The other day was the Big Guy’s birthday. He loves chocolate, and I had some extraordinarily good chocolate with orange pieces that was given to me by my Foodie Penpal. I had been saving that chocolate for a special occasion, and what better than to make a birthday cake?
I decided that a Brownie would be right up the Big Guy’s street. And that I would use the extraordinarily good chocolate as the chocolate chips inside. I used JD Gross Finest Chocolate Ecuador. It has very