sweet potato and cacao brownies

dim

Now, let me just start this post by saying that I am a huge skeptic when it comes to ‘healthy’  versions of sweet treats such as mashed bean brownies, applesauce muffins and the like. I won’t touch them with a bargepole. Mostly as they taste quite horrible and, more importantly, because I love, consume and see the benefits of quality cultured butter consumption (I’ve even started making my own using this tutorial from the gorgeous Heidi Sze via Tucker. OBSESSED).

Case in point: last Sunday morning, I decided to make a batch of chewy, crackly brownies to bring as a contribution to our nephew’s birthday dinner that evening. Whilst I was rustling around in the refrigerator for my batch-churned Pepe Saya, Aaron chimed in: “…can you make healthy ones?”.

I immediately screwed up my nose. Healthy ones? For a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD? Uh, no. That’s not gonna go down well. But then my eye caught a bag of golden sweet potatoes, peacefully languishing in the vegetable drawer. An idea came to mind; a nutrient-filled, coconut drenched, cacao dusted idea.

Sweet potato brownies.

taters

After a little bit of internet research, I soon discovered that this idea wasn’t exactly new; in fact, a few hundred thousand million (or more) people have been baking these beauties since at least 2013. Most versions attest to be paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and the like, and indeed they are – however, as someone who is fortunate enough to have no dietary restrictions, I just thought that they sounded delicious.

After inventing my own recipe, I did a little taste test prior to packing a plate for the nephew’s birthday party (I was still filled with flourishing seeds of doubt). A sliver revealed a moist, fudgy, supremely chocolatey brownie with a very faint shadow of sweet potato (mostly masked by smooth aftertastes of mild coconut, cacao and vanilla). I fell immediately in love and, after sharing a sliver with a very enthusiastic Aaron, my waning hope was sweetly restored.

We skipped off to the birthday party (cue glowing smiles of happiness).

cacao

plated

Now, in fear of habitually exceeding my blogger word allowance, I’ll cut out the niceties and head straight to the ‘kid verdict’ from our nephew’s birthday dinner. After the first few chews, these did not pass (I’m imagining Gandalf and the bridge of Khazad-dûm).

Possibly due to the vague aftertaste of coconut and sweet potato. Probably due to a childish unfamiliarity with healthy versions of sweet indulgences. Positively due to my enthusiastic cries of “They’re healthy!!” during the first few bites. Man, I’ve got a lot to learn about parenting.

I later returned to our vehicle with a superficial smile and an almost-full plate of sweet potato brownies. Despite Aaron’s reassurance (ah, bless that man) I was crushed, kicking myself for not using my tried and tested brownie recipe (one of my very first novice posts on WordPress, still a fail-safe favourite in our house and others). You live and you learn.

closeup

Anyway, it’s now been four days since I tasted the lingering bitterness of healthy baking defeat. I guess it was to be expected, but the buoyancy of imbued hope lingered high over my sea of doubts.

I’m probably not going to attempt healthy baking for children again unless they’re my own (whom, in my idealized, not-yet-a-parent mind are going to be raised on wholefoods and rice malt syrup). Or unless I coat each said item in melted dairy milk chocolate. Hm.

pour

After my story of failure, you’re possibly wondering why this recipe still made it to blog-post stage. Well, Aaron and I adore these little beauties. We’ve been devouring delicious slivers over the past few days with hot coffee or as an after-dinner treat, with reassurance that they’re choc-full of goodness.

I used milk chocolate chips for the version that I took to our nephew’s house (predominantly due to the kid factor – silly me) however future batches will be made with the substitution of either crunchy cacao nibs or 70% cocoa dark chocolate – the bitterness will do wonders in off-setting the mild taste of sweet potato.

Nope, they’re no crackle-topped, butter-filled brownies. They don’t ooze with melted chocolate. But they’re a marvelous staple to have in the fridge when you just want a fudgy chocolate fix without the regret. Just don’t tell the children that they’re healthy.

slab

Sweet Potato and Cacao Brownies

Makes 16 – 20 squares

  • 500g peeled, cubed sweet potato (I used gold, however the milder white sweet potato would work well)
  • 2 free-range eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup rice malt syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract*
  • 3 tbsp coconut flour*
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped bar chocolate or chocolate chips* (optional, I’d recommend 70% dark chocolate)
  • pinch of sea salt flakes

Line a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) brownie pan with baking paper, then set aside.

