15 November 2009

Brown Town Throwdown: Part Deux

Note: This post is back to being only in English because any French person should know how to make crème anglaise or ganache already... Or buy it at Monoprix. :P

Baking several batches of brownies leads to a rather interesting question: What do you do when you've got several kilos of leftover brownies in the house? The first thing, of course, is to unload your chocolate goodness on everyone you know. Then give brownies to them. This week, colleagues, friends, bartenders, neighbors – pretty much anyone in Paris lucky enough to know us – were treated to all three kinds of brownies.

Despite claiming brownie supremacy for our own recipe, nobody seemed to care which one they got. Each sample got ingested quicker than a pile of Colombian "powdered sugar" cookies at a Lohan Mother-Daughter Fundraiser. Real brownies really are that rare in Paris.

However, we still had a good amount of brownie left over, in spite of our sharing spirit. So we took Alannah's classic recipe for bread pudding - and used brownies instead of bread.

Bread pudding is pretty easy. Cut up your bread (or other baked good) into chunks and place in a deep baking dish. Pour a fairly standard custard over it (beaten eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla - heated moderately so as not to curdle), and place in a medium oven for 45 minutes. Pull it out, let it cool at least a little bit, and voila! Bread Brownie pudding.

This isn't bad on its own, but around this household, we like to push things a bit farther. So it was time for another battle, albeit a little one: How can we best finish off these brownies with a money shot? Is brownie pudding better with the classic crème anglaise? Or Alannah's luxurious dark chocolate ganache?

The ganache-topped brownie was a killer, through and through. A chocolate-sugar rush that would kill that quack Dr. Atkins if his carb-free ass weren't already dead. Something already rich and bold was made richer, bolder, and – we kinda mean it – deadly. The portion pictured above is probably only about 60g. Any more would be like a Mandingo Party in your mouth.

Shifting gears to the one topped with white stuff... Crème anglaise is the French term for runny custard. Which makes this version of the desert rather meta, since the bread brownie pudding is what it is because it's cooked in custard.

If you don't already know how to make a crème anglaise (believe me, one of our friends joked that it's made up from ground up Englishmen, but sometimes I think it's not a joke) and you look it up, you'll see terms like "easy to ruin," "nerve-wracking," or "it's easier just to buy it at the store."


Beat the ever-loving hell out of two fresh egg yolks with about a cup of sugar and a couple of teaspoons of vanilla extract (or scrape in the grains from one real pod). Bring a cup each of milk and cream to a simmer (not a boil) in a saucepan/pot, remove from heat. Temper your egg mixture with a few spoonfuls of the warm milk/cream. Then pour the mixture back into the pot (again, not on the heat) slowly while whisking. Once integrated, put the pot back over low heat, keep whisking, until everything's simmering again. Pour through a strainer into a bowl to cool. Then, once cool, pour through a strainer again.

On second thought, just go to the store. (Just kidding. Crème anglaise is like meditation. Do it calmly and it's simple and satisfying.)

Beyond the black/white contrast, one thing that makes this version of the brownie pudding great is temperature. Chill the crème anglaise, warm up the brownie pudding. Separately, of course. Then make a small pool of crème in a dish, put a serving of the pudding on top, and drizzle more crème on it.

And that's what makes this one a winner. The contrasting flavors. The differing temperatures. Light versus dark. Cool versus warm.

While Alannah and I both feel that going deep into the dark side of things is great, we're more partial to mixing it up with a little bit of simple vanilla action, to keep things more interesting.


  1. Lol @ the bullshit on making creme anglaise. It really isn't that difficult and reading this should clear anyone's doubts.

    Brownies look awesome. Might have to make a late-night grocery run to make some right now...

  2. Glad to be of inspiration! To be honest, I've curdled my fair share of creams and eggs, and still do on occasion – it's just a matter of not rushing. Always easier to turn up the heat on something if need be, than start a new batch...