I spent this weekend baking for the Fillingham Trees Christmas Cafe which has now opened. I wasn’t at all suprised that the chocolate brownies were very popular. I make these nearly every week and they are a firm favourite.
Funny things, chocolate brownies. We did not grow up with them and yet they are now on
every menu in some guise or other or sold at vast expense as a little chocolate square of
sugar in cellophane.
So, like Apple, a US import that is actually very versatile. They work for me as a comforting, sugar fix when you need a boost with morning coffee or your afternoon mug of Earl Grey. Or, slightly warmed, with caramelised oranges in the winter or raspberries in the summer, they make a delicious, smart pudding. Use a small, pretty, rectangular white plate with a helping of double cream or creme fraiche. I have even cut them into very small (inch) squares, dusted them with icing sugar and served them with coffee as an after dinner treat. People just come back for more.
Stacked up on a beautiful plate, with a few candles, they make a very indulgent, grown up birthday cake. Or, take them to a friend’s house in a nice tin if you need a hostess present.
But, you need the right recipe and a few tips (no rules, as I have banned them, tips are fine). Don’t worry about your baking skills. Creaming, whisking and folding techniques are not required. Brownies are made from a batter mixture. I use one spatula.
The consistency of the baked brownies is the key to success. Your brownies should be slightly crisp on the outside yielding to a deep, intense chocolate inner bite. I add walnuts to the batter mix because I love the combination but please be creative as you like. You may love pecans, cherries, dried cranberries. Whatever you feel like at the time and how your brownies are going to work for you. So, creativity is fine but please not when it comes to the basic recipe. Let’s face it, baking calls for you to be accurate. Weigh the ingredients preferably using electronic scales. Don’t get hung up about cocoa %. Use Bournville.
Lastly and probably most important. You will achieve the right level of squidginess if you use the correct size tin. Too big a tin and your brownies will be moist biscuits. Too small a tin and your brownies will be a gooey mess in the centre. I use a tin that is 18 cm x 28 cm. The brownies are then 3 cm deep. Invest in this one tin and you will use it all the time.
I line mine with bacoglide which I then keep to use again but baking parchment is fine, cut to size. I buy baking tins and bacoglide from Bigger of Bailgate in Lincoln – contact details
250 g salted butter
250 g Bournville chocolate
4 large free-range eggs
330 g caster sugar
3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
150 g plain flour sieved
pinch of salt
150 g walnut pieces
Preheat the oven to 180C. Using a heavy large pan, place the chocolate and butter on a very low heat and let them completely melt. Stir and leave to cool a little. In a large bowl, stir the eggs into the caster sugar until the mixture is completely combined and lump free. Add the vanilla essence.
Add the egg/sugar mixture to the chocolate/butter and combine well. Sieve the flour into
the mixture and then add the walnuts. Pour into the prepared, lined tin.
Place in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes.
For you Aga owners, put the grid shelf on the floor of the baking oven and bake the brownies for 25 minutes. Check after 20 mins and if the top is cooking too quickly, slip a cold plain shelf on the second set of runners for the last 5 minutes. If the mixture is too squidgey, transfer the tin to the simmering oven for up to 10 minutes.
The top of the brownie mixture, when cooked will be a pale golden, speckled colour. Press the top gently and if it feels too wet, give the tin another few minutes. The brownies will continue to cook in the tin so don’t be over cautious and give them too long.
Nothing worse than a dry brownie. If the very centre one is a bit too squidgy the first time you make them, just eat it yourself!
Useful Contacts –
Fillingham Christmas Trees –
Bigger of Bailgate, 48 Bailgate, Lincoln LN1 3AP. Tel – 01522 525 536
I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.
Next time – Partridge