Place the cubed sweet potato into a medium saucepan with just enough water to cover. Boil until tender, then leave to cool in the cooking liquid.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f).

Pulse the cooked sweet potato in a blender with 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid for 30 seconds or until just smooth (don’t over-process your sweet potatoes, you don’t want a gluggy mess).

mash

Transfer into a large bowl and add the coconut oil, rice malt syrup and vanilla extract.

Once thoroughly combined, add in the whisked egg and your dry ingredients – the coconut flour, cacao, baking powder, a pinch of sea salt and the chocolate chips.

bowl

Mix well, then spoon into the prepared brownie pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Leave to cool, dust with some reserved cacao and slice into however many squares you like. Eat straight from the fridge, at room temperature or slightly heated with some cold dairy or coconut cream.

plated2

*Exchange the vanilla extract for hazelnut liqueur, sweet orange extract or a few drops of peppermint oil if you like. Substitute chocolate chips for a handful of cacao nibs to add crunch and extra nutrients. Substitute coconut flour for oat flour or buckwheat flour if you like; I’d probably just cut down a bit of the sweet potato cooking liquid due to the reduced absorbency of alternative flours.

P.S. I had a little collaborator attempting to eat the goods helping me with this brownie shoot. You might be able to spot him here:

lokifeet

Advertisements

EAT. DRINK. BLOG. conference, perth 2013

edbsign

Last weekend, I was privileged to attend the fourth annual Eat Drink Blog conference at Perth City Farm in East Perth, Western Australia. Spanning an entire Saturday and half of Sunday, the conference included nine learning modules, a fully sponsored Saturday night pop-up dinner and three half-day elective masterclasses, all of which required huge amounts of pre-event organisation.

So, before I write about anything else, I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated, ever-smiling committee who organised this generous event for Australian bloggers. None of this would have happened without you.

bags

Saturday 09/11/2013: EAT DRINK BLOG Conference

Perth City Farm is a lush, green oasis situated by the scattered grey landscape of Health Department buildings on Royal Street in East Perth. Built on the remnants of a former scrap metal yard, it now incorporates a sprawling community garden, urban farm and organic cafe, the latter of which stocks organic artisan bread from Loafers.

On Saturday mornings from 8am – 12 noon, the Farm plays host to a market full of small-batch cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, biodynamic meats, homemade soaps and unrefined honey. Keen crowds mingle with passionate growers and producers in a happy dance, often to live bands or acoustic guitar.

rooster2

Upon arriving at the Farm, I immediately felt lifted by the smell of fresh apples and citrus bathed in soft morning sun. As I wove my way through groups of sticky children to the rear function room (a.k.a timber shed), I spotted a few people snapping photos of crusty bread with DSLR cameras. Bloggers? Quite possibly.

No, probably.

sign

The shed entrance was bordered by smiling fruit vendors who seemed slightly amused by the trickle of camera-wielding food bloggers who soon disappeared within. As I descended the stairs to register, I was greeted by the smile of an amiable volunteer. Lanyard, check. Program, check. My feet gravitated towards the steam rising from the 5 Senses coffee machine.

The first two meters of conference space were cluttered with slightly apprehensive, disquieted individuals who were assumedly attending a blogging conference for the first time. Their expressions mimicked the butterfly ramming the wall of my gut – excited, in a trapped kind of way.

As a fledgling blogger of eighteen months, I was completely unaccustomed to seeing groups of food bloggers (and their cameras) in a single confined space. Glazed pastries from Jean Pierre Sancho, Australian pears and ice-packed yoghurt from West n’Fresh were surrounded by a wall of bloggers searching for the best camera angles. I took some quick snaps before continuing my quest for coffee.

yoghurt pears

My coffee order was scrawled onto a paper cup by one of the deluged-but-smiling baristas at the 5 Senses coffee area. The air in the shed was hot due to external humidity and incessant sunshine, only slighty offset by oscillating fans.

I waited in the crowd, checking each appearing cup for the inked version of my name. Thankfully, the order was completed just before the official conference ‘welcome’ began. I squirreled myself, coffee cup in hand, into a nearby seat between Andrea from Noshbites and Jamie from Gourmet Male.

