Oops! Just couldn’t resist getting some Brownie puns in.
Another disaster neatly averted. After a fifteen week absence from work my days of lounging around at home are coming to an end. Really, I should be doing something practical such as stocking up the freezer. Boring! After years of being sensible, enough is enough I decided to follow Marie-Antionette’s advice and “let them eat cake”. I know the general consensus is that she was referring to either brioche or pain de mie; whereas brownies are what I feel like whipping up.
I can’t remember when brownies first entered my cake radar. I had a friend who moved to America who mentioned them in her, at first, frequent letters. What she described was a chocolate tray bake surely? No, no, no! I now know what brownies really are and in the cakey and gooey debate I’m with the gooey lobby.
I digress. Where is the disaster that’s been averted? It all started with an innocent question ‘I feel like making some cake, Niela would you like me to make you some?’ Niela’s spinning wheel abruptly came to a halt and her eyes had that mischievous sparkle that often appears when either ‘gin’, ‘cake’ or something ‘wooly’ is mentioned. After some deliberation we decided that a lemon drizzle cake would go down nicely, but only half a batch. After all we are both ‘watching our weight’. Then Niela had a thought, ‘t’other half prefers chocolate cake.’ Well I like to please everyone especially if it involves making more cake. After more serious debate we fixed on brownies, easy. That is unless you know my passion for baking. We then had to discuss whether to include chocolate chips. ‘Yes’ with that look that says it all; i.e. they aren’t brownies without chocolate chips. Next problem: do you want it iced? Sorry ‘frosted’ I keep forgetting across the pond they ‘frost’, rather than ‘ice’. With some more serious discussion we fixed on half a tray of plain brownies and half a tray with a melted minty chocolate topping. As you can see we are really watching our weight. Those of you of a more mathematical inclination will have noticed that ‘only half a batch’ has now expanded, like my elasticated waistband, to one and a half trays each.
I go home with a spring in my step. Cake! Lots of cake. Its easy to see why I’m no longer svelte. At the end of the working day, Stephen usually phones to see if I need any extra groceries. I’m sure his eyes must have lit up when I asked for six bars of plain chocolate and two boxes of chocolate mints. It could only mean one thing; After Eight Brownies. Except I use Tesco’s own chocolate mints, they’re thicker and make a better icing in my honest opinion. Ingredients assembled. ‘Let’s bake’.
All went well, or at least seemed to, until I put the mixture into the lined tin. It just didn’t look enough and I’d run out of cocoa. I decided to make another batch to add to this batch using more melted chocolate instead of cocoa. While the chocolate was melting I decided to taste the gloop – in my largest baking tray. Something was not right. It felt grainy, the mixture wasn’t smooth and unctuous. (I’ve watched too many episodes of Masterchef with Michael Roux Jr.) I then looked at the unopened tubs of butter. Whoops! At this point I’m so glad it was just me and the pooches in the kitchen. The next job was very messy. Very, very messy. I’m afraid the dogs may have sampled some of the chocolate gloop that ended on the floor. All the cake mixture had to be scraped out of the lined tin back into the bowl. If you recall there is another batch being made to add to this one. This was going to be a really hefty batch of brownies at this rate. Most of the mixture went into the bowl. I managed to avoid spilling any on my new camera. Yes some
lots ended up on the floor, work surfaces and me. Seriously, have you ever tried to scrape cake mixture out of a parchment lined baking tray? The paper flapped about, the mixture dripped and splashed. I flapped and fumed, I did manage to salvage most of it. All was not lost, I mixed the chocolate brownie mixes together and I can safely say we all will be eating cake, lots of cake this weekend. I can also safely say that there will be a few (albeit happy) people in Hoswick who wish, like Mr. Creosote, they’d said ‘no’ when the phrase; ‘finally… a wafer thin mint’, topped brownie, was uttered.
Now enough of the blethering, I digress – again. I searched through my collection of cookery books. I settled on Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, and a favourite recipe from BBC’s Good Food online recipe bank. The beauty of Mary’s recipe is that it’s just a weigh, mix, pour it into the prepared tin and then bake it. The results are very good, when I’m doing a big batch bake this is the recipe I tend to use. However the Good Food recipe I use does make an even more lush version. This was a tough one. In the end I used the more extravagant ingredients from Oralndo Murrin’s recipe and the Berry baking method. As my mum would say ‘laziness is nowt unless its well carried out’ .
Now let’s get serious.
For a single batch
You will need:-
Greased and lined with baking paper, 20cm square brownie tin.
185g plain chocolate, not cooking chocolate melted either in a heatproof bowl or in the microwave (check every 30 seconds)
85g plain flour
100g chocolate, chips or chopped into small nibble sized bits
3 large eggs (whisked, if you want a lighter feel to these chocolate beauties, with the sugar)
275g caster sugar, or light brown for a fudge brownie.
1 box ‘wafer thin mints’ either ‘after 8’s’ or similar.
Now the hard bit – I lie
Preheat oven 180°C 160° fan oven, gas mark 4
In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together until well mixed. I usually use an ancient hand held mixer to do this. Pour into the prepared tin.
Bake for 20- 25 mins for gooey and 35-45 for cakey brownies.
For gooey when you test it, by inserting a thin skewer, the skewer should come out fairly clean and the top should have only just lost its wobbliness. For cakey, the cake tester should be clean, unless you hit some molten chocolate.
For mint topped brownies place the mints, at regular intervals, on top of the hot cake. As they melt spread the molten mints evenly over the cake. Allow to cool and cut into as many squares as you feel like. It should make 12ish.
If you want to go for the more involved method. (Only to be attempted if you have someone else who is prepared to do the washing up. I find even with a dishwasher everything needs a good rinse before it sets on the bowl. However; young or even older, children can be persuaded to
lick scrape the bowls clean.)
In a small bowl, simply melt the butter and chocolate together, allow to cool
Into a medium bowl – Sieve the cocoa and flour together.
In a large bowl Whisk the eggs and sugar together, until at least doubled in volume.
Carefully pour the buttery chocolate into the whisked eggs and sugar. If you pour the mixture down the sides of the bowl this will be gentler and you want to save all your air bubbles.
Fold in the flour and cocoa.
Gently stir your chocolate chips into your mixture.
Pour into your prepared cake tray
Bake for 20-25 mins for gooey and 35-45 for cakey brownies
For mint topped brownies cover the hot cake with the chocolates, as they melt spread to make an even topping/ icing /frosting.
The brownies in the photos, once I’ve persuaded Sam to transfer them from my camera to my tablet, were made by the weigh, mix, spread, bake and eat method, using Mary Berry’s all in one recipe. For the big tray, 37 x 22cm, in the photo I made up a double size batch. For the smaller tray, 32 x 22, I used 1 and a half times the ingredients. I really am talking about a lot of brownies here.
Enjoy but don’t tell your doctor where you found the recipe, they might know my Dr. I didn’t eat many, really. Then I’ve never been very good at maths!