Brownies are disproportionately easy, relative to the joy they bring. They feel much more special than an ordinary ‘traybake’ cake, but are as easy as a cake mix to put together. The basic principle is this: melt chocolate and/or cocoa with butter; beat in sugar and cold eggs; beat in flour, turn into pan; bake. That’s it – if you’ve got a microwave, you can do the whole lot in a single bowl.
I’ve been refining my brownie recipe over several years – it’s easy to do, because it’s such a forgiving recipe. Alice Medrich’s recipes in Bittersweet give almost every variation, dedicating a whole chapter to a nearly-forensic analysis of brownie baking. The version below is an amalgamation of her cocoa and chocolate brownie recipes, with some changes. I’ve also uprated the recipe from the usual 8 x 8 inch tin to a larger 12 x 9 tin: you can never have too many brownies.
Alice Medrich supplied many of the tricks here: it is her testing that indicates you should use cold eggs, and that the mixture should be beaten firmly after adding the flour; I am choosing not to re-invent the wheel. She also has a very useful trick of refrigerating brownie batter in the tin for up to 24 hours before baking. Not only does this make it possible to produce just-baked brownies within half an hour, but it makes the brownies even fudgier.
Frangelico is a pretty obscure liqueur, but I have to say, it makes all the difference to this recipe, giving a toasted, fragrant nut flavour to the whole thing. That said, the recipe makes perfectly good brownies if you don’t want to go to the bother of searching it out. You can also substitute the carefully toasted nuts with a packet of roasted (unsalted) mixed nuts from the supermarket.
130g chocolate (combination of dark (70%) chocolate and milk chocolate)
40g chocolate & hazelnut spread (Nutella, Green& Blacks)
300g caster sugar
2 tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) – or 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
3 cold eggs
1/2 tsp salt
150g hazelnuts, toasted
Line a 12×8 inch tin with baking parchment or foil.
Melt the butter, cocoa, chocolates and chocolate spread together – use a microwave in short bursts or a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir together until smooth.
Stir in the sugar and Frangelico (if using) until thoroughly mixed.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Fold in the flour with the salt, then beat firmly until the mixture is glossy and pulls away from the side of the bowl a little (about 30 stiff beats). Mix in the nuts.
Scrape into the lined tin. Bake at 200C for 20-25 minutes or until the mixture just begins to pull away from the side of the pan. Wait until completely cold before slicing (if you have the patience…)