I sat, sipping thoughtfully as the beautiful Ai-Ling from Blue Apocalypse introduced the program for the day. Unfortunately, I remember very little apart from the toasty, rich, delicately floral coffee in that paper cup. Coffee can do that to you (thank goodness for paper programs).

coffee

The rest of the day was a haze of learning modules, panel discussions, food breaks and practical demonstrations including an interactive coffee workshop from Charles Stewart and Jeremy Hulsdunk (barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy) and a breakdown on mobile blogging and social networking issues by Thang Ngo (blogger and food writer at Noodlies, see his presentation and the results of his conference survey here).

The official program is available here, incorporating relevant topics such as working with media and Public Relations, ‘sponsored posts’, ethical and legal issues within the world of copyright, blogging and photography. The speakers were dynamic, varied and utterly enthusiastic (despite the heat and huge amounts of sleep-inducing food) including:

  • Adam Roberts – cookbook author, food writer and United States blogger at Amateur Gourmet
  • Ed Charles – internet consultant, journalist and blogger at Tomato
  • Jeremy Hulsdank – above mentioned barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy
  • Russell Blaikie – head chef and manager of MUST Wine Bar in Mount Lawley and Muster bar and grill in Margaret River
  • Michael Tucak – arts lawyer from Creative Legal
  • Cynthia Chew – food writer and blogger from The Food Pornographer
  • Phil Lees – social media manager and food writer from The Last Appetite
  • Max Brearley – freelance journalist and blogger at Pub Diaries
  • Emma Galloway – cookbook author, ex-chef and blogger at My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • Sophie Budd – chef at Taste Budds caterers and cooking school
  • Anthony Georgeoff – editor of Spice magazine, blogger at Manthatcooks
  • Simon Park – photographer and blogger at The Heart of Food
  • Thang Ngo – above mentioned food writer, commentator and blogger at Noodlies
  • Paul Kilmurray – founder of Urban Locavore (project involving WA artisan producers, delivering fresh produce to your door)
  • Kiren Mainwaring – head chef from the incredible Co-Op Dining restaurant in East Perth

If you’d like to peruse some of the very worthy write-ups from other attendees of the event, please follow the media link here. There are also some incredible photo diaries such as Rachi’s snapshots on Le Bon Vivant.

I’d also like to echo the common thanks expressed by attendees to the incredibly generous food sponsors including the team at European Foods (the primary event sponsors) who created an incredible continental lunch spread with freshly-shaved jamon, Scotch eggs with truffle aioli, cheeses, antipasti, Baci chocolates and San Pellegrino drinks. Brownes dairy sponsored the venue whilst also providing creamy milk for coffees throughout the day (thanks again to the tireless baristas at 5 Senses coffee). Morning and afternoon tea cakes, tarts and other treats were provided by Littlesweet baking and Red Hot Spatula catering. We were well and truly spoiled.

littlesweetAfter the conclusion of the official program, we had just under two hours for drinks at the nearby Royal on the Waterfront before heading back to the venue for a Pop-up Twilight Market dinner. Thanks to Matt at Inspired Food, Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth, Jamie at Gourmet Male and Dianne at Travelletto for the ciders, laughs and perfect company. Two hours has never gone so quickly.

buttys

Saturday 09/11/2013: POP-UP Dinner

The air had cooled considerably by the time we made our way back to the urban farmstead. Shadows fell on the pavement in dappled forms as dry leaves crackled underfoot.

We wove our way through the front gates into the main courtyard of the farm, where food bloggers congregated around plastic tables. They sipped from mint-tinged cups of Jax Coco and crunched on crisp-fried empanadas from Marcelita’s Colombian foods. Music hummed in the background, setting a merry rhythm as vendors assembled their wares.

galafrey hall Matt, Jemima and I decided to share plates in an effort to sample everything in one giant hit (we were slightly unrealistic, as we were still defeated by Butty’s burger van).

