Roasted Cocoa Brownies with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream

Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Roasted Cocoa Brownies with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream

We’ve made it through January, and now is the perfect time for a little indulgence. So I’ve doubled up on rich chocolate flavor with these brownies. Sure, they take a little bit more time, but they are perfect for a day of relaxing around the house with the oven warmly humming and the lovely smell of chocolate wafting through the air. And the deeply chocolate flavor of the brownie with the complex caramel flavors of the frosting are an excellent pay-off. And telling people the name of these gets some very appreciative nods for your genius in the kitchen!

I’ve included some tips below for the white chocolate. Once you master the simple technique, you’ll find all sorts of uses for it (watch this space!). The roasted cocoa is so simple, but adds such dimension and depth to a simple brownie it is worth the time investment. Use a quality, natural cocoa powder – I like Penzey’s or Ghiradelli. I recommend a good European style butter for the frosting. You are going all out on the richness here! 

Tips for the caramelized white chocolate:

Make sure you are using actual white chocolate – not chocolate coating or candy melts. Scharffen Berger, Guittard and Ghiraldelli are good brands to try. Look for 30% cocoa butter. Lesser versions have additives that will not caramelize properly.

The time this takes to caramelize will vary, so watch carefully, stirring every 15 minutes or so to spread the chocolate out evenly. It may take 30 minutes, it may take 60.

At some points, the chocolate will look grainy and not very nice, stir to smooth it out.

If the chocolate is nicely caramel colored, but still grainy – don’t panic. Transfer it to a small food processor and process until smooth. Scrape it into a glass bowl or measuring jug to cool.

Roasted Cocoa Brownies with Caramelized White Chocolate Buttercream

For the Frosting:

4 ½ ounces white chocolate, 30% cocoa butter

½ cup (1 stick), unsalted butter, softened

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

For the Brownies:

½ cup cocoa powder

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

¼ cup ( ½ stick) unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons milk

You can cook the chocolate and cocoa powder at the same time.

Preheat the oven to 250°

Break the white chocolate into small pieces and spread in an even layer in a square glass baking dish. Place in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, stir and spread the chocolate to smooth it out to an even layer, then bake for 15 minutes. Stir and scrape the chocolate and spread it back into as even a layer as you can. The chocolate will progressively turn a golden caramel color. It may look grainy at some point, just stir it smooth. Keep baking, stirring and scraping every 15 minutes, until the chocolate is the color of rich caramel and it has smoothed out.

For the Roasted Cocoa

Preheat the oven to 250°. Spread the cocoa powder out in a thin, even layer in on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Roast for 2 hours, stirring and spreading out the cocoa every 15 minutes. You want to move the powder around so it doesn’t get scorched in one place. The cocoa will turn darker and look a little lumpy. You can do this while you are making the caramelized white chocolate, though the cocoa takes longer. 

For the Brownies:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 8 inch square pan with non-stick foil with overhanging edges.

Put the chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl or measuring jug and microwave for 30 seconds, then stir. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring well after each, until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until pale and smooth. Beat in the chocolate and butter mixture and beat until combined. Add the roasted cocoa, flour and salt and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the milk to smooth out the batter, then scrape it into the prepared pan and smooth the top making sure the batter fills the pan. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging. The top should be shiny, but not jiggly. Cool completely in the pan. Remove the brownie slab from the pan with the foil for frosting.

For the Frosting:

Beat the caramelized white chocolate and butter together in the cleaned out bowl of the mixer. Use the paddle attachment to beat until smooth, then add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until completely combined and spreadable.

Spread the frosting on the cooled brownies, smoothing the top and reaching all the edges. Refrigerate the brownies for about 30 minutes to firm up the frosting. You can store the brownies in the fridge or on the counter in an airtight container. Cut into squares before serving.

Makes 16

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