I don’t think you can write a blog that involves baking and not write about chocolate brownies before long. Brownies are like the burgers of the main course menu, spot them on dessert menu and all will power crumbles and dissolves to a puddle on the floor.
The origin of the humble brownie appears to be shrouded in mystery with a few different myths out there including; A chef accidentally added melted chocolate to biscuit dough; A cook forgot to add flour to the batter; and the most popular… that a housewife did not have baking powder and improvised with this new treat.
One of the more unknown theories is that brownies came about because a chef at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel had a request from Bertha Palmer (an American businesswoman and socialite) to create a dessert for ladies attending the fair that had cake-like characteristics but could easily be eaten from boxed lunches. These first brownies however had an apricot glaze and walnuts and are still being made by the hotel today using this original recipe.
Brownies come in a variety of forms but are basically a cross between a cake and cookie in texture. Depending on the recipe you go for, they can be dense and fudgy or cakey and crumbly and may include nuts, marshmallows or chocolate chips.
People seem to fall in to one of two categories; either preferring a fudgy more dense brownie or a cakey crumbly brownie. I’d even go as far to say a brownie war could start up between the two camps. I definitely fall in the fudgy, gooey brownie camp and having tried endless brownies at restaurants, I think I’ve put my research in.
My husband is a brownie fiend too and when I know he’s had a bad day I’ll normally try and purchase one on the way home to cheer him up. They have a soothing healing effect that will put you in a comforting chocolate coma for the rest of the evening.
My mum is a keen baker and has tried out a few different brownie recipes as of late, often selling them at cake fairs for Harrison’s Fund and the ones that I personally think taste and sell the best are those by Nigella Lawson. Controversial I know!
Nigella’s brownies definitely sit in the fudgy cholatey gooey camp with the amount of butter, sugar and lack of raising agent involved. They are so fudgy that you basically end up covered in chocolate when you sneakily try and take a piece from the brownie tin when no one’s looking making it a total give away that you’ve just gone back for thirds! I definitely couldn’t pull off the silk dressing gown daintily eating chocolate brownie in the kitchen at midnight like Nigella can.
I like the inclusion of nuts in this recipe (which is sacrilege in Nigel Slater’s eyes) as I believe they help to provide a little bite and crunch to the dense chocolate.
I’m not saying this early on in my amateur baking career that this is the best brownie recipe out there, but if a fudgey fix is what you’re after then look no further.
I think the best approach moving forward is for me to continue trying and testing the endless varieties and brownie recipes out there and one day I might just find brownie perfection.
Nigella’s Chocolate Brownies
375 g soft unsalted butter
375 g best quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
500 g caster sugar
225 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300 g chopped walnuts (I actually used 100g walnuts, 100g pecans 100g hazelnuts)
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line your brownie tin measuring approx 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm with foil or baking paper.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan.
In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.
Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the nuts and flour.
Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
When it’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle, but the middle still dark and dense and gooey.
Keep checking the brownies as they cook because the difference between gungy gooey brownies and dry brownies is only a few minutes. And remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.
The brownies can keep for up to 10 days (like you’ll ever have any left for this length of time!!) and will become fudgier over time.
Makes a maximum of 48.