Our first stop was Jax Coco for incredible coconut water cocktails followed by a glass of 2010 Tempranillo Shiraz from Mount Barker-based Galafrey wines. The latter was delicious; peppery and fruit driven, a perfect accompaniment to chewy, hand-stretched Old Lira pizza and succulent pork and potato empanadas from Marcelitas.

empanadasAfter crunching our way through an empanada each, we visited Bangkok Jump Street for crispy pork crackling salad and Pad Thai. The combination of flavours and textures in the salad was incredible; soft herbs and dressed greens with crunchy crackling and cubes of tender pork. Great food made even better by the friendly vendors serving it.

jumpstreetIn reflection, my very favourite food truck was the Jumplings dumpling van. Juicy, soft Japanese-style duck dumplings in ponzu sauce with chilli and coriander? My version of dumpling heaven. I’d encourage you to check their facebook page often so that you can stalk them every day of the week. On hot days, they also wear Chux wipes as sweatbands. I like.

jumplings

I failed to get a picture of the Delish Ice artisan ice-pops van, but I can assure you that those girls know how to make a delicious popsicle. I tried their wonderful passionfruit, mint and lime (as they had run out of the very unique basil and elderflower with gin syrup).

The popsicle was ice-cold, tropical and refreshing, like the best parts of a fruity mojito on a hot summer’s day, as was an ice-cold gin and tonic with West Winds uniquely Australian Sabre gin (unfortunately they had run out of Cutlass, instilled with coriander and bush tomato… I’m on the hunt to buy myself a bottle).

By the end of the evening, we were full of heart, mind and stomach, ready for sleep before the next day’s elective adventures began. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog Committee and all of the sponsors for an unforgettable foodie experience. I can’t wait for next year.

*Click here for my experience at Sunday 10/11/2013: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass at The Classroom

boozy black cherry brownies

goodcloseEleven months ago, little Laura the fledgling blogger clicked ‘publish’ on a comprehensive recipe for her very own version of walnut fudge brownies. In her mind, these weren’t just any brownies; they were the best brownies in the world. Or possibly, the stratosphere.

In fact, these little squares of chocolatey goodness had been known to melt hearts, win friends and rescue cats out of trees. In a word? They were magnificent; unequivocally loved by lovers, family and friends for over ten years.

cocoamontOver the next few weeks, the rain came and went; grey changed to green and Winter slowly melted into Spring. As the trees started to sprout new leaves, Laura’s little post sat virtually untouched on the dusty shelf of cyberspace. As the days passed, her mind began to question the worth of the little post. Was it special? Was it nonpareil?

Despite being a touch unyielding, the answer was a deep, dark recalcitrant ‘no’ that chimed from the depths of the Google ocean; for this is where the brownie recipe sat, obscured by weeds of advertising and over eleven million moist, chocolatey clones.

silhouetteSo, after that long introduction, you’re probably wondering why on earth I’m posting yet another brownie recipe. Ha. I’m wondering the same thing, actually. By feeble explanation, this recipe wandered into my head spontaneously whilst I was staring at a bag of cherries.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll be well aware that I’m all for seasonal, organic and local produce. Homegrown, if possible. I don’t normally tolerate imported fruit, particularly if it’s likely to have been waxed and sprayed prior to transport. However, after two months of mind-numbing apples, pears and oranges at the markets (darn boring Winter fruit) my resolve shattered and I squirreled home a bag of plump, dark stone fruit from the US of A.

cherrypitsUpon arriving home, I rinsed the fruit lightly, watching beads of moisture splash into the sink. I ate one, my mind flickering through options for dessert consumption: cherry pie? cherry clafoutis? black forest cake? Distractedly, my glance fell upon some nearby port wine and… click. Boozy cherry brownies: the dessert fairy had spoken.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that these are the best brownies in the world. Because they’re not. Well, probably not (how can you tell, with another eleven million comparisons?). I’ll tell you what I do know. These brownies are rich with dark chocolate, moist and fruity from the soft, boozy cherries and decidedly fudgy without being cloying. They’re naturally bittersweet. Their dark tinge of streaky crimson looks beautiful on the plate as it seeps into accompanying ice cream.

chocolatecutOh, that reminds me: on Saturday night, we ate them warm à la mode; drizzled with chocolate fudge and adorned with clotted cream. Four spoons clinked upon stoneware as we scraped up the last drops of melted vanilla and port wine. So, so delicious.

