Here’s the shocking thing. I don’t have much of a taste for chocolate. I just don’t fret and crave it like others do.
When Easter rolls around it’s all about roast lamb and the novelty of fake fluffy chickens. The same sentiments apply at other holidays. If there are chocolate ornaments on our tree they’re rarely going to plucked off by me. Growing up the bottom of my Christmas stocking contained Pavlova Magic, not an orange made from Terry’s Chocolate. And at the movies on Valentines Day, you can keep your ice creams with a frigid shell of black fat. All I want is a glass of wine.
But when I’m cooking for a crowd, chocolate is my dessert path of least resistance. While I might get super excited about a yogurt pudding with rhubarb and beetroot granita, I know that a dense, fudgy slab of cocoa product, with some perky berries and ice cream will leave most people happy.
And when it comes to cooking something special for The Hungry One, the dark stuff is the only way.
For those who haven’t met him, I’ll say it again. My husband is a certifiable, chocoholic.
I no longer keep chocolate spreads in the house, lest I find him at wee hours excavating his way to the bottom of the jar with a spoon, lit by the glow of a half open refrigerator. I think the happiest I ever made him was when I had a version of George Francisco’s double chocolate silk cake made for his birthday eight years ago. That weekend also included a nice hotel room and a few other things, but what he remembers most is that cake.
So it makes sense that the only way I knew to console him after I brought two of my passports and none of his to Heathrow and he had to dash- Race Around the World style- to Borough and back in an hour and a half- was with an oversized Toblerone. When he arrived panting and panicked I held it out to him in a rueful, shamefaced peace offering- which he accepted and held close to his cheek as he boarded the flight to Reykjavik.
The brownie recipe was sent to me from a one of our favourite chocolate eating pals in Sydney. It’s been sitting around in my inbox for a few months, just waiting for an excuse to try it.
It’s fudgy and dark with more dark fats than anything else. The mixture pitches and slinks around a bowl like a pudgy Mr Mistopholes.
Beside the butter, chocolate and sugars there’s a touch of espresso powder and the option of folding through some toasted nuts. Walnuts may be classic but in this instance, I went for hazelnuts (see why here).
Small sticky rectangles would be indulgence squared if served at the end of a meal or in a lunchbox- but in this instance the mix was destined for two different places.
A third of the mixture was portioned into well greased ramekins and topped with hazelnut crumbs. They made up dessert at a recent midweek dinner for four. The puddings went into the oven as the strident arrabiata went onto the table. Twenty five minutes later the puddings patiently waited on the bench while we opened up another bottle of red and toasted imminent birthdays, returns from overseas adventures and some very good news (I do love a wedding).
As for the other two thirds – they went into a well greased and lined circular cake tin. They joined the ranks of many good things coming out of my kitchen at the moment and were destined for a special Black Forest birthday construction.
You see, there’s an ocean between us and George Francisco’s double chocolate silk cake these days. And a celebratory cake that isn’t chocolate just isn’t going to cut it.
Ultimate brownies/ brownie puddings
Makes one tray of brownies
Or four brownie puddings (in greased ramekins) as well as one layer for a very special Black Forest Birthday cake, in a 20 cm cake tin.
Adapted from a recipe by pastry chef Lesli Heffler-Flick in ‘Baked, New Frontiers in Baking‘
Four ramekins and one 20 cm cake tin
or one 13 inch by 9 inch glass tray.
Two large mixing bowls. One that can be put over a saucepan with boiling water. 1 whisk. 1 spatula. Baking paper. Measuring bowl. Scales.
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
280 grams dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
225 grams (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 and 1/2 cups caster sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts
Here’s how we roll
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan (or four ramekins and one 20 cm circular cake tin).
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
3. Put the chocolate, butter, and ground espresso in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and melded.
4. Take the chocolate and butter and espresso off the heat and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan.
5. When the mixture reaches room temperature add the 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and using a spatula combine them.
6. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture and the toasted hazelnuts into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
7. Pour the batter into a prepared tray or ramekins and circular tin.
8. Bake in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the cake/ brownies cool completely before cutting.
9. If you’re making the puddings, they will only take around 20-25 minutes, depending on how gooey you want the centre.
Nb, the brownie cake will freeze well, wrapped in foil once it’s cooled. To use as a base for a Black Forest birthday cake, just take out of the freezer on the day you plan to use it.