A brownie recipe is a very personal thing. Everyone swears by the one that they think works best, and tends to stick with it. The first one I ever made came from a freebie cookery book that I got by sending in a handful of Bournville wrappers to Cadbury. The rest of the book was, like many marketing-led cookery books, a series of recipes that shoehorned other Cadbury products into more and more bizarre forms (I dimly remember a Flake-covered log cabin cake) and I never made anything. Except the brownies.
Then, in a fit of decluttering, I decided to get rid of the cookery books I barely used and the Bournville-inspired chocolate book went to the charity shop. For some reason I thought to myself ‘oh I have lots of brownie recipes’. I do, but I still miss that one.
This recipe is now the one I make the most and, although it can never live up to my (probably misremembered) notion of a perfect brownie recipe, it’s rather lovely. I found it on the Telegraph website a year ago and although the addition of dried apricots may seem a bit weird it adds a great flavour as well as a welcome contrast to the usual fudgy sweetness of a brownie. And I think of them as Barnaby’s brownies, after the carpenter who spent a week building me 12 metres of bookshelves, and demolished a whole tinful…
You will need:
200g dark chocolate, broken into squares (and, yes, Bournville is fine for this; don’t believe all that faff that only chocolate with 92% cocoa solids from a single single-estate farm in Costa Rica will do. In fact, if it’s too high in cocoa solids, it won’t melt properly.)
175g unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
zest of 1 orange
3 free-range eggs and 1 yolk
125g caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
40g plain flour
125g dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
75g flaked almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 (knock off 20C for a fan-assisted oven).
2. Line a 23cm/9inch square cake tin with greaseproof paper or baking parchment. (I have a scribbled note on the recipe that says ‘bigger flatter tray = cut cooking time by 5-10 mins’; I don’t know where I read this and I’ve not tried it but if you only have that size tin it might be worth a try.)
3. If you haven’t already done this, break your chocolate up into small pieces, zest your orange and cut your butter up into pieces. Put them all into a large heatproof bowl over a pan of water and let the chocolate and butter melt into each other.
When melting chocolate it is always wise to remember that the steam from the hot water can ‘seize’ the chocolate, making it stiff and unusable, so try to use two bowls that fit snugly into each other but not so snugly that the chocolate-melting one touches the hot water.
4. Once melted, leave the chocolate, butter and orange mix to cool. This is important if you don’t want scrambled egg brownies…
5. When you can put your fingertip in the chocolate mixture without wincing, it’s time to whisk together the eggs and sugar in another bowl until pale and slightly frothy.
9. Bake for 25 minutes until (unlike most cakes) something sharp inserted into them comes out with sticky, but not raw, mixture stuck to it. Cook a little longer or a little less, depending on the sharp-instrument-sticky test but I think slightly undercooked is always better than overcooked for brownies.