One brownie to rule them all
Brownies. I love them. I also like it when you find a recipe that is so delicious, so easy, and completely foolproof that you know it will become a family classic. And I am happy to say that I have done just that.
But let me tell you, it was a hard path to get there. Many recipes were made and sighed over. Much chocolate was eaten. My friends, it was a struggle.
So, now, let me present:
These four cookbooks are all on my kitchen shelf. All have brownie recipes which look reasonably easy and look like they will be delicious (except Stephanie Alexander's, which doesn't have pictures. But we forgive her). So I thought I'd have a little quest to see which, in my humble opinion, is the best. It's taken a little while, as one can't eat brownies every day for that long (or can you? Hmm) - but I do have a winner, so let's start.
Cook With Jamie has a brownie from his restaurant Fifteen. It suggests putting in sour cherries, your choice of nuts, and orange zest, but I bypassed those; I was after a classic. He starts by melting the butter and chopped chocolate together, and his dry ingredients include baking powder and cocoa as well as sugar and flour. I'm thinking he wants them to puff up a bit, but for me this just made them a bit too "cakey" for my liking. The result was less gooey chocolatey and more chocolate cake with a bit of a liquid "bite".
Breakfast Lunch Tea is a great book from the Parisian Rose Bakery. Their brownie is a hazelnut one, which I substituted for walnuts as I'm not a huge hazelnut fan. They use vanilla essence and salt in their brownies, no cocoa and a lot more eggs in relation to flour and sugar. As a result these were extremely rich and very dense. Stick to the roof of your mouth kind of brownie.
The Cook's Companion is one of those cookbooks that pretty much nails everything. It's more of an encyclopedia that happens to have delicious recipes for all it's food entries. Stephanie's brownie is a double chocolate, meaning she uses both cocoa and chopped chocolate. She specifies Dutch cocoa, which tastes a world apart from the good old Bournville. She also uses baking powder and vanilla, and doesn't melt her chocolate beforehand, meaning her brownies end up with lovely chunks of chocolate. Very good; can it be beaten?
The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook is full of all sorts of goodness like sour cream blueberry cake, lemon loaf, and wacky things like lavender cupcakes (spoiler alert: they taste a bit like soap). Their brownie is reassuringly titled 'Traditional' and uses no cocoa, vanilla, baking powder or salt. You melt the butter and chocolate, throw in the sugar, flour and eggs, and bake. Done. Very simple, and VERY delicious. There was only one thing to make it better, and that was to borrow from Stephanie Alexander and throw some chopped chocolate in as well, for the chunk factor. My friends, we have a winner!
- Hummingbird Bakery Traditional Brownie recipe.
- All the recipes begged that you use the best quality dark chocolate you can afford. I use Whittaker's Dark Ghana.
- Another very important thing is to not overcook your brownies. It's best to take them out when you think they still look undercooked, otherwise you'll lose the gooey middle.
- Gorgeous plate by Atelier BB