Classic chocolate brownies: the ultimate chocolate tray bake

Intense, fudgy and moreish, brownies should be like eating a chocolate bar in cake form

Chocolate and walnut brownies: gooey goodness in every bite. Photograph: Harry Weir

Chocolate and walnut brownies: gooey goodness in every bite. Photograph: Harry Weir

 

For some people, dessert means chocolate. Chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, chocolate torte – whatever form it takes, they will always choose the chocolate option.

The chocolate desserts course at my cookery school is always so popular we need to run it several times a year. The stream of happy students beaming over an array of beautiful desserts is testament to chocolate’s enduring appeal.

The ultimate chocolate bake has to be a classic brownie. One step up from eating the chocolate square by square from its foil wrapping, a good brownie should be intensely chocolatey. To my mind it should feel like eating a chocolate bar in cake form. The crusty edge mimics the snap of a bitter dark chocolate, while the fudgy middle brings to mind the feeling of a square of chocolate melting on your tongue.

Many think that a good brownie needs good chocolate, the kind you would be happy to savour one piece at a time. In this recipe it is nice to use dark chocolate with a minimum 55 per cent cocoa solids, but I often use Bournville dark chocolate with perfectly good results.

In order to get the all important crust on a brownie, the mixture needs to have a high sugar content. That is why so many people like to balance out the bitterness with dark chocolate. A bar with 70-80 per cent cocoa solids would be perfect too.

My kids aren’t used to nuts in brownies, but they were pleasantly surprised with the taste of the slightly bitter walnuts in these brownies. You can substitute walnuts with your favourite nuts. Pecans are a particular favourite of mine and hazelnuts would be delicious too. A pecan and chocolate brownie will never last long in our house.

Once they are not overcooked, brownies are great to make ahead for a party or dessert. They taste just as good for three or four days after baking if they’re kept in an airtight container. If you make the recipe in a square brownie tin, the mixture will most likely be deeper and need an additional five minutes baking time in the oven.

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Variation
Substitute mini-marshmallows instead of walnuts, for a kids party.

Classic Chocolate Brownies

Makes 12 
200g plain chocolate (55 per cent cocoa solids) 
150g butter, cubed, at room temperature 
200g caster sugar 
3 large eggs, lightly beaten 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
100g plain flour 
30g good quality cocoa powder (unsweetened) 
½ tsp salt 
70g walnuts (or pecans)

Method

1 Preheat oven to 170 degrees (fan; 180 degrees for conventional). Grease and line an 18 x 28cm rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.

2 Roughly chop all the chocolate. Set aside 50g of chopped chocolate to fold in with the walnuts.

3 Melt 150g chocolate in a bain-marie (a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water) and once half melted, add in the cubed butter and stir until fully blended and smooth.

4 Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and beat in the sugar (you can use a handwhisk to beat in the sugar, and don’t worry if it still appears slightly grainy at this stage). Set aside for five minutes before gradually stirring in the eggs and vanilla and mixing to a smooth batter.

5 Meanwhile, sieve the flour, cocoa powder and salt together into a bowl. In two batches, fold the sieved ingredients into the chocolate mixture.

6 Stir in the walnuts and 50g reserved chopped chocolate.

7 Transfer the mixture into the prepared tin spreading it evenly into all four corners and levelling the top. 

8 Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 25-28 minutes or until the surface looks crisp and slightly cracked on the top (the centre will still appear slightly gooey). When baked, the mixture should still appear slightly tacky when a skewer is inserted into the centre. To avoid overcooking the brownies, turn off the oven and leave the brownies inside for another five minutes to allow them to cook on slightly. After five minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool fully in the tin.

9 To portion, lift the entire brownie in the parchment on to a work surface. Use a large knife to cut crossways into approx 12 squares.

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