Chocolate Brownies

I am no baker, really. Some of my favourite blogs are home to true bakers, and I watch with envy as they produce cake after risen, light and airy cake. Don’t get me wrong, I can pass out an ‘ok’ Victoria Sponge, and I like baking – especially with my son, but a combination of cantankerous oven, lack of confidence and lack of natural ability on my part make for mediocre results much of the time. Still, there are several people and occasions for whom only a plate of sweet, hand-cooked goodies will do. This particular someone is a bit of a chocolate brownie connoisseur, so I am hopeful of making a good batch.

Tamasin Day-Lewis,from whom I have adapted this recipe, promises these chocolate brownies are, ‘Quite the best’. I have no way of knowing beforehand whether this is true or not, but I do hope they are better than the Delia ones, which didn’t rock my world, particularly. A good brownie should be.. dense, chocolatey (natch) and relatively firm. Mr’s favourite come from Chandos Deli, the hopelessly overpriced, but lovely southwest delicatessen chain. Their brownies are… ‘almost fudgy in their consistency, and not overly sweet, and there are big chunks of hazelnut in them. And they are not at all cakey’… he says. Clearly he has given it some thought. I often balk at this chain’s pricing for myself, but I will make a long trip and spend hard earned cash on something Mr likes as much as these. (Not that I’d tell him that, necessarily). It’s unlikely that my brownies will be as good as those – but they say it’s the thought that counts!

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa solids. I use Green & Blacks.
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 4 tbsp made up coffee
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a handful of nuts – walnuts, hazelnuts or macadamia, lightly chopped

Break the chocolate into little squares and place in a bowl on top of a small pan of simmering water. You can’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl, and you don’t need to heat the chocolate very vigorously for this to work. Don’t agitate the chocolate too much, leave it alone as much as practical and then when it’s almost all melted, take it off the heat and give it a very quick stir. Make a small cup of strong black coffee and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4 and line a baking tin with foil.

In a mixing bowl, cream your sugar and butter together thoroughly (with an electric whisk or wooden spoon  is ok). Still beating, add an egg at a time and then the egg yolk. When these are completely combined, pour in your melted chocolate and then your coffee. Again, keep stirring until your wet ingredients are fully combined and the mixture is smooth. Sieve in your flour and baking powder and scatter in the nuts, folding  them in gently – do not over stir or beat. As soon as the flour has been completely folded in, pour the batter into the baking tin and put in the oven for about 20 minutes. It’s done when you put the skewer into test and it comes out slightly sticky.

Leave to cool slightly in the tray before turning them out onto a cooling rack. Serve with tea on their own or as a dessert with cream.

These were a hit, actually. 20 minutes was a tiny bit too long in my oven, so they weren’t quite as damp as I would have liked. But the texture was still very good and the taste was absolutely spot on. Quite the best? Well, Mr would say so, just because I made them for him but no, still not quite the best. But all the same, a baking success!

Chocolate Overdose

I don’t often make a dessert in the week. Mostly because, actually I don’t have a very sweet tooth, my greediness being directed to foods of the savoury variety. Also, because I have better things to do on a weekday evening than spend any unnecessary time in my kitchen. But on highdays and holidays I can usually be persuaded to make a chocolate cake for after dinner. Today was such a day. This is a pretty rich cake, but not ubersweet. I estimate it would serve 8-10.

chco cake

For the cake:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 225 ml milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 50g best cocoa powder
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 3 medium FREE RANGE eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to gas 4. Grease and line two 8 inch sandwich tins. Add the lemon juice to the milk and leave aside to curdle. In a large bowl, pour in half the sugar and the softened butter and cream them together until light and fluffy. Add the remaining sugar. Then, sieve togther the bicarb, flour and cocoa powder, into the bowl a little at a time, alternating with the soured milk, two or three tablespoons at a time until both are combined. Divide between the two baking tins and put in the oven for 30 minutes. When cooked (when a skewer comes out clean after being dipped into the centre of the cakes), remove from the oven and leave in the tins for ten minutes before cooling on a baking rack.

For the frosting:

  • 250g  good quality plain chocolate (I use green & blacks 72% cocoa. If you don’t use good quality chocolate here, there’s not much point making this)
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 300 ml soured cream

Slice each cake in half widthways to make 4 layers. Break up the chocolate into an ovenproof bowl and melt the chocolate down over a simmering pan of water. Cool down a bit and then stir in the sugar and soured cream. Put one layer on a plate, then spread with a quarter of the frosting. Repeat with all the layers and top with the frosting.