Chai ganache-topped flourless brownies remind me “I’m a big lady”
You might remember a disclaimer at the end of a post in December announcing I needed to start exercising. OK, so you probably don’t remember, but I do. I remember because I actually joined my local Planet Fitness soon after that. This decision came after I realized I had gained around 30 pounds since I last weighed myself, probably in college. So that’s like 6 years ago, but still. After this discovery, I went and googled the average weight range for someone of my stature (yes, I know this is all jank and not a good way to measure health, yada yada). I was way at the top of the normal range, as in, “I’m a big lady.”
Now, I really don’t think my weight is a big issue, although it is bigger than I want it to be. The biggest issue is that I sit all day at a desk and haven’t really incorporated a lot of physical activity into my life since I left my high school sports days behind me. In high school I played basketball, volleyball and softball. I love being a part of a team, despite never really being very good at any of the sports I played. I looked into joining a local basketball or volleyball league before, but the time commitment always seemed like too much. And even the word “gym” was an abomination in my opinion just 4 months ago.
My friend Mary had a coupon to bring a guest to the gym for 1 week, so I begrudgingly joined her because of my recent weight discovery. The gym wasn’t really so bad. Felt good to get my heart going and feel some familiar muscle soreness that I hadn’t experienced for some time. Now don’t get me wrong, we do quite a bit of yard work and when the weather is fine, we go for walks and bike rides. In fact, last year Dan and I rocked an 80-mile ride without any training. Our legs were jello for weeks after. But it’s truly been ages since I really made exercise a priority and habit.
So I’ve been exercising consistently 2-3 times a week since January and feeling pretty good about it. It’s been a beautiful introduction to the happy world of podcasts. I like to listen to The Sporkful, Eat Your Words, StoryCorps, TED Radio Hour and one local leadership podcast by a friend, 37 The Podcast. Maybe you guys out there can make some suggestions for comic podcasts? Anyway, I’ve got wonderful gym buddies in Mary and Jackie. We make jokes, we run, we commiserate. It’s great.
But then I organized this awesome PR event for the company I work for. (Watch local TV coverage of the event, you’ll see me lurking in the background a couple times!) The night before the event I tried on all my professional clothes, trying to select an appropriate outfit. I gave Dan a little fashion show and he helped me choose the right outfit and all was well. NOT! In the process, I discovered that all of my pencil skirts that I fit in beautifully last year are now uncomfortably tight. And I know why.
It’s gotta be the beer. I didn’t really start liking beer until about one year ago and since then I’ve been trying all sorts of beer and having a grand old time. Not only that, but Dan is brewing and feeding me his beer and so, ya, it’s his fault … but not really. Other than the beer, I haven’t really made any other big lifestyle changes. So I blame it all on the beer. This secondary beer/weight discovery led me to commit myself even further to adding more activity to my life. Since Monday I have been intentionally walking at least 10 minutes mid-morning and mid-afternoon and walking during lunch when possible, and I proclaim this shall become an everyday habit! Oh … and my under-desk stationary pedal thing came in the mail today …
So since you’ve read all of this rambling story so far, I will now reward you with even more ridiculous statements. Remember way back when you started reading this blog post and I called myself a “big lady”? Well, at work I started saying, “I’m a big lady,” in jest after I saw a photo of myself standing next to a gentlemen that I had perceived as sort of BIG. It is clear in the photo that I am taller, but of course I went with the verb “BIGGER.” I’m 5’8”, so not ginormous, but you could never call me petite. I have relatively large hands and long fingers, what they call “piano-player hands,” though I am proficient at no instrument other than my own voice. I do the awkward knee bend in photos because I feel like a giant and always feel pleasantly petite whenever I encounter very tall people. Growing up I got the impression that ladies were supposed to be delicate, gentle and cute. So generally I felt too tall, too crass and too outspoken. Now I’m so happy that I am those things. So where am I taking this?
Remember those pencil skirts I was bursting out of because I’m a big lady? Exactly one year ago this week, Indiana’s congresswoman Jackie Walorski came to visit my work and present our CEO with some kind of honor. I coordinated the visit and welcomed Jackie when she arrived. That whole week I was jokingly obsessed with that fact that I shook Jackie’s hand AND that she was wonderfully tall, you might say, a big lady. So when I’m feeling large and I need a boost (or the opposite of a boost?), I look back at a photo of my boss and me with Jackie that day (I cropped him out since he probably doesn’t want to appear on my personal blog.)
When I look at it and see how comfortably I fit in my pencil skirt and how I almost look petite next to a woman of such great stature … even while wearing tiny heels … I smile.
But that doesn’t solve today’s not-fitting-in-my-pencil-skirt issue. And to top it off, in this whirlwind of fattest-kid-on-the-bus feelings this week, I decided to make experimental brownies full of rich, fattening, scrumptious ingredients and then eat them for breakfast every day. I guess I’m just going to have to up my moving and shaking habits if I ever want to get back to that “petite,” pencil-skirt-wearing lady I once was, because we all know I’m not going to stop making desserts like the recipe below.
I don’t blame you if you skipped to the end for this amazing recipe with chai-infused ganache that is nearly as deep as the brownies it sits atop. Remember as you make these that you can totally add more chocolate. Don’t go too wild or you might get weird results, but a little extra never hurt anyone. Also, read the whole recipe before you start because it will take you some serious time, but it’s SO worth it.
Flourless dark chocolate brownies with chai-infused ganache
Recipe inspired by and sort of a creative mash up of Steak and Sass Triple-Chocolate Chunk Paleo Brownies and Earl Gray Brownies from Boston.com (Thank you to Brittany for introducing me to Earl Gray Brownies)
- 3/4 cup dark chocolate, around 70%
- ½ cup or 1 stick butter
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup cashew or almond butter
- ¼ cup raw honey (I use Honey From the Hood from South Bend)
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup dark cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup dark chocolate chips or coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper spilling over the edges. You’ll use the parchment paper hanging over to get these dense, messy brownies out of the pan later.
- Melt together the butter and chocolate in a saucepan or double boiler stirring constantly over medium-low heat; let cool slightly.
- Whisk in the eggs one at a time.
- Whisk in the cashew or almond butter, honey, maple syrup and vanilla.
- Fold in the cocoa powder and salt then the chocolate chunks.
- Pour the batter into the baking dish and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out just clean. Let cool completely on the counter or in the fridge.
- 1-1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or coarsely chopped
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1-1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 chai tea bags
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a small to medium saucepan, combine the cream and tea bags and heat over medium-high heat until bubbling. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Make sure to use a spoon to gently squeeze out as much chai spice flavor as you can. Add the chocolate, honey and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate melts completely.
- Set aside 1/2 cup of the ganache at room temperature.
- Refrigerate the remaining ganache in the bowl for 45 minutes or until it sets.
- In an electric mixer, beat the chilled ganache for 1 minute or until creamy and fluffy. Spread it over the brownies. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- If the ganache you set aside has thickened, heat it until it is pourable. Pour it onto the chilled ganache layer. Return the pan to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until firm.
- Holding onto the parchment that is hanging over the sides, lift the brownies out of the pan. Set them on a cutting board. The original recipe said: using a thin, sharp knife, and wiping the blade clean after each cut, make 4 cuts in one direction to yield 5 rows. Give the pan a quarter turn and make 4 cuts in the other direction to yield 5 more rows. I used a giant knife like you would use to cut a melon. These brownies are really dense, so I found the giant knife acted like a wedge and made it easier, at least for me, to cut all the way though. Let me know what works best for you.