I’d encourage you to try these if you want another brownie recipe in your repertoire. All superlative claims aside, they’re pretty darn good.

slabBoozy Black Cherry Brownies

Makes about 16 good-sized pieces

  • 150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (65g) unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa
  • 150g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 cup (200g) dark brown sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (150g) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (a good pinch)
  • 400g fresh black cherries, stoned and halved (weight after stones have been removed)
  • 1ooml good-quality port wine (substitute sherry or kirsch, if desired)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (360 degrees f). Grease a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) brownie pan and line it with baking parchment. Set aside.

Place your halved and stoned cherries into a medium bowl. Gently pour over the port wine. Leave to macerate overnight, or for at least one hour prior to cooking.

cherrymontPlace your chocolate and butter into a sturdy glass or metal bowl over a pan of simmering water (using the ‘double boiler’ technique). Allow to melt gently, stirring occasionally.

dboilmontWhen the last pieces of butter are slowly disappearing, remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside whilst you prepare the dry ingredients.

Sift your cocoa and flour into a large bowl. Mix in the brown sugar and salt, then make a well in the centre. Beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork before gradually whisking them into the cooled liquid chocolate mixture. Fold the now-thickened custard into the dry ingredients with most of the soaked cherry mixture (reserve a few cherry halves to top the brownie before baking). Stir well to thoroughly combine.

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the egg white mixture gently into the brownie batter, taking care not to knock out all of the air pockets. The mixture is ready when it’s lightly speckled with egg white (no large patches of white should remain).

bowlmontPour the mixture into the prepared pan and top with your reserved cherry halves.

prebakeBake the brownie for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted liberally with good-quality cocoa.

strawbtop

Notes:

  • These brownies can easily be baked alcohol-free; just add in another 20g or so of butter to compensate for the reduced moisture.
  • Feel free to play around with fresh and dried fruit, nut and booze additions: raspberries with Chambord, flaked almonds and chocolate chips with Amaretto, orange zest with fresh orange juice, Grand Marnier or Cointreau (or any other brand of triple sec), dried sour cherries and Kirsch. I haven’t tried all of these combinations but I’m intending to (at present, I can vouch for the orange and raspberry versions. Both are incredibly delicious).
  • Pitting cherries can make you look like an artist (I was going to say ‘axe murderer’, but that sounded pretty bad). Be warned; wear gloves if you’re intending to split and hand-pit your fruit. The stains take ages to scrub off.

*Another last minute fact: these brownies are made so much better when they’re consumed with friends and family that you love to bits. Azza-the-awesome, I love you. Matt and Caryse, thanks for your unmatched wit, warmth and continued foodie inspiration (you guys are ah-mazing!) and huge thanks to little Boss for the wide-eyed tongue poking (I’m practicing for the next battle, just you wait!).

walnut fudge brownies

Brownies must be one of the most useful, adaptable baked goods known to man. At a pinch, I’d say that it’s due to the fact that:

  1. Everyone (well, almost everyone) loves chocolate
  2. On a good day, they can be mixed and shoved in the oven in under 15 minutes, and
  3. They’re a cross between a dense, dessert-style fudge cake and a transportable cookie or slice.

The last point has meant that in recent years, brownies have transformed from being just a mid-morning coffee snack to an acceptable addition on fine dining dessert menus, commonly à la mode with lashings of clotted cream. They’ve even entered the wedding sphere, either as the official wedding cake or dressed-up cake pops with icing tuxedos. However, despite their mass popularity, there’s an outstanding point of contention that has spawned many a poll in cyberspace:

Fudgy Brownies vs. Cake-like Brownies.

Now, for me this isn’t even an issue. As you can probably see from my photographs, I like them dense, fudgy and intensely chocolatey, with a slight crackle of crust on the top. Eaten warm with ice cream, the brownie becomes a molten, smooth chocolate dessert, studded with toasted nuts. Pretty much heaven in a bowl.

Anyway, regressing from my chocolate moment… I do respect that there’s an element of the population that finds the fudge consistency intolerable. For those of you who prefer a lighter, cake consistency, I’ve written some adjustments in the ‘notes’ section which should help with the transformation. However, the rest of this post is pretty much centred around my version of the perfect brownie: dark with 70% cocoa content, dense with cocoa butter and infused with the earthy flavour of toasted walnuts.

