Before I started this blog, I put a cooking-related post or two on my other blog. So, what follows is a copy of a long-ago chocolate brownie post. Because today I made the Moosewood Chocolate Brownies (recipe #3 below, and my abiding favourite). With one adulteration: the addition of cream cheese. I wasn’t sure what would happen. It turns out that the heavy chocolateyness and the pale, almost salty sourness of the cream cheese are a happy combination. Heaven. Also, today’s baking adventure really tested how forgiving Molly Katzen’s recipe is. Not only did I make a curdled mess of the butter and sugar mixture; I also somewhat burned the chocolate – and didn’t have enough time to let it cool before mixing it in. And you know what, the brownies were goddamn gorgeous, as Nikolai put it. The whole post follows below – scroll down to the bottom to find the Moosewood recipe.
So. Chocolate brownies. I’ve made a lot of these this year, in a variety of ways. The revelation about chocolate brownies was a thing I read by Nigel Slater, who points out that if you stick a skewer (or knife or whatever) in your brownies and it comes out clean, you have screwed it up. Really truly. Just start again. I mean, the thing in the pan might taste quite nice and chocolatey, but it will not have the magical squishiness of a true brownie, ok? Yes, you can redeem it with ice cream, but in the long run you’ll have to make more because the first lot won’t have fulfilled that special brownie thing you were after.
So in this post I’ll give you three brownie recipes, starting with the muddiest and richest, and ending with the lightest (though there’s nothing really light about any of these).
1. Nigel Slater’s recipe – the richest, darkest heaviest brownies imaginable. Closer to pudding than to anything like a chewy cookie.
2. A slightly cakier brownie – still rich and squishy, but closer to something you’d keep in a cookie jar (as opposed to the fridge).
3. Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Fudge brownies – a classic, that strikes a heavenly balance between lightly cakey and slightly chewy.
Nigel Slater’s brownies
(I can recommend Mr Slater’s fabulous article about these.)
300g golden caster sugar
250g chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids)
3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk, beaten lightly
60g finest quality cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
You will need a baking tin, about 23cm x 23cm, preferably non-stick, or a small roasting tin.
Set the oven at 180°C/Gas 4. Line the bottom of the baking tin with baking parchment. Cream the sugar and butter well til it’s very, very white and fluffy.
Meanwhile, break the chocolate into pieces, set 50g of it aside and melt the rest. As soon as the chocolate has melted, remove it from the heat and let it cool a bit. Chop the remaining 50g into gravel-sized pieces.
Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix in a pinch of salt.
With the food mixer running slowly, introduce the beaten egg a little at a time, speeding up in between additions.
Mix in the melted and the chopped chocolate with a large metal spoon.
Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa, gently and firmly, without knocking any of the air out.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes. The top will have risen slightly and the cake will appear slightly softer in the middle than around the edges.Pierce the centre of the cake with a fork – it should come out sticky, but not with raw mixture attached to it. If it does, then return the brownie to the oven for three more minutes. It is worth remembering that it will solidify a little on cooling, so if it appears a bit wet, don’t worry.
The second take is a fraction less like chocolate pudding. When I say a fraction I mean a very small fraction.
Brownie recipe #2
340 g dark chocolate
250 g butter
250 g dark brown sugar
110 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Grease well.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl or jug (or double boiler) melt the chocolate and butter together.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and slowly beat in the sugar. Beat in the flour mixture and lastly fold in the chocolate mixture. Scrape it all into the pan, and bake it for about 17 minutes, then keep checking every 3 minutes til it’s done just well enough to be midway between gooey and cakey. But not liquid.
Take it out and leave it to cool before cutting.
The last lot is Mollie Katzen’s recipe, taken from her lovely classic, “The Moosewood Cookbook”. She has a lovely blog which you can find here. I’ve been making these since I was 12 and I LURVE them. I’ve put the metric measures in though the original recipe is in non-standard and imperial measures.
Moosewood Fudge Brownies
Let soften: 1/2 lb. (250 g) butter (don’t melt it)
Melt: 5 oz. (150 g) bittersweet chocolate. Let cool.
Cream the butter with 1 3/4 packed cups (about 200 g) light brown sugar and 5 eggs. Add 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract. Beat in the melted, cooled chocolate and 1 cup flour.
Spread into a buttered 9 x 13″(23 x 33 cm) baking pan. Bake 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees (180).
Optional: chopped nuts, or 1 tablespoon instant coffee, or 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange or lemon rind, or 1/2 teaspoon allspice or cinnamon, or a mashed over-ripe banana, or none of the above.
Yet another option: instead of uniformly blending in the chocolate, you can marble it. Add chocolate last, after the flour is completely blended in and only partially blend in the chocolate. It looks real nice.
Cream cheese adulteration: When you are putting the batter into the pan, spread about half of it in first. Then slice in 200 g Philadelphia cream cheese in a layer on the batter, smearing it in a marbly effect if you like. I guess you could mix it into the batter for a more evenly marbled effect. In mine, the cream cheese sank to the bottom anyway. Then pour in the rest of the batter. I used low-fat, simply because that was in the fridge. Full fat would be, well, even better in the decadence stakes, or worse, in the heart-attack stakes. It really depends what your priorities are.
I hope you like these. I know I also have a recipe for vegan (!!) brownies somewhere at home in Cape Town – I will dredge it out and link it into this post soon.