Most people, including myself, simply cannot help themselves when confronted by the prospect of this all-American delight especially as the kitchen is filled with this heavenly aroma while they are baking in the oven.
It’s often said that there is no such thing as a “bad” brownie, but the real beauty of the perfect brownie lies in the fact that it has to be both deliciously rich and surprisingly light. The best ones are truly memorable and the difference between an amazing brownie and a mediocre one largely boils down to the quality of the ingredients. While chocolate, butter, sugar, flour and eggs, mixed together and baked in a pan might sound simple enough, there is a definite chemistry behind a great brownie recipe.
My first rule is to use the very best dark chocolate that you can find and the higher the cocoa percentage, the more intense the flavour. Look for a chocolate with a minimum 70% cocoa ratio.
Secondly, good-quality, dark cocoa powder is also essential. “Natural” cocoa powder is typically sold unsweetened, and while it may taste bitter on its own, its natural acidity works with baking powder to help lighten baked pastries such as brownies while adding a balanced chocolate flavour. Avoid milky looking cocoa powder as its often treated with alkali which neutralizes the natural acidity in the powder, giving the cocoa a more mellow and smooth, less bitter flavour but you’ll lose intensity.
Lastly, brownies are sensitive creatures and a few minutes too long in the oven and you’ll wave bye-bye to their delightful, soft, gooey centres. My advice is not to follow the baking time in any brownie recipe exactly, and check them at least 5 minutes before the timer buzzes. If you do over bake them, don’t worry.
Cover them with chocolate truffle mix or ganache before cutting, or crumble them into vanilla ice cream or if really dry, use as the base for a cheesecake. For something a little different….try this white chocolate & raspberry blondie recipe!
Espresso brownies with dark cherries and walnuts
Prep time: 30 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Ingredients makes 10 squares
200g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate
250g light brown sugar
50g peeled walnuts, chopped
80g cocoa powder, sifted
65g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large free-range eggs
Zest of 1 orange
150g fresh cherries, pitted and halved
10 coffee beans
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Prepare an 18cm square, deep tin by lining with non-stick baking paper.
2. Grind the coffee beans to a fine powder.
3. Melt the chocolate & butter together in a bowl.
4. Mix the eggs and sugar in a food processor. Slowly add the orange zest, baking powder, flour, coffee and cocoa powder. Gently fold in the walnuts and the cherries.
5. Transfer mixture to the prepared tin, and bake for 25 minutes.
6. When cooked, leave to cool in the tin, before cutting into 10 bite-sized squares and serving with a big scoop of ice cream.
White chocolate & raspberry blondies
Ingredients Serves 4
4 free-rang eggs
1tsp baking powder
225g white chocolate, chopped
150g fresh raspberries
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm/8in square cake tin with a little butter.
2. In a bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy.
3. Melt the chocolate & butter together in a bowl and add to the eggs. Mix well.
4. Fold in the flour and baking powder carefully.
5. Lastly, gently fold in the fresh raspberries.
6. Spoon the blondie mixture into the prepared cake tin and shake gently until level. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
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