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
100g brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Oreo German Buttercream
12g (1 1/2 Tbsp) Corn Starch
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.
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.