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-Davies, Lee McCoy and Jennifer Earle, Jane Manson, Kavita 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.