The Great Brownie Bake-off

Saturday was a momentous day for me. My first piece of competitive baking – and my first win! Yes, my brownies were voted the best of 25 entries on Saturday at The Great Brownie Bake-off. I was amazed when I found out. Firstly, I was convinced I had underbaked them, so when my back started to give out on the day, I headed home a mere 20 minutes before the results were announced. And secondly because the judging panel included the amazing Paul A Young, as well as a host of other professional cake and chocolate experts.

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that brownies have appeared before. I make them pretty regularly because they can be mixed quickly in one bowl, but the results still feel special enough for a celebration. So when Louise Thomas, The Chocolate Consultant announced that she was organising a brownie bake-off, I thought I would give it a go.

I started with my old recipe, which is a hybrid of a couple of versions in Alice Medrich’s book ‘Bittersweet‘ (one of my favourites) and gave it a few different tweaks to try it out on my work colleagues.


I baked more for the Macmillan Coffee morning a couple of weeks later. These were tougher and overbaked, so I knew I had to do something different for the final version.

I went back to the drawing board to make the result softer and less dense. I toasted hazelnuts to give a subtle flavour compared to the more aggressive Frangelico or alcohol. Leon’s brownies include ground almonds which make them very gooey, so I ground some of the nuts to create the same effect. Finally, I replaced the caster sugar with some soft brown sugar and golden syrup for extra stickiness, and I hoped a little extra caramel flavour.

The bake-off was a great day, with demonstrations going on throughout the day. It was pretty packed though, so hard to get to the samples, and I wish I had muscled in a bit more firmly and introduced myself to more people.

Thanks so much to Louise for organising the day, all the judges: Paul A Young, Abigail Phillips, James Hoffmann, Tom Kevill-DaviesLee McCoy and Jennifer Earle, Jane MansonKavita Favelle and Mathilde Delville and Fred Ponnavoy from Gu Chocolate Puds.

Also lots of thanks to the demonstrators: Fred Ponnavoy, Caroline Aherne from Sugargrain Bakery, Edd Kimber, winner of the Great British Bake-off (and doing his first live demo!) Sasha Jenner from Hobbs House Bakery, and Stacie Stuart from Masterchef.

The Winning Recipe:


  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate(Valrhona Manjari 64%)
  • 30g Green & Blacks cocoa
  • 30g/2 tbsp Hazelnut chocolate spread (Nutella)
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 15g golden syrup
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 70g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g whole hazelnuts


  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 160ºC fan.
  • Toast the hazelnuts, by putting into the oven for 8 minutes. Rub off the skins.
  • Line an 18cm square tin with foil or baking parchment.
  • Put 35g of the toasted hazelnuts into a food processor and grind to a powder. Use some of the flour to prevent the mixture becoming too oily. Combine with the rest of the flour and set aside.
  • Combine the butter, cocoa, chocolate and chocolate spread. Melt in a microwave or in a pan on the stove until the butter and chocolate are completely melted and the whole thing is combined.
  • Stir in the sugars and golden syrup, then beat in the cold eggs one at a time until the mixture is glossy.
  • Add the flour and nut mixture and salt, and beat the mixture 40 times with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly. Fold in the remaining whole hazelnuts.
  • Pour into the pan and bake at 180C/160C fan for 20-25 minutes, until it is cracked very slightly at the edges, but still soft in the centre.
  • To cut cleanly, put the cooled pan into the fridge, covered in cling film until thoroughly chilled or overnight. Remove the cold pan, invert over a board and peel off the foil or baking parchment. Cut into squares with a sharp knife.

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I’m Louise, and I’m a compulsive baker, cookbook hoarder and a bit of a food geek. I learnt to cook at home, and later at Tante Marie’s cooking school in San Francisco. With a science degree and a background in IT analysis, I like to understand why a recipe works, not just how to do it. Why the rules are there and when they can be broken.

6 thoughts on “The Great Brownie Bake-off

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe! Just wondering if the caster sugar was changed to soft brown in the final version or if this was just a trial and if the remaining whole hazelnuts get added at the end? Thanks, Ruth.

  2. Hi Ruth,

    The sugar remained as in the recipe, with both caster sugar and soft brown, but you could certainly replace both those and the syrup with caster sugar, and that works fine as well.
    Will edit the recipe to include the whole hazelnuts – well spotted!

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