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Last year, I thought I’d found the perfect brownie recipe. Oh, I was so damn sure of it, I was quite the smug little madam at the time.

Well, budge over French Brownies, there’s a new contender for the throne with this recipe from the NY bakery… Baked. And, unless someone tells me the place completely sucks (please don’t!), I’m going to make a beeline for it if I’m ever lucky enough to go back to NY (looking increasingly unlikely, given the current economic climate).

Whereas my old favourites have a quite fudgy texture and sort of dissolve on the tongue, the Baked recipe turns out dense slabs of chocolate which demand a large mug of something hot and caffeinated to help wash down all that sugar.

Time to put on the kettle then…

The ‘Baked’ Brownie, from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Makes 24 brownies

You’ll need:

1 and 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, coarsley chopped
220g unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13 inch baking tin.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 mins, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.

Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.

We’re about to head off to Limerick to see in the new year – but I’ve just got enough time to squeeze in one last post for 2007…

People get just a wee bit possessive about their brownie recipes. On two different occasions recently, I was chatting to some friends, both exceptional cooks, and mentioned that I’d stumbled across a fantastic brownie recipe.

‘What?!’, each one glared at me accusingly, ‘Better than mine?’

Erm. How to answer that?

I think I mumbled something diplomatic like ‘No, of course not…’. But, and this isn’t an attractive quality, my brain was screaming, ‘Yes! Yes it is! It’s the best-ever brownie recipe in the world and it can’t be beat! Just wait till you try it!’

Clearly, I’ve also fallen victim to the Brownie Syndrome. Every cook thinks they’ve discovered the secret combination of ingredients that leads to brownie nirvana and and I’m no exception. However, there are probably as many ‘ultimate’ recipes out there as there are brownie lovers – it depends on vitally important matters such as how much flour you add to achieve your preferred consistency and whether you like nuts, dried fruit, chocolate chunks or perhaps fresh raspberries scattered through the mix. Serious stuff.

This contender for the crown (the winner! the winner!) comes from the kitchen of (who else?) Dorie Greenspan. As it happens, there are eleven different brownie recipes in ‘Baking…’ and I’ve got to admit that I’ve only tried two so far. But with its wonderful fudgy texture and the warm hint of cinnamon that hits the back of your throat, I just can’t see how anything could top this version. Guess I’ll have to try them all and report back…

Hope you all have a wonderful new year’s celebration – see you all in 2008!

French brownies from Baking – From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan

You’ll need:

½ cup of plain flour
a pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup raisins
1½ tablespoons water
1½ tablespoons dark rum
6 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa content), finely chopped
180g (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces at room temperature
3 large eggs
1 cup sugar

1. Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Line an 8-inch square baking tin with foil, butter the foil and place the tin on a baking sheet.

2. Whisk the flour, salt and cinnamon together.

3. Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the water, bring to the boil over a medium heat and cook until the water almost evaporates. Add the rum and let it warm for about 30 seconds, then turn off the heat, stand back and ignite the rum with a long match. Allow the flames to die down and then set the raisins aside.

4. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add the butter, stirring until it melts. It’s important that the chocolate and butter doesn’t get very hot. However, if the butter isn’t melting, you can put the bowl back over the still-hot water for a minute. If you’ve got a couple of bits of unmelted butter, leave them – it’s better to have a few bits than to overheat the whole.

5. Working with a stand/hand-held mixer, in a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and pale – about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed and pour in the chocolate-butter mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated – you’ll have a thick creamy batter.

6. Then finish folding in the dry ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. Fold in the raisins, along with any liquid remaining in the pan. Scrape the batter into the baking tin.

7. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the top is dry and crackled, and a thin knife inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to warm/room temperature.

8. Carefully lift the brownies out of the tin, using the foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2 inches on a side.

Cook’s notes

I didn’t have any dark rum the first time I made this recipe, so I just left out the raisins (step 3) and added about a teaspoon of vanilla instead. Not sure if it made any difference, but the resulting brownies still tasted good 🙂

Don’t be tempted to add more than the amount of cinnamon specified. One eighth of a teaspoon may not sound like a lot (especially to a cinnamon fiend like me) but it’s just right.

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I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
March 2017
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