Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Best Chocolate Brownies

It was only a matter of time before these came up... These are based on Nigella's recipe, (how can you go wrong with Nigella?) and give you everything you could want in a brownie, rich, intense, chocolatey, gooey perfection. All I've done is scale down Nigella's recipe so that you get a more manageable mixture that can fit into a smaller tin, which makes it a lot easier to cook.

The key to a good brownie is to use good quality ingredients, the best chocolate you can get and good butter and eggs. The only sticking points might be melting chocolate (see below) and knowing how long to cook the brownies for, its difficult to give exact instructions as all ovens vary, you're looking for the top to have dried to a paler brown and for the middle to be firm but still squidgy. Remember they will continue to cook as they cool. I would always rather an undercooked brownie than an overcooked and its amazing what a few hours in a fridge can do to firm brownies up.

This recipe is a fantastic base to add any number of ingredients to, below are a few ideas, I've not tried all of them, so it would be interesting to know if they are good...

  • Add 150g chopped walnuts or macadamia nuts
  • Substitute 1tbsp Baileys for the vanilla
  • Add the grated zest of 1 orange instead of the vanilla for chocolate orange brownies
  • Add 150g chopped white chocolate just before baking
  • Add 100g peanut butter just before baking
  • Substitute either all or ½ of the flour for ground almonds
  • Add 1tbsp espresso instead of the vanilla for chocolate and coffee brownies

Melting Chocolate
I always melt my chocolate in the microwave and have never had a problem. Now I am not the most patient or careful person, so I thought this technique must be pretty foolproof but, having spoken to friends, it turns out they have problems with chocolate burning, so, I found this website that gives pretty comprehensive tips on melting chocolate. Also, it turns out, you might be able to rescue burnt chocolate by carefully whisking in a little vegetable oil, I've never tried though, so let me know if it works.

190g dark chocolate, broken up
190g butter, cubed
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
2tsp vanilla extract
110g plain flour
½tsp salt

Melt the chocolate and butter together. Meanwhile whisk the eggs and sugar together well until pale. Whisk in the melted chocolate and vanilla, and stir in the flour, salt and any extra ingredients. Transfer to a greased 9in square tin. Bake at 180°C for approx 20mins, keep checking the brownies after about 15mins to see if they're done, a minute can make all the difference between a dry brownie and a squishy one.

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