I don’t like watermelon. I remember the longing I felt when I was young, watching the other kids digging into their giant slices of watermelon with reckless abandon while ...
So, I’m slightly ashamed to admit this, but I’ve only been the New Belgium Brewery Taproom twice to hang out and enjoy a few beers. BOTH times I was with my trustee, beer-loving sidekick and all-around good pal, Caleb. I’ve enjoyed COUNTLESS bottles and pints of New Belgium beer over the years and taken out-of-towners there for their amazing brewery tours, but hanging out in the Taproom for some tasters and quality time with my buddies just never really happened. I know, how un-Fort Collins-y of me! In any case, the first time I went, Caleb pointed our their Cocoa Molé Ale and insisted I try it. He knows my
obsession affection for chocolate runs deep and he was a doll for ordering me a taster of this stuff. I LOVED it. As a side note, the first experience with “Vania Cooking” Caleb ever had was the time I brought homemade, spicy chocolate truffles to work too many years ago. So, it was fitting that we were sharing this smoky, spicy, sweet and ever so chocolate-y beer together. The moment this stuff hit my lips, I knew I had to bake with it!
Fast forward to last week when I decided I was going to make Cocoa Molé Brownies, inspired by that delicious ale. I called the New Belgium Taproom to see if they had their Cocoa Molé Ale on tap. The sweet girl on the phone informed me that they hadn’t poured the stuff in about a year. I giggled (which I do when I’m nervous or feel like an ass), joked about how horrible I felt for letting so much time pass since my last visit, and began to ponder the last time I WAS there. Ah, yes… August 2013 when Caleb and I went for a few drinks before heading downtown to get in line for the FILMAGE screening at The Aggie. After I got over my embarrassment, I was on to Plan B… 1554. This black lager is one of New Belgium’s more popular beers and I thought 1554′s roasty, chocolatey, rich flavor profile would be a great addition to my spicy brownie recipe.
Now, onto the chocolate. Chocolaaaaaate…
When I heard this new place, Nuance Chocolate was coming to town, I was STOKED. Like, overly excited in an obsessively checking their facebook page for updates kind of way. When I shot them an email letting them know that I wanted to use their chocolate in my recipe, they graciously invited me to visit their storefront on Pine Street for a sneak peek. I met with Toby Gadd, one half of the husband/wife team that dreamed this small batch chocolate company into being. It is CLEAR that Toby and his wife Alix are passionate about chocolate, its origins, and the science (yes, it is a science!) behind creating a high quality from bean to bar. These chocolate aficionados are fermenting and roasting their own cocoa beans at their chocolate factory in Old Town and creating some of the most outrageous chocolate I’ve ever tasted. And I have tasted A LOT of chocolate. Toby was a fountain of information and sat down with me to explain the process of creating chocolate and their vision for Nuance Chocolate. I urge you, nay, IMPLORE you to get to Nuance as soon as humanly possible not only to get your hands on their wonderful, locally made chocolate, but to have a conversation with the owners. Their passion is infectious. I left 214 Pine Street downright GIDDY about having this kind of establishment in Fort Collins AND with a bag of their recommendations for the perfect chocolate to use in my batter and spicy ganache! To learn more about Nuance Chocolate, read THIS Coloradoan article.
Here’s the recipe, adapted from Joy the Baker…
Cocoa Molé Beer Brownies
What You’ll Need…
For the brownies-
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 3 1/2 ounces Nuance Chocolate 90% Ghana or high quality dark chocolate
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup New Belgium 1554
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
For the ganache-
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces Nuance Chocolate 70% Ghana or high quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon Urfa Biber Chili Flakes, Old Town Spice Shop (can be adjusted for desired heat and spice)
What You’ll Do…
For the brownies-
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and dust with cocoa powder a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water. In a small pan over medium heat, melt the butter until it just turns golden brown, about 5 minutes. Pour the brown butter into the chocolate and stir until combined. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the beer.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs and sugars until thick, about 2 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the ingredients are well combined. .
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are firm and the center is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan before slicing.