The recipe below is the product of many months of trawling through recipe books and internet pages claiming to have the ‘best’ recipe for brownies. These have ranged from light cocoa based, sugary concoctions to flourless cakes and dense nausea-inducing ‘Slutty Brownies’ baked with Oreos and chocolate chip cookie dough. Now, even though the latter has the temptingly inappropriate tagline ‘…oh so easy and more than a little bit filthy’, well… I’ve decided that I’m a brownie purist. Sometimes the original, unadulterated version is all you need.

As you’ll see below, my recipe for brownies contains organic 70% dark chocolate, toasted walnuts and smattering of milk chocolate chips, lovingly coated in real dairy butter. On this particular occasion, I also had the privilege of using the most beautiful free-range eggs I’ve ever seen, generously supplied by our lovely friend Helen and her partner Dirk. I can’t get over the variations in colour, from soft blue to green to speckled peach. They’re definitely photo-worthy, both in and out of the shell.

My husband introduced me to Helen, his classmate and friend, at an end-of-year gathering last year. By the warmth of a bonfire, we drank red wine and ate hot baked potatoes laced with chilli beans, cheese and sour cream; absolutely delicious, made even better in wonderful company. I don’t remember the last time I felt so comfortable at someone’s house I didn’t know… it’s definitely a tribute to both Helen & Dirk’s hospitality. Since then, Helen’s become our official lemon and egg supplier. Thanks Helen, you’re going to be getting a supply of lemon curd very soon!

So, read on for what I’ve found to be my favourite brownie recipe. I’m not going to say it’s the ‘best’, as that’s entirely subjective, but for me it’s absolute perfection: gooey and fudge-like in the centre, with a light golden crust and a touch of bitterness from the high cocoa content. Brownie goodness in it’s purest form… no Oreos required.

Dark Chocolate Brownies
Makes 16

  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa, I use Green & Black’s Organic)
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp natural vanilla extract
  • 2 whole free-range eggs
  • 1 free-range egg yolk
  • 80g plain flour
  • 50g walnuts, lightly toasted, chopped
  • 50g organic milk chocolate (I use either Cadbury baking chips or chopped Green & Black’s Organic Milk)
  • Sifted organic cocoa powder, to dust

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees f). Grease and line the base of an 18cm square slice tin with baking paper, then set aside.

Chop your chocolate and butter into small, even pieces then melt them together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Use a spatula to stir the mixture frequently, and when the mixture is almost smooth, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool (the residual heat will melt any remaining small lumps).

In a separate bowl, combine your eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and a good pinch of salt. Add the egg mixture into the cooled, buttery chocolate and mix well with a balloon whisk. Sift in your flour, and continue to mix thoroughly until smooth and glossy. Stir in your toasted walnuts and chocolate chips.

Pour your mixture into the prepared tin. Smooth the top with a spatula, then tap the tin a couple of times on your bench surface to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only moist crumbs attached (as opposed to sticky, liquid mixture).

Allow the brownie to cool in the tin. There should be an even, light brown crust on the surface with a few cracks. When cooled, turn it carefully onto a chopping board and remove the greaseproof paper. Cut it into whatever size pieces you like (I cut it into 16, as they’re pretty rich) then dust the lot with sifted organic cocoa.

These brownies will keep in an airtight container (in the fridge, if you’re in a warm climate) for approximately one week. I usually stack mine with a layer of greaseproof paper in between. Alternately, you can wrap and freeze them for up to 2 months.


Notes:

