Do you ever get a niggling idea in your head that just won't go away? The seedling of a fully formed plan that intrudes on your thoughts and gets stuck in your mind, germinating, until it is eventually transformed into a brilliant, fully-fledged idea.... It started with mousse. All I knew at that point is that I wanted to make some mousse of some sort. I sat on that idea for a couple of weeks, in the meantime planning Valentines day baking, which got me thinking about red velvet...which got me thinking about cream cheese, because what is a red velvet cake without the iconic cream cheese icing?! (It's the best bit!) My mind put the cream cheese and the mousse together... then spread it on top of some red velvet brownies... and added ganache, and then threw in some oreos for good measure... And red velvet brownies with oreo cream cheese mousse and chocolate ganache were born! All that mental planning and recipe daydreaming really payed off, these are good, like, seriously good, like, no-you-can't-have-any-these-are-all-my-brownies good. I tested four (four!) mousse recipes to create the perfect one to top my mega brownies with (I've eaten a lot of mousse over the past week...), and the recipe I came up with is heavenly - light, fluffy and melt in the mouth, with a creamy, slightly tangy flavour, a hint of vanilla and oreo pieces dotted throughout. It has just the right level of sweetness, and the tangyness from the cream cheese balances it out perfectly, it isn't sickly sweet like a lot of frosting recipes are, just enough to complement the brownie and make them incredibly moreish.... Despite being so light, it is firm enough to hold it's shape and slice cleanly, so you have neat, square brownies. I used sheets of leaf gelatin, I recommend using the same to guarantee the result (I used Dr Oetker platinum grade leaf gelatin). If you must use powdered gelatin then I estimate that 2 tsp is about the right amount - check the packet, you need enough to set 430ml. Follow the instructions on the packet for dissolving the gelatin if you use powdered as some must be added to cold water and some to hot, make sure that you use the same amount of water as specified in the recipe below though - 3 tbsp. The brownie layer is a moist, chewy, flavour-packed red velvet mix, with a complex, chocolate/vanilla flavour. Don't worry about the addition of a little vinegar - you can't taste or smell it, it just helps to make the red colour more vibrant. I used Sugarflair gel food colouring in Christmas Red as it is bake stable and gives a really bright red colour, Wilton gel colours are also good. Most food colouring that you can buy in supermarkets (in the UK at least) is not bake stable and will not give you a good colour (even Dr Oetker gel colours) so I recommend ordering some of the professional grade stuff online. The brownies are on the cakey side (as I wanted them), but if you prefer a denser, more fudgy brownie then you can omit the baking powder from the recipe, and make sure that you only bake them until a skewer inserted into the centre just comes out cleanish - a few moist crumbs is perfect. Use an 8 inch (20cm) square, deep pan to bake the brownies in as you are going to spread the mousse and ganache on top while they are still in the tin and you don't want it to overflow - my tin is 5.5cm (2in) deep and it was only just deep enough, don't use anything any shallower than that. The whole thing is topped of with a layer of silky smooth chocolate ganache and crumbled oreos, it may look like the recipe doesn't make enough ganache but it is just the right amount, you only want a thin layer - enough to complement the mousse and brownie, but not enough to overwhelm their more subtle flavours with chocolate. These brownies are quite frankly one of the most stunningly delicious things I have ever baked, I cannot get over just how good the mousse is, and how perfectly all of the separate elements work together to make one soft, smooth, chewy, delicious whole; I think I might be a genius.
Red Velvet Brownies With Oreo Cream Cheese Mousse & Chocolate Ganache
- 115 g (½ cup) butter
- 200 g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 20 g (3 tbsp) cocoa powder
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 tsp red gel food colouring or 1 tbsp liquid food colouring
- ¾ tsp white vinegar
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 100 g (¾ cup + 1 tbsp) plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder optional
- 165 ml (⅔ cup + 1tsp) whipping cream
- 3 sheets leaf gelatin I used Dr Oetker
- 150 g (5 + ⅓ oz) full fat cream cheese
- 75 g (⅓ cup + 1 tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
- 60 ml (¼ cup) whole milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp water
- 8 oreos roughly crushed
- 150 ml (⅔ cup) whipping cream
- 125 g (4 + ½ oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- 6 oreos roughly crushed
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Line a deep (at least 2in/5.5cm deep), 8 inch/20cm square tin with greaseproof paper, making sure that you leave enough of an overhang to be able to lift the brownies out.
- Gently heat the butter until is is just melted, stir in the sugar and vanilla extract then sift in the cocoa powder. Add the salt, food colouring and vinegar and mix until well combined, whisk in the eggs.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder (if using) and fold into the batter, do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Bake the brownies for 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean, with a few small moist crumbs. Allow the brownies to cool at room temperature for about half an hour, then transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely.
- Whip the cream until soft peaks form, set aside.
- Fill a shallow dish with cold water and place the gelatin leaves in it, put them in the water one at a time, making sure that each one is covered by the water before adding the next, set aside to soak for about 10 minutes until soft.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth, whisk in the milk and vanilla extract.
- Place the 3 tbsp water in a small pan and heat until just beginning to steam, don't let it get too hot or it may affect the set. Squeeze the excess water out of the sheets of gelatin and add to the pan off the heat, stir until dissolved, heating it very gently if needed.
- Whisk the gelatin into the cream cheese mixture until well combined then gently fold in the whipped cream.
- Place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes until it has started to firm up a little - keep a close eye on it, you do not want it to set! Just to become firm enough that you can fold in the oreos without them all sinking to the bottom.
- Gently fold in the crushed oreos then carefully pour the mousse over the brownies (they should be completely cold and still in the tin), spread it until it is level then place in the fridge for at least 4 hours until set.
- Once the mousse is set, place the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream until it is just boiling then pour it over the chocolate. Make sure that all of the chocolate is covered with cream, leave it for 5 minutes then stir until smooth.
- Set the ganache aside until it is cool but still pourable.
- Pour the ganache over the mousse and very gently spread it until all of the mousse is covered, it may look like there isn't enough ganache but if you used an 8 inch tin then there is exactly the right amount!
- Sprinkle over the crushed oreos then return the brownies to the fridge for at least half an hour until the ganache is set.
- Use the overhanging baking parchment to lift the brownies out of the tin, cut into 16 squares using a long, sharp knife. Wash the knife after each cut for clean slices. If you are struggling to slice through the ganache layer, pour hot water over the blade of the knife before slicing - the hot blade will cut through easily.
- Keep refrigerated and eat within 4-5 days.
2. For a denser, more fudgy brownie, omit the baking powder and make sure that you bake them for the minimum amount of time possible.
I am sharing these with Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Treat Petite hosted by Kat from The Baking Explorer, Totally Talented Tuesdays, Create Link Inspire, Foodie Fridays, Fiesta Friday and Foodie Friends Friday