f / 95˚c. Tent with foil in the last 10 minutes if necessary. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.  Reheat leftovers in microwave before eating.

Brioche dough is spiked with vanilla bean and muscovado sugar, and spread with dulce de leche and sprinkled with mixed nuts. The finished knot is dusted with powdered sugar - the perfect christmas treat to feed a crowd.

Earl Grey Sugar Pie


 
Earl Grey Sugar Pie - Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. An egg free version of a custard favourite that bakes perfectly flat and will never crack on you.
Earl Grey Sugar Pie - Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. An egg free version of a custard favourite that bakes perfectly flat and will never crack on you.
Earl Grey Sugar Pie - Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. An egg free version of a custard favourite that bakes perfectly flat and will never crack on you.
Earl Grey Sugar Pie - Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. An egg free version of a custard favourite that bakes perfectly flat and will never crack on you.
Earl Grey Sugar Pie - Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. An egg free version of a custard favourite that bakes perfectly flat and will never crack on you.
Earl Grey Sugar Pie - Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. An egg free version of a custard favourite that bakes perfectly flat and will never crack on you.

You probably haven’t noticed, but I used to be a bit of a one trick pony when it came to pie. They were almost always double crusted, and always had some sort of fancy border made from a braid or pie stamps. Now I’ve blown my own cover I can explain why - I was scared of crimping. The crimp is the fancy pattern you make around the border of a pie - either to seal the top and bottom crust, or to provide a pretty pattern for a single crusted pie. And until recently, I was pretty scared of it. So if you go back and look, there are hardly any single crust pies around here, which is 1. a huge shame because they are delicious and I love them, but also 2. going to change because I’m not scared of crimping dough anymore. And I promise to tell you everything I learnt, so we can be not scared together!

To overcome my fear, I did the same thing I usually do when I want to teach myself something new - just do it a whole heap of times until I’m happy with it. So I made 10 batches of pie dough, and crimped and crimped and crimped until I was happy with my efforts. I strategically timed it with the testing of this pie, which took a zillion tests anyway, so the crusts were getting used.

The other thing I usually do is ask my friend Erin 12,000 questions. I’ve written about Erin on here before, but she is an amazing, amazing baker food stylist, and all around wizard, and an even more amazing friend. She gave me a crash course in crimping when I went to stay with her for our Pie extravaganza, and I managed to video most of it, and saved it to my highlights so it is always accessible. She drops way more pie tips in her amazing book, which coincidentally where this recipe for Earl Grey Sugar pie is adapted from.

If you haven’t had a sugar pie before, now is the time for that to change. They are a custard pie, but, instead of being egg set like a pumpkin pie (and therefore very susceptible to cracking), a sugar pie is flour set, meaning that it bakes up silky smooth and flat every time, and you don’t have to worry about overbaking and running the risk of cracking. It’s super easy to make - you literally just whisk everything up and pour it into your parbaked pie shell. Erin’s version in her book is delicately spiced with nutmeg, but I had to test out my Earl Grey theory (if you can infuse it, you can add earl grey) on the recipe, and it turned out amazingly. Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. To me, it is perfect.

I finished the pie off with a new obsession of mine - a stencil. I got Richard to cut these ones out on the laser cutter for me out of some thin plastic, but you can definitely make your own shapes out of card or plastic, or use a material such as lace to add a pattern. You can also just give it a quick dust of powdered sugar without a stencil. You do you here.

A few wee tips:

  • The Earl grey in this is on the strong ish side, so feel free to drop the amount by 5g if you like. I used Harney and Sons Earl Grey Supreme, which is my very very fave to both drink and bake with.

  • A new pie dough trick I learnt from Erin that is now firmly in my repertoire : After you mix the dough and shape it into discs, rest it in the fridge for about an hour, and then roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle, fold it in thirds like a letter, then roll again and repeat the folding. Then you shape it into a disc by folding the edges under, rewrap tightly in plastic, and rest for at least two hours before using. What this step does is make the dough homogenous and therefore easy to work with, but also adds layers through the rolling and folding - the same way puff pastry is laminated. It is definitely an optional step but from my experience it makes the world of difference when it comes to rolling out the dough and getting a nice even crimp or lattice work.

