Chocolate Brownies

The chocolate brownie is without doubt one of the finest contributions made to civilisation by the US. Stories about its invention clog the internet. But the truth of the matter is simply this: every time a baker makes a batch, the glorious concept is reinvented anew. Try this outstanding version next time the chocolate craving threatens to take over.

These splendid confections can be served with coffee, ice-cream or your favourite fruits.
Photo: David Basckin

To bake a quick batch of over-the-top chocolate brownies, you will need:

  • 100g shelled pecans
  • 125g butter
  • 2 whole eggs plus an additional yolk
  • 220g dark chocolate
  • 100g white chocolate
  • ½ cup strong black coffee
  • 25ml brandy
  • 175g flour
  • 250g castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Two pinches of salt

We start with the chocolate. In the past, when I was young and foolish, I used standard sweetie-type chocolate; you know, the stuff you buy in supermarkets and quick stores. But now that I am filled with cooking wisdom I have put aside sweetie-chocs and made the big time shift to Callebaut chocolate (formerly Belgian but now Swiss) which I located in a baking supply store. In this recipe it comes in dark and white versions.

Next, the nuts. I used pecans for this batch, and have happily baked with hazelnuts and macadamias in the past. Feel free to substitute. Moving on: melt the dark brown chocolate in a double boiler. It’s a bit slow but totally reliable. Chop the white chocolate into dice-sized chunks or, if you prefer chunk sized, dice. These are not to be melted. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Line a shallow baking dish (say 25cm square) with aluminium foil fitted tightly to the sides. This tight fit assists the later removal of the brownies.

Using an electric mixer, add the sugar to the butter and mix until it creams. Add the eggs one at a time allowing 30 seconds or so between additions. Add the solitary yolk. With a spoon, pour in the melted chocolate, then the black coffee and then the tot of brandy. Mix gently. Sift together the salt, flour and baking powder and then fold these into the mixture. Do this gently, taking care not to inject too much air into the general mix. The reason for this gentle folding business is to ensure that the final effect is nothing like a sponge and everything like the moist, dense mass that a supreme chocolate brownie represents.

Finally, add the chunks of white chocolate and the nuts of your choice, stirring the mixture for a few seconds by hand to distribute the final additions. With all good things now combined, pour the mixture into the aluminium-lined baking dish. Place this in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes. Use a baking needle or a stainless steel skewer as a test probe. Stick this into the middle of the brownies.

If it comes out warm right through and decorated with a few exquisitely flavoured crumbs, it’s ready to remove from the heat.
Remember that brownies are meant to be moist, dark and heavy. Mild underbaking is better than overcooking. Let the brownies cool, then sprinkle with castor sugar and cut into geometric shapes. What a total chocoblast!