Thursday, 5 January 2012

Chocolate Brownies...and it's blowing a gale!

Wow...we're certainly having a bit of a storm across Britain at the mo. Days of relentless rain and gales is causing damage and havoc for some. We've had a few trees downed in the nature reserve...thankfully not falling near the road, paths or onto cars and last night was a restless one with howls of wind that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and gales tore down the sides of the houses and threw debris up onto our windows and roof....not a peaceful quiet time at all! Thankfully no serious damage done and we do hope we've seen the last of the worst of it and calmer times are on the horizon. It's certainly been a time for staying indoors...well...certainly for me...but if you're venturing out, hang onto that hat, batten down the hatches and stay safe!

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Last week I made some Chocolate Brownies and must say I was pretty pleased with the outcome...because to be honest I've always been rubish at baking them, always overcooking and never achieving that perfect balance of scrummy gooey inner and crispy crust outer. This might actually surprise you as I do a fair bit of baking and spent many years creating celebration cakes. It's not for the want of trying...that actual making cannot be any simpler..it's the baking bit that evades me...so I guess brownies have just always been my nemesis.

Maybe it's because I have gone through three different ovens (both gas and electric) in my house over the years so have never managed to settle and get used to a particular way of baking...maybe it's because I have a particular standard of how I like them to be...maybe it's because I'm Virgo and can be a tad obsessive over perfection...but I have a standard - THE most perfect brownie I ever ate was at the Victoria pub in Beeston, Nottingham during an annual CAMRA General Meeting...heavenly sticky chocolate devine creation that I haven't found equal to since (bought or baked)...so those have always been the standard (sadly their recipe is a secret one and refused to be parted with) and I've struggled to meet it..

...but this I'm happy to say is the closest I've got to it so far - one kindly given to me by my lovely friend Sarah.

NOTE - please note that oven makes/temps can vary and the times and temp stated in the recipe are standard and may have to be tweaked to suit yours. I used the exact temp but in a small half sized oven (electric but non fan) and had found I had to increase the cooking time by and extra 10 minutes.

CHOCOLATE BROWNIES
  • 250g  Butter
  • 200g  good quality milk chocolate (roughly chopped up)
  • 80g    Cocoa powder (unsweetened variety - NOT drinking chocolate powder)
  • 65g    Plain flour
  • 1tsp   Baking powder
  • 360g  Caster sugar (I used unrefined golden caster sugar)
  • 4 eggs
Preheat oven to 180oC, grease and line a 20x20cm (8x8inch) square cake tin.

Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder and sugar into a bowl and set aside. Gently melt butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (double boiler technique) and allow to cool slightly before mixing in the dry ingredients. Then beat in the eggs until you get a smooth glossy runny batter. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake 25 mins. Check after this time. The cake will have risen slightly and be crusty on the edges but slightly underdone in the centre. A skewer inserted into the centre WILL NOT come out clean (if it does, the cake is overcooked). If you feel that the cake is still too underdone....return to the oven and bake for a further 5 mins, checking and continuing on in increments of 5 mins until you reach your desired consistency. Taking into account my oven, my brownies took an added 10 mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly, then remove from tin and cut into 16 squares. Dredge the top with icing sugar. Best served warm.


NOTE - Everyone has their own ideas of a perfect brownie...mine has to be crispy crusty on the outside but dense, slightly undercooked and fudgy looking inside. The cake will rise, then sink back down after taking out of the oven and will probably crack on the surface too....this I find very acceptable and adds to the rustic look and crunchy texture. These brownies are delicious eaten still warm, just baked, but I find they improve and become even more dense and fudgy the following day...and warm up a treat in the microwave. They are wonderful eaten as is, with a cuppa, or served warm with cream...or custard.

VARIATIONS - for extra richness you could substitute some of the milk chocolate for plain but I do find the dark cocoa powder more than does for this in the original recipe. I'd suggest you cook it in it's original form first then decide if you wish to tweak the mix to meet your own tastes. For extra crunch, stir some nuts into the mix prior to baking. I have used hazlenuts and pecans and can say both are delicious additions. If you up for a real chocolate hit, you could also throw in some added chocolate drops/chunks (white chocolate works very well)....or cover the baked top with a ganache or fudge frosting.

WARNING - contains many many calories...best not to think about it...eat just one square, give the rest away to your family who will love you forever...then go for a jog!

...and don't worry, you're not missing out as you'll be asked to make more, very soon after...so not long to wait until your next brownie treat!

Enjoy

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