Saturday, 8 January 2011

Le Perfect Brownie

I discovered brownies in Beijing of all places. After days of being served pig ears, ox penis and duck-feet soup, we stumbled upon a newly opened Hard Rock Café. This was back in the early 90s when you could stay at a hotel for £3 a night and Roger Moore was the voice for the audio tour of the Forbidden City. I loved Beijing, the smells, the people, being new to everything, but I wasn’t going to turn down a coke and some fries. Then dessert arrived. A big, tall, glorious piece of brownie adorned with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Since then I tried numerous brownie recipes, but they all came out too crumbly, too dry, too cake-like. And we all know that brownies are supposed to be chewy, soft and gooey. So how would one achieve such a thing? In my search I discovered 3 crucial factors.

1.  Use only brown sugar. Why? Because dark, or brown, sugar holds on to moisture in a way that white sugar can only dream of..

2. Always use good quality chocolate. That doesn’t mean you need to do your chocolate shopping in Belgravia, just don’t buy the cheapest one you can find. You see, poor quality chocolate doesn’t melt very well. When heated up it turns into some mud-like substance, and what we are after is something more in the realm of velvet.

3. Don’t leave your brownies in the oven for too long. You might think it needs more time to bake, but it doesn’t. When testing your brownie batch with a toothpick, it should come out sticky with soft crumbles. All cakes continue to bake for a while once out of the oven, and it’s the same for brownies.

The recipe I’m about to share with you will be your friend and ally for life.

Le perfect brownie:

11/4 cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
160 g butter
170 g chopped up chocolate
2 ¼ cups soft brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla

Turn the oven on to 325 °F (or 162.78 °C)

Cut the butter in small pieces and melt in a pot over very low heat. Once melted, add the chocolate. Stir it until its all blended together, then turn the heat off. If your pot is big enough, you can now add the sugar to the pot. If not, pour the chocolate/butter mixture into a large baking bowl and then add the sugar. Stir until it’s mixed together and leave it to cool down to room temperature. In the meantime, break the eggs in to a bowl and whisk together with a fork. Add vanilla and whisk some more. Pour this in to the cooled chocolate concoction and stir until it’s blended together. There is no need for an electric mixer, your hands and a wooden mixing spoon will do
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Add one third of this dry mixture to the wet batter and stir well. Continue to add the dry mix and stir until it’s all nice and blended.   

Line a 12”x 8” (or 30cm x 20cm) baking pan with parchment paper. If you make a small insert in all the four corners of the paper, and overlap the loose ends, the corners will be nice and sharp in the pan. I like sharp corners, and yes, I’m an expert at hospital corners as well.

Pour the lovely batter into the pan, savour the smell, and put the pan in the oven. Set your timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes turn the pan around, ensures even baking, and set the timer for another 10 minutes.  Get a toothpick and insert it in the middle of the brownie. How does it come out? If it is covered in moist crumbles, the baking time is up. If it comes out too runny, leave it in for another 5 minutes. It all depends on the oven, how deep your pan is, and so on. Mine normally takes 20 minutes, but with my previous oven it was 30 minutes.

Once out of the oven, let it cool for a bit, then cut them up in however small or big pieces you want. Serve on its own, or with ice-cream, whipping cream, sprinkled with powdered sugar, the options are endless.  I like to sprinkle my brownies with chopped up walnuts or chocolate before it goes in the oven. Mmmmmm.

Best of luck, and enjoy your brownies. 


    Congratulations on this fabulous idea!

    And since you're so far away and can no longer practically surprise me with birthday cake at my house on my birthday mornings, your recipes will have to make do. Give a (wo)man a fish and all....

    Love and hugs and love and hugs and chocolate!!!

  2. I still talk about your amazing pastries and marzipan to this day ~ so excited to be privy to your chocolate recipes ~ thank you thank you thank you!!!

  3. Great blog. I will be a regular here. My daughter will worship you always for this!!

  4. Perfect yes!!! Especially when Inger makes them. I have tried twice, and have some kind of mental block about letting them stay gooey inside. I know I should whip them out of the oven, but something prevents me from doing it until they are overcooked and dry throughout. Analyze that, please!

    However. Today i found a whole pack of frozen ones at the back of my freezer, and they were super, just defrosted, with a skinny latte.

    Yesterday I tried a brownie- split in half and filled with caramel. Too much?