  • The texture of a brownie is directly related to the ratio of fat (butter and chocolate) to flour. As mentioned previously, I prefer mine as fudgy as possible, however if you prefer a more cake-like consistency, there are adjustments you can make:
  1. Add in about another 20g of flour (100g in total) to firm up the mixture. Test your batter consistency: it should be slightly more rigid and less glossy.
  2. You can also remove the melted chocolate (thereby, removing the cocoa butter) and replace it with about 3/4 cup (80g) of unsweetened organic cocoa. To compensate for the bitter quality of the cocoa, you’ll also need to increase your brown sugar to around 250g. Leave your flour as per the original recipe, at 80g.
  • Slicing: The denser your brownie mixture is, the more difficult it will be to cut after baking. To make life easier for yourself, I’d recommend leaving the brownie to cool in the tin completely prior to cutting (yes, you can!!), and wiping your knife between cuts with a cloth rinsed in hot water. The latter avoids an over-accumulation of moist, sticky brownie crumbs, which ruins your cutting surface.
  • Avoiding ‘split’ chocolate: overheating chocolate can result in ‘splitting’, or separation of the cocoa solids from additional fats. Split chocolate both looks and tastes grainy, so to avoid chocolate disaster I’ve recommended a ‘double boiling’ method in this recipe (i.e. a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water).
  • However, despite the indirect heat, double boiling adds an extra element of risk: water. If any condensation or splashes of water get in your mixture, it can also result in the chocolate ‘seizing’ (solidifying unevenly) or splitting. To avoid this, try and keep the simmering heat as low as possible (there should just be bubbles forming on the water surface) whilst making sure that your bowl and cooking instruments are dry before use.
  • If preferred, you can use the microwave your butter and chocolate on low in a microwave-safe bowl. Restrict the cooking to short (20-30 second) bursts, stirring at each interval. Remove your mixture when there are still a few small solid pieces remaining; the residual heat will finish off the melting process.
  • Flour substitutes: This recipe works reasonably well with gluten-free plain flour of the same quantity (80g). You can also substitute refined spelt flour (with most of the coarse bran removed) or plain wholemeal flour, however be aware that with bran flours the consistency of your mixture will change. Expect a denser, potentially grainier finished product.
  • Additions: If you don’t like walnuts, other good nut substitutes include toasted macadamias, peanuts and pecans. Great fruit additions include dried sour cherries, cranberries and raspberries, all of which have enough acidity to ‘cut’ through the richness of the dense brownie mixture. No Oreo cookies. No.

Nutrition and Chocolate:

  • Fat: yep, overindulging in chocolate can make you fat, as cocoa beans contain approximately 50% fatty acids (saturated palmitic and stearic acids, plus mono-unsaturated oleic acid). Cocoa butter isn’t high in cholesterol, however when factoring in milk chocolate’s added dairy (milk fat) cholesterol levels may be adversely affected in very high quantities.
  • Sugar: Cacao (cocoa) beans themselves contain starch and dietary fibres, with a very low amount of simple sugar. However, the manufacturing process of solid chocolate adds between 13% (bitter, dark chocolate) and 65% (some baking chocolates) sugar to what you eventually consume. Have a look at the ingredients list. If sugar is the first ingredient, don’t buy it.
  • Antioxidants: Now, the good news. Cocoa beans contain polyphenols, with beneficial flavonoids (antioxidants) which reduce the blood’s ability to clot. This can therefore, in combination with other factors, reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. But in saying this, everything needs to be in balance, people.
  • Stimulants: Cocoa beans contain low amounts of caffeine (less than that in coffee, tea or caffeinated soft drinks) and theobromine, which is a mild stimulant with a diuretic action. This isn’t anything you’d need to worry about unless you’re a parrot, dog, cat or horse (theobromine is toxic to all of these creatures) or if you’re elderly and are planning to eat a large amount in one sitting (as your body may metabolise the substance more slowly).
  • Anti-depressant properties: Cocoa and chocolate can have a positive effect upon the levels of serotonin in the brain, whilst also containing phenylethylamine, a stimulant similar to dopamine and adrenaline. Some therefore argue that chocolate can assist in alleviating the symptoms of depression. However, exposure to light and exercise are more effective, scientifically tested methods that will lead to overall health and well-being. So chocolate might be helpful in moderation, but it’s definitely not an advisable ‘cure’.
  • Vitamins and minerals: Cocoa is rich in many essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, manganese and the vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, C, E and pantothenic acid.

For more history and brownie baking tips, check out this article from Shirley Corriher at The American Chemical Society. Science can definitely be interesting.

With The Grains

Whole Grains and Wanderings

Cashew Kitchen

vibrant food. quiet soul. wild at heart.

Brooklyn Homemaker

modern classic recipes, story telling, and a little bit of history. Oh yeah, and schnauzers.

better than a bought one

as homemade should be

My Sweet Precision

Where flour, butter, and sugar collide

Chompchomp

Perth Food Blog | Restaurant Reviews | Food & Travel Blog | Gluten Free

The Veggy Side Of Me

Deliciousy Green...