I make brownies all the time. At least once a week, if not more. This means a) that I know the recipe off by heart, and b) that I was extra annoyed when Bournville recently changed their bar weight from 200g to 180g which now means I have to open a second pack. First world problems, I know, but it’s my favourite dark chocolate to cook with – just enough fruity tang that dark chocolate imparts, without the bitterness of some of the extra dark, 70%+ chocolate bars.
One of my favourite things to do at Walt Disney World Resort Florida is to take a sunny walk around World Showcase at Epcot. The best smelling part, bar none, is the amazing Karamell-Küche in the Germany pavilion, the home of Werther’s Original, where you can sample all sorts of yummy treats made with the famous caramel: cookies, fudge, and – my favourite – salted caramel brownies.
So it’s been a little frantic here at English Towers. First we had A level results, and then within a week it was GCSE results. Honestly, I really should have planned my children a little better.
Still, it was all good. I used the hashtag #noexamswerefailedonthisday on Instagram but in truth, one exam WAS failed. But hey, it didn’t matter. Sam got what he needed to head out into the big wide world of university, and Charlie’s off to sixth form.
If there’s one thing I always insist upon, it’s a celebration when someone’s done something brilliant. As parents, we spend plenty of time enforcing rules, cajoling, counselling (okay, and occasionally moaning), so when something amazing happens, I always think it redresses the balance a bit to celebrate. Everyone loves a pat on the back when they do something great, don’t they?
So obviously all this exam success called just such a celebration, and what better celebration is there than a whopping great warm, chocolatey, squishy brownie cake smothered in lashings of chocolate ganache? None, that’s what…
I’m not hugely creative when I’m baking. I tend to prefer substance over style (ie, a really big cake over anything too delicate or fiddly). So when the lovely chaps promoting the DVD and Blu-ray release of the new film ‘Justin and the Knights of Valour‘ asked me to make them some knighty/castley kind of cakes to celebrate its release, I was a bit worried.
There’s no getting away from it: brownies are yummy. They’re also incredibly easy to make with basic ‘store cupboard’ ingredients. I make these at least once a week, if not more, and their gorgeous, slightly squidgy fudginess is just perfect as an afternoon treat or poshed up with some whipped cream as an easy dessert. Here’s how it’s done.
A word about chocolate
Firstly, a little note about chocolate. Don’t, whatever you do, use cooking chocolate. In fact, don’t EVER use it for anything, it’s poo. Having said that, you don’t need to spend a fortune either. Purists will recommend 70% dark chocolate, and yes that gives a lovely result, but I always keep a couple of bars of Bourneville in the cupboard, and I find it the perfect dark chocolate for cooking: not too bitter, but full of flavour.
Right, then. On to the recipe:
How to make chocolate brownies:
You will need:
200g dark chocolate
170g salted butter (or add a pinch of salt if using unsalted)
3 free range eggs (room temperature is always better)
200g soft brown sugar (caster is fine if you don’t have any)
110g plain flour
So firstly, assemble all your ingredients together, and preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees.
Step one: melt the butter and chocolate in a bain-marie (basically, a heatproof bowl (so not a plastic one) over a saucepan of just-simmering water – don’t let the bottom of the bowl come into contact with water). Turn the water off when it’s just bubbling and stir the mixture gently until it’s combined. Take it off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature (if you pour very hot chocolate into the eggy mixture, you risk getting blobs of scrambled egg in your brownies. Ick).
Step two: meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale, light and frothy. There is no raising agent in brownies, so the air whisked in at this stage will stop them being a big chocolate brick.
Step three: pour in the cooled chocolate/butter mixture and stir well.
Step four: lastly, add in the flour and any extras you’re adding (nuts… raisins… smarties… whatever, see below). Stir briefly until the flour disappears.
I use a square silicone cake ‘tin’, given a little spritz of cake release spray, but any square or rectangular tin will do. Make sure you line it very well as the brownies will stick.
Step five: bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is cracked and shiny. The centre should still be slightly soft and squidgy.
And that’s it. You are a brownie baker. Reward yourself with a massive slab of brownie, served warm with ice cream (or if you’re serving as a dessert, whisk some cream with a bit of icing sugar and a slug of booze) or allow to cool and place in an airtight container.
So once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can do all sorts of wonderful things with brownies:
- Try folding in 50g of white chocolate buttons, or a chopped up fudge bar
- or add 50g almonds, or macademia nuts, or any nuts
- Add 50g raisins soaked in a little rum, then drained
- Replace 50g of the butter with peanut butter…
- Chuck in a couple of handfuls of Malteasers
- Stir in a couple of tablespoons of marmalade or cherry jam
- Dot the top with fresh cherries, pushing them gently into the mixture
And when they’ve come out of the oven, you can drizzle them with chocolate, stack them and sandwich them with ganache… whatever you like. If you’re feeling ultra-decadent, you can even whip up a cookie dough topping for them:
Cookie Dough Topping
130g butter, softened
130g muscovado sugar
100g caster sugar
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
100g dark chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)
Whizz up the butter and sugars with the electric whisk, add in the milk and vanilla and whizz some more. Stir in the flour (it seems a lot, but it all goes in eventually). Finally, stir in the chocolate chips. Spread over the top of your cooled brownie and refrigerate.
If you still don’t think it’s coronary-inducing enough, you can finish by spreading a layer of melted chocolate over the chilled cookie dough. But that would just be silly.
If you’ve liked this post, feel free to try some of my other step by step guides, including:
Moving swiftly on from healthy eating, then, we must remember there are those of us at English Towers (the gangly, floppy haired ones and the skatery types) that still want a little something after school or dinner and demand treats, preferably piled up in an ungainly, chocolatey tower when doing A level revision.
This, and I don’t say this lightly, is my best chocolate brownie recipe ever. I make it such a lot that I know it off by heart. Oh yes, it’s been tweaked and added to (pistachios, chopped up Cadbury Fudge bars, rum-soaked raisins), but the plain old dark chocolate version is the one we love. I also have to make this whenever the Death Wish Dude’s lovely mate, George, comes to visit as he’s a bit of a fan. You’ll need:
200g dark chocolate (I swear by Bournville – already in a handy 200g size, dark but not too bitter)
170g salted butter (MUST be salted – or add a pinch if using unsalted)
200g soft brown sugar (caster is fine if you don’t have any)
110g plain flour
Preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bain-marie (you know the drill… bowl over a saucepan of just-simmering water – don’t let the bottom of the bowl come into contact with water). Turn the water off when it’s just bubbling and stir the mixture gently until it’s combined. Take it off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and frothy, then pour in the cooled chocolate/butter mixture, stir well, then add in the flour and any extras you’re adding (nuts… raisins… smarties… whatever). Stir briefly until the flour disappears.
Pour into a well-lined baking tin (I use a lasagne tin, but a square cake tin will do). Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is cracked and shiny. The centre should still be slightly soft. Serve warm with ice cream (or if you’re serving as a dessert, whisk some cream with a bit of icing sugar and a slug of booze) or allow to cool and place in an airtight container
One word of warning: cut them small. They won’t last long.
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