Looking back on this blog, I just realised I haven’t talked about anything chocolate for over a year! Well obviously we need to fix that, so let’s talk about brownies 🙂
There are very few types of food where I will say ‘this is the one, no alternatives needed’, though I do have my favourites; and I will never say anything I cook is the best ever version of anything, as people’s preferences vary so widely, plus who can say what is out there yet to be discovered! When it comes to brownies, I’m not sure I could even say I have a favourite, as there are so many delightful variations to enjoy – Grand Marnier brownies coming soon…
After that introduction, I wish I could say…except for these, the ultimate brownies! But I’m afraid I’m going to stick to type, and simply say that these are the brownies I probably make most often, because they’re delicious, easy, and reliable. I don’t think I’ve had a bad batch. The key things to remember are to beat the eggs and sugar until really thick and pale, as you can see below, mix in the chocolate thoroughly, fold in the dry ingredients gently, and finally, don’t over-bake. Brownies are one of the few cakes where if in doubt, under-bake – at worst it will be a rather delicious cake-fudge!
These are a basic chocolate brownie apart from the roasted hazelnuts, and you could make them without the hazelnuts if you like, but the freshly roasted nuts do add an extra richness to the flavour, as well as a nice crunch. Walnuts are equally lovely, and you can also add choc chips and dried or glacé fruit such as dried cherries or glacé ginger.
As always with these sort of simple recipes with relatively few ingredients, good quality ingredients make a difference, so use a nice dark chocolate of about 60-70% cocoa solids, and fresh nuts – hazelnuts can definitely go rancid when stored longer than a couple of months, so buy fresh or store in the freezer.
Chocolate and hazelnut brownies
- 200g raw hazelnuts
- 250g dark chocolate
- 175g unsalted butter
- 150g plain flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt flaky sea salt or 1/4 tsp cooking salt
- 3 eggs
- 250g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 180C. Put hazelnuts on a tray, and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes until lightly golden, and the skins loosen. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then rub between your hands to rub off the skins – don’t worry about getting every bit off. Roughly chop and put aside.
Melt together the butter and chocolate in the microwave, using either low power, or the melt setting. I melt until there is still some unmelted chocolate, and then stir until completely melted and smooth.
Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until very thick and pale in colour. Beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, followed by hazelnuts. Pour into a baking paper lined square or rectangular tin about 24 cm², or 20 x 30cm and spread evenly.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until paler and firm on top, and a skewer comes out with moist crumbs attached rather than batter – it shouldn’t be completely clean, and undercooked is better than over. Cool in tin before carefully lifting out and cutting in squares. Store in a tin at room temperature.
Makes 15-16 large squares.