  • You want to make sure that this pie is completely cool before you dust it with powdered sugar and slice, in order to get the cleanest slice possible.

  • I like to infuse the tea while the crust is par baking or cooling, so it is ready to go.

  • This is amazing served with a little whipped cream!

  • When you are par baking your pie crust, chill your crust in the fridge rather than the freezer if you can - according to Erin, a longer chill in the fridge is preferable to a short chill in the freezer.

  • The pie dough recipe makes a double crust - so enough for two pies. You might as well make the extra while you are at it in my opinion - pie dough freezes well, tightly wrapped, for at least a few months, or lasts a few days in the fridge. Defrost overnight if using from frozen.

 

 

Earl Grey Sugar Pie

- Makes one 9” pie -

Recipe adapted from ‘The Fearless Baker’

Pie Dough
2 1/2 cups (310g) Flour
Pinch of Salt
2 tsp (8g) sugar
225g (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup (240ml) cold water
1 cup ice
1/4 cup (60ml) Apple cider vinegar

Filling
240g whole milk
300g heavy cream
25g loose leaf earl grey tea
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
150g sugar
50g brown sugar
60g all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

Egg wash - 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water

 

- PROCESS -

PIE DOUGH

Place flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut butter into chunks, and add to the flour. Toss lightly to coat. Working quickly, using a pastry blender or  your fingers,  cut the butter into the flour mixture until there are only large pea-sized chunks left. You want a few lumps of butter remaining to keep the pastry nice and tender.

Combine ice, water and cider vinegar in a bowl. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the ice water into the flour and butter mixture, and using a stiff spatula or your hands, mix in well. Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time ( I normally need about 8-10 tbsp) until you have a dough that holds together well, but is not too wet. Squeeze together with your fingertips to make a homogenous dough. Shape into two discs, one slightly larger than the other, and wrap in plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or preferably overnight.  (See notes for rolling out dough during resting period)

Once the dough has rested, unwrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to 1/4” (6mm) in thickness, turning the dough 45˚ often as you are rolling to keep it even. You want the circle to be slightly larger than your pie tin. Transfer to a 9” pie tin, and arrange to ensure that the dough is well settled.

Trim the dough using scissors or a sharp knife, leaving about one inch excess around the edges. Gently tuck the dough under and onto itself, to give you a neat folded edge. Chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, then remove from the fridge and crimp as desired. Dock all over with the tines of a fork, then chill for a further 30 minutes, or freeze for 20 minutes or until solid.

While the crust is in the fridge, preheat the oven to 425˚f / 220˚c. Cut a piece of parchment slightly larger than the pie dish. Brush the crimped edge with egg wash, then line with the parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans, filling right to the bottom of the crimps.

Place the pie tin on a baking sheet, and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, remove the parchment paper and beans, and bake for a further 4-6 minutes or until the crust looks set and is beginning to turn golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 375˚f / 190˚c.

FILLING

Place the milk and cream in a small pot. Heat over medium heat until just shy of a simmer - you want to see bubbles around the edge of the milk. Remove from the heat, and add the tea. Cover, and allow to steep for 15 minutes.

Strain the tea from the milk mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl, pressing down to extract as much as possible. Weigh the infused milk mixture, and top up to 540g using equal parts cream and milk. Add vanilla and mix to combine. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, flour and salt. Add the milk mixture and mix to combine - do not over whisk as you want the mixture as bubble free as possible. Tap the bowl a few times on the work surface to remove any bubbles in the mix.

Place the pie tin on a baking sheet, then pour the filling into the cooled pie crust, popping any large bubbles with a toothpick, or very very briefly running the flame of a blow torch over the surface.

Bake the pie at 375˚f /190˚c for 30 to 35 minutes until the edges of the filling are set, but the pie is ever so slightly wobbly still in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Earl Grey Sugar Pie - Fragrant Earl grey custard is spiked with vanilla bean, and finished with a hefty dusting of powdered sugar. An egg free version of a custard favourite that bakes perfectly flat and will never crack on you.