I have an admission to make. Despite avidly reading recipes, and now indeed writing them myself, I rarely ever stick to one.
I call it my creative spirit. I see cooking as an artistic expression of my personality, using a recipe as a scaffold and adding original embellishments to create the very best version of the dish. I rarely measure, often improvise and LOVE to go off piste.
Except for when it comes to this recipe.
I don’t often find what, in my (evidently not so humble) opinion is the best version of something, but when it comes to chocolate brownies, Nigel Slater has gifted the world an outstanding recipe for darkly sophisticated, gooey but not damp, rich but not overly sweet, double chocolate brownies.
And to diverge from the blueprint for perfection, would be, well, a crime against chocolate.
I’m don’t think I’m being arrogant when I say I’m somewhat of a chocolate connoisseur, as I get through mounds of it each week. I melt it over ice cream, use in chillis (see my recipe for the Best EVER Chilli Con Carne) and stews, and eat it with gay abandonment once the kids are (finally) in bed.
But my favourite thing to do with it is make these brownies.
I’ve trialled a lot of brownie recipes over the years,and although I’ve found a few I like (Nigella Lawson’s snowflecked brownies are also very good- coincidence that they have similar names, eh?), these really are the perfect marriage of bitter cocoa and fruity dark chocolate, with nubbly, chewy chunks that provide a lovely bit of texture against the gooey, unctuous, decidedly un-cakey brownie.
I must admit that when I say I never diverge from Nigel Slater’s recipe, I am telling a lie (albeit a teeny weeny one). I sometimes vary the type of chocolate chunks I use (white chocolate offsets the dark really nicely), or even sometimes add a handful of walnuts or pecans, or a handful of sour cherries. I occasionally even chuck in some chopped up oreos for a more kid friendly version. And I often add half a teaspoon of vanilla.
But I never stray from the composition of the brownie batter. You really do need a good quality dark chocolate of about 70% cocoa solids. The astute amongst you will realise it’s not the most economic of ingredients, but if you are being pennywise, you don’t need to go for Valhrona or Green & Black’s. A good quality supermarket own brand is quite sufficient for these purposes; I quite like Aldi’s Moser Roth and Lidl’s JD Gross at the moment.
The extra egg yolk seems an usual addition but it really helps to create the rich, gooey texture that is so moorish about brownies. And be sure to cream the butter and sugar together really well; it’s unusual for a brownie, but along with the well whipped eggs, helps to create that crisp, crackled top that you’re after.
So here you are, chocolate lovers. You always need a good brownie recipe. Nope, it’s not the most original of desserts, and there are hundreds of recipes out there, but why not save yourself a bit of time and effort in searching for brownie perfection and giving this one a try.
You won’t regret it.
Super duper chocolate brownies (serves 12)
- 300g caster sugar
- 250g butter
- 250g chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)
- 3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
- 60g flour
- 60g finest quality cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp baking powder
- A 23x23cm roasting tin
Line the tin with parchment paper and preheat oven to 180 degrees c. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in a small bowl, along with a pinch of salt. Melt 200g of the chocolate and set it aside. Roughly chop the other 50g.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until white and creamy, and a bit airy. I use an electric whisk to do this. Add the vanilla and lightly beaten eggs a little at a time, incorporating them fully between each pour. Mix in the melted chocolate. Fold in the flour and cocoa mixture with a metal spoon. Finally, scatter over the remaining chocolate.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, smooth out the top, and bake for about 30 minutes. The brownie will be a bit jiggly when it comes out of the oven, but the top should have puffed slightly, and a toothpick stuck through the middle should come out sticky but without raw mixture attached.
Wait half an hour before cutting (if you can help yourself, that is).
The original recipe by Nigel Slater can be found here.