|killer chocolate brownies|
But the time has come to put this recipe for killer chocolate brownies out there. Not double chocolate, not triple chocolate. This is chocolate four-ways (quadruple doesn't really roll off the tongue). These brownies are, to my mind, perfection - dense, moist and intensely chocolate-y, unadulterated by nuts, just total chocolate.
Based on a Nigel Slater recipe, this is one of the most indulgent brownie recipes I have tried, alleviated by a little milk chocolate crumbled into the mix before baking. It really is divine.
A year or so ago there was a great article on The Guardian's Word of Mouth food blog about the best ever brownies. The overwhelming consensus of opinion was that Brits really don't know a good brownie when they see one; that we get the consistency wrong. About half of the blogs' comments were about brownies needing the addition of nuts as a counterpoint to the fudgy cake. But I would disagree. It really doesn't get much better than a brownie made from good quality ingredients; free range eggs, golden caster sugar, butter and dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), cocoa and a little milk chocolate to balance out the bitter dark flavours.
There are several secrets to very gooey brownies. The first is to use masses of good quality dark chocolate; Green + Black's is a good choice. Another is to use a very small amount of flour. But the most important, that I have learned to my cost over the years, is not to overcook them. If it looks cooked then it is probably over-cooked! They need to come out of the oven probably about 5 minutes before you think they have finished baking. So check after about 25 minutes and then every few minutes after that. The top needs to have a thin crust but a skewer should come out slightly gooey. If it is still visibly soggy then you need a couple more minutes. When done, set aside and leave until they are completely cooled. And I mean completely cooled down.
Wrap the whole baking tray in foil while you wait for them to cool, then leave, preferably for a day or so. Lift from the tray and wrap completely before cutting into bite sized morsels. Another day won't do them any harm at all. Although watch out for marauding brownie fiends.
Serves about 25 to 30 small squares
Skill level: Medium
300g golden caster sugar (I use my home-made vanilla sugar)
250g butter (salted or unsalted)
250g chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
60g good quality cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
c. 70g milk chocolate, chopped to the consistency of gravel
hot chocolate powder to dust (optional)
- Grease and then line a non-stick brownie or baking tin, about 23cm square. (A small roasting tin will work too).
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 4.
- Beat the sugar and butter together either with a hand-held mixer or in the bowl of a food mixer, until pale and fluffy. If doing it by hand then you will need to make sure that the mix is truly soft and fluffy and not just wishful thinking as I have often learned to my cost! Thinking it might just sort itself out in the oven doesn't work!
- Break the dark chocolate pieces into pieces and melt, either by short bursts in the microwave (literally 10 seconds for each burst and checking every time) or by placing a glass mixing bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not actually come into contact with the surface of the water. Stir every so often, until the chocolate is melted.
- When the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat.
- Chop the milk chocolate into small pieces, about the size of a pea or gravel.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Remember that you are using 3 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk. (They do not need to be fluffy).
- In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix in a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter.
- Slowly add the lightly beaten egg to the butter mixture. Don't worry if it appears to curdle, it will genuinely sort itself out in the oven.
- Slowly stir in the melted chocolate with a large metal spoon.
- Scatter over the chopped milk chocolate and then fold in the flour and cocoa mixture, using the metal spoon (it helps prevent the air being knocked out of the batter).
- Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared baking tin.
- Smooth the top with a palate knife or spatula.
- Bake for 25 minutes (up to a maximum of 30 minutes, depending on how hot your oven is). Check every few minutes after the initial 25 minutes to ensure you don't overcook the brownies. When ready, the surface will have crusted over and will have pulled away from the edges. It will have slightly risen but should be softer in the centre than at the edge. (The edges will have cooked more quickly because of their proximity to the metal sides of the tray).
- The brownies are ready when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out slightly moist but not wet.
- When ready, set aside and allow to cool completely before attempting to cut the brownies into squares. The brownies need to cool completely to allow the cake to solidify slightly. Attempting to take them out of the tin before properly cool leads to disaster. Trust me on this one!
- Before cutting the entire cake will last well for 2 to 3 days wrapped in foil.
- Dust lightly with hot chocolate powder (using a sieve) and then cut into squares, about 2 to 3 centimetres.
- Top with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche (perhaps spiked with a little lemon or lime juice) and a spoonful of soft summer fruits such as raspberries.