Last week, I was all about the healthy, dinner food. But it’s winter and we need cheering as well as feeding, so this week, it’s brownie time! Don’t be put off by the lengthiness of the method. I like to explain. But these are easy and quite quick to make and taste fantastic.
Backstory: (writers please note: this isn’t a novel, so I am ALLOWED to put the backstory up front. Nernerneenerner!)
I had to make food for the child’s birthday celebration at school. Normally I make the Traditional Birthday Biscuits, cut into whatever cute shape is the craze du jour and ice them. But the child had a coeliac sufferer in the class so I went in search of a gluten-free recipe. The following is based on the normal brownie recipe in Nigella Lawson’s Domestic Goddess cookbook, with gluten-free adaptations based on a cruise of the recipes on the net. It’s a big recipe. It needs two brownie tins (or slice tins) and you can cut each into 24 pieces. If you are just making them to eat at home, you might want to cut the pieces smaller, as you can’t stop at one, and it helps with damage limitation!
375gr unsalted butter
375gr good quality dark chocolate*
6 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla essence (yes, tablespoon. Big recipe)
500gr caster sugar (or normal white sugar is fine)
225gr gluten-free all-purpose flour (or regular plain flour for non-gluten-free)
1 teaspoon salt
1 bag white choc chips (choc bits) (approx 250gr)
Preheat the oven to 180C and get out two slice pans. If you don’t have any, you can use a roasting tin. Seriously, the recipe is that big. Line both base and sides with baking paper. Do not be tempted to skip this bit and don’t skimp either. Have the paper overhang at both ends. You can grease the tin first, so the paper sticks, but I just lie it over (two pieces, overlapping generously if you are using a big tin) then let the mixture press it down into the tin. (What can I say? I’m lazy.)**
Melt the butter in a large pyrex bowl (or similar – do not use plastic for this, the butter will destroy it) in the microwave. It takes about 3.5 minutes on full power in my old microwave. Start with shorter time or use lower power if you have a newer microwave. You don’t want to clarify the butter! While it is melting, break or chop up the chocolate. When it is melted, stir in the chocolate until it is melted.
You can, of course, melt the chocolate in with the butter and you can always do it in a bowl over simmering water, or just in a saucepan if you are careful. The reason I do it this way is that it’s the quickest way to do it with no chance of scorching the chocolate. Whichever way you do it, do it in a large bowl or saucepan, as all the other ingredients will go in the same bowl.
Use a metal or silicon spoon to stir the chocolate. Wooden spoons can retain moisture and water is the enemy of melted chocolate (it can make it go grainy and weird, known as ‘seizing’). This isn’t such an issue when it is mixed with something else, like butter, but it’s good practice to stick to the non-porous utensils.
Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together in another bowl. (You can use a hand whisk. It’s not hard.) Then beat this mixture into the chocolate mixture. This will take a little work as the mixture is big now, but you can still do it by hand!
If you did the butter and chocolate mixture on the stove, let it cool a bit before adding the eggs and sugar. If you did it in the microwave, it will have cooled down as the chocolate melted, so you don’t need to wait – another advantage of the microwave method!.
Measure the flour and salt into a sieve and sift over the chocolate mixture, then beat it in. Sieve gently and stir slowly at the start. Gluten-free flour is very light and fine and if you are rough you will get it everywhere! When the mixture is combined, stir through the choc chips (with the metal spoon). A folding action is good, as it keeps in whatever air is in the mix and the mixture is thick and heavy by now!
Pour into your prepared (lined) pan. You will probably need to spread it out, as it is a dense, slow-flowing mixture. Don’t worry too much about pushing it into the corners, though (especially if, like me, you haven’t stuck down the paper). It will settle itself.
Bake for 25 minutes. When it is ready, the top will be pale brown and cracking, but the insides will still be gooey. I found 25 minutes was exactly right. Don’t overcook them. You don’t want them to be dry.
Let them cool at least a bit in the tin (best to wait half an hour or so, or they will be too soft and break), then lift them out using the paper. Then cut and eat the best brownies you have ever had!
These are magnificent warm, with cream, for desert, at room temperature for a soft, chewy afternoon tea, or chilled or even frozen for lunchboxes. The flavour and texture varies according to the temperature and experimenting is fun!
You can put whatever you like in brownies, of course, you don’t have to use white choc chips. But ideally it should be something with a bit of crunch, to contrast with the gooey softness of the brownie. 300gr of walnuts, or any nut. Coconut, maybe. Cherries? Just remember if you want them to be gluten-free to make sure that whatever you add is also gluten-free.
*I have made these with everything from dark cooking chocolate to 85% Lindt dark (it was on special). The latter made incredible-looking brownies that were almost black and which tasted divine. But regular cooking chocolate is fine too. You could use Nestle melts if you want but they won’t be as ‘dark’ tasting. You may prefer this, of course. Don’t replace with milk chocolate. The result will not be the same. You have been warned.
**The paper will make the moving and cutting of the brownies much easier. It may not even be possible to cut them successfully without the paper – I don’t know, I’ve never been silly enough to try. In any case, if you are making gluten-free goodies in a non gluten-free kitchen, you must line everything extravagantly, just in case there is any residue of previous things in the tin. You must also wipe your benches and wash your bowls, spoons, whisks and so on before you start and for goodness sake, when you are sifting, use a clean sieve. Do not use the sifter you normally use for flour, unless you want to poison your coeliac friends. Also, if you are doing a pile of baking, make the gluten-free things first, so there is no flour lying around the kitchen to contaminate the batch. You can then take it into another room to cool while you make the non-gluten-free things.
***Remember that your gluten-free goodies should never be put ‘naked’ on your regular cooling racks. Always keep baking paper between the gluten-free item and your tins and racks and so on that you use for other stuff. Yet another reason for a free hand with the baking paper. It makes moving things around and keeping them ‘clean’ so much easier! For cupcakes, use paper cases.