Monday, 11 December 2017

The New River Dining Brownie

Terrible name: brownie. The Americans christened it. They aren't noted for their imagination in naming desserts. It's cooked so what shall we call it? A cookie. It's a pie with Key limes. Key lime pie! Ice cream in a split banana. Banana split. See. But surely they could have done better than this. It's brown. What shall we call it? Sheesh. It was Fannie Farmer apparently. Yes, a real name. She has form. It was her who popularised cups, the insane volumetric measuring system that reigns still today in the US. 

This delicious, fudgy dessert started as chocolate cookie but then Fannie made them as a tray bake and the brownie was born. I am very proud of my version but I use the same recipe as everyone else... with some tiny twists. I'm not being modest; they are tiny. Across all the books and the web, there isn't much variation. So if the recipe is the same the world over what makes a good brownie. Two things:

1. Quality of ingredient, but especially the chocolate. See those pale brown commercial things? Not enough cocoa. That's the chief brownie sin. They should be dark in colour; interestingly dark, like the back corner of a Jazz club. I use Valrhona, the world's best in my opinion. Also one of the most expensive. If not, use Lindt or Green and Blacks. Brownies are not good cheap. The chocolate should be dark - 70%. Milk chocolate is just too sweet and lacking in cocoa. 

2. Baking time. The other brownie sin is dryness. They should be gooey. If in doubt, under bake. They'll still be edible and delicious. You just might need a bowl. Commercial brownies are often light and dry from too much lost moisture. Don't let yours be. Their weight should sink a cardiologist's heart.

I use dried cherries and pecans but any nut will do. Pecans have a pleasing and easy crunch though. I've baked with soaked sultanas when I couldn't find cherries. They work but lack the tartness.

Makes 20 dessert size or 40 kid friendly bites.

Wonderful shiny mix. Don't eat it yet.
Soak 75g of dried cherries in hot water.

Melt  250g unsalted butter. Remove from the heat. To the warm pan add 250g of the best dark chocolate you are willing to afford. Stir in to melt the chocolate. This is my way; much quicker than the bowl perched over boiling water and mine's never split.

Mix together in a large bowl: a pinch of salt, 80g of best quality cocoa powder, 80g plain flour, a teaspoon of baking powder and 320g caster sugar. Into this, mix the still liquid buttery chocolate. Add four large beaten eggs and then the drained cherries along with 75g of chopped pecans (or any nut). Finally add two teaspoons of instant coffee dissolved in a little boiling water to make a paste.

Line a shallow 25cm baking tray (needs a decent side) with baking paper. Actually I use two oblong baking trays but that's only to ease cutting and improve presentation. The mix will rise about 20% when baked so don't brim the tin.

Bake for no more than 25 minutes at 180°C. The mix should be risen with a very thin crust but still sexually soft. Be brave. Being made of massive amounts of butter and chocolate, they will harden a lot on cooling. Just like your arteries! Allow to cool before trying to extract from the tin.

These demand to be eaten with vanilla ice cream or at the very least a gloop of double cream/blob of creme fraiche. This is not the time to be worrying about calories. In the supper club it's usually with some crystallised pecans and a salted caramel sauce; a proper, bitter caramel.


  1. By far the most entertaining recipe I've read to date.
    I will attempt to make this delicious looking brownie, not because I love to bake (I don't really) or because I love brownies (I do, I sadly confess they play a major role in my fantasy world) but because your enthusiastic & detailed description of the tiny twists makes me feel excited & focused about the end result and not so much about the clean-up that makes me dread the idea of baking.

  2. What a heartwarming comment. Thank you.

    Don't worry about the washing up. It's one small pot, one lined baking tray and a mixing bowl that you may find (esp if you have children) 'cleans itself'.