- Pour ganache evenly over brownies and cut into 12 large or 24 small brownies
For the ganache-
- Heat heavy cream, cinnamon, and chili flakes over medium heat until gently simmering, careful not to scorch the cream.
- Place chocolate into a medium bowl. Using a fine mesh sieve, pour your cream mixture over the chocolate and let it sit for about a minute. Add vanilla extract and whisk until the ganache is shiny and smooth.
XO, Vania Kinney
Early photographic evidence of me getting stoked about food. I still get that glazed over look every time I eat dessert.
Ok. So, calling this “famous” might be a bit of a stretch, but among my friends and family this treat is the Holy Grail of banana bread! Moist, dense, sweet, banana-y PERFECTION. If you’re into super dry, bland banana bread that requires copious amounts of milk as a chaser, then this recipe is not for you. This rainy, chilly, Autumn weather is making me all excited about baking. Honestly, as much as I love the fresh produce of summer farmers’ markets, I always long for the cooler months so I can get back to my first love… baking.
The first time I ever made banana bread, I was going in blind. The Hubby had requested the confection and I scoffed at the idea at baking anything that I could not enjoy with him. “How dare he ask me to make banana bread when he KNOWS I am allergic to bananas?!” Seriously, the NERVE! Yes, sadly I am allergic to bananas. Strange, I know. Just add it to the list of “Weird Things About Vania.” It is a long list, but I digress.
After a lot of trial and error, I finally came up with what my husband considered PERFECT BANANA BREAD! He was overjoyed and I’m pretty sure several expletives were used while he expressed his love for said Banana Bread. “You HAVE TO try this!” he said. He was right. I DID have to try it. It smelled like heaven, it was beautiful and the edges were caramelized perfection. So, I spread a little butter on the piping hot slice and took the plunge! HOLY $%!^! This stuff was everything I didn’t know Banana Bread was supposed to be!
My mouth itched for several hours after that sumptuous bite of forbidden Banana Bread, but it was well worth it and I’ve got the recipe to PROVE IT! While there is not one stand-out “local” ingredient in this recipe, it is made from scratch with my favorite spices and extracts from Old Town Spice Shop, oil from Rocky Mountain Olive Oil Co and Noosa Plain Yoghurt, which are all staples in my kitchen arsenal. Oh, and LOVE. There is a lot of love in there too. Does it get more local than that? Probably not. Sometimes I may sound like a broken record when you read the names of certain local businesses over and over on my blog, but these are the tried and true businesses I believe in and feel good about feeding to my family and friends. They are the small (and not-so-small), locally owned businesses that I feel good about sending you to because I know you’ll get great service and an outstanding product you’ll use over and over in YOUR kitchens. What a lovely thing… to buy locally the products you use every day! Don’t worry, I’ll be constantly trying and sharing all of the wonderful ingredients that come from the treasure trove that is Northern Colorado, but today it’s back to basics.
Feel like you need to add a little something extra? These things will NOT ruin your Banana Bread:
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped pistachios
a generous sprinkle of turbinado sugar on top of loaf before you bake
a cup or so of fresh blueberries
Vania’s Famous Banana Bread
What You’ll Need…
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup oil
- 4 bananas, very ripe, mashed
- 2 tablespoons yogurt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- butter (for greasing pan)
What You’ll Do…
- Set oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper and grease the pan/parchment paper LIBERALLY with butter. Lots and lots of butter.
- Stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, about 5-10 minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, don’t sweat it. Just beat the sugar and eggs until your arm simply cannot take it anymore.
- Drizzle in oil.
- Mash up your bananas. I use a potato masher because I have one and it makes life easier.
- Add mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla.
- Fold in dry ingredients.
- Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Ovens are like people… every single one of them is different. Some are old, some are fancy, some are horribly unproductive and some will be your best friend if you let them. It might take some time to get to know your oven, but if you make the first move I think you’ll be very happy. The moral of this story is, even if I am telling you it’ll take 45-60 minutes to make your banana bread it COULD take more. When a toothpick is plunged into the heart of your banana bread and comes out clean, you’re golden!