Just Because...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brownies are one of my favourite things to bake - quick and simple, with a finished product that usually has an appealingly fudgy squishiness and an unfinished product that threatens anything making it as far as the oven. And they're fidget-free and don't generate a kitchen's worth of washing up, too - woo hoo!

Even bearing in mind all those selling points, however, most people might consider it, if not exactly unwise, at least unnecessary to go baking brownies the night before they get married. I'm not one of those people. Baking equals distraction, relaxation and trying-to-make-up-for-occasional-bolshie-cow-like-tendencies all rolled into one pleasant way to spend an afternoon. And, if one batch of brownies is good, then three must be even better*.

Picture: me (yep, just the one - my patience with baking brownies the day before getting married resoundingly does not extend to photographing them properly the next morning)

I'd been eyeing off some cocoa brownie recipes for a little while, as I was curious whether they would have the same chocolatey richness as comes from using melted chocolate. The flavour was a little less overwhelming than can come from using chocolate - but in the sort of way that means you can eat two in one sitting, rather than the sort of way that leaves you feeling cheated of a sufficient allocation of chocolate.

The recipe I used was adapted from Lemon Pi (who, in turn adapted her recipe from Alice Medrich). This is how they were made:

Ingredients (for one batch)
140 g butter (or low fat margarine, butter blend, etc etc. Brownies seem quite forgiving enough for whatever passes for butter in our fridge at any given time!)
1¼ cups sugar (I usually use a mix of half and half white or caster sugar and soft brown sugar)
Slightly rounded ¾ cup cocoa powder
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
½ cup plain flour

1. Preheat oven to 160°C and line the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square baking tin with non-stick paper.
2. Put a saucepan of water on to simmer, and place the butter, sugar and cocoa into a mixing bowl on top the pan once the water begins to simmer gently.
3. Stir the mixture until the butter has melted and the mixture is quite warm, but not hot (the sort of temperature than you can still poke a finger in - just watch out for how often you test this, as I found it took a little longer than I expected and so required quite a bit of finger poking... any excuse!).
4. Remove the bowl and saucepan from the stove, and allow the mixture to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Stir in the vanilla and the eggs, mixing thoroughly after each addition. The batter should have a smooth and glossy appearance.
5. Stir in the flour and mix thoroughly until well combined, then for another half a minute after it looks like it's all blended in.**
6. Pour the batter into the lined baking tin, and bake for around 20 minutes. The mixture should still be slightly squidgy when removed from the oven, as it will solidify a little more as it cools (and dry brownies just aren't as good). Allow the brownies to cool in the tin, before removing and cutting into pieces.***

The only change I'd make to this recipe when making it again (and it will definitely get repeated) would be to spread the mixture a little thicker in the tin - in making multiple tins for the three batch recipe, some of them were a little thinner than others. Even so, they still had a gooey middle, and a lightly crackled crust (another thing I love about brownies - a rustic appearance is positively essential to get a good taste...).

* Well, they certainly compound the ability to run late to dinner, anyway!
** At this stage you can also add in any nuts / fruit / chocolate chips or whatever else you like to add to your brownies. For this recipe, I opted for plain chocolate.
*** Optional extra - place completed brownies in layers between non-stick paper in hastily-constructed cake boxes (oh, happy day, to have cake boxes at last!) and frantically race out the door, checking first for smears of brownie batter on face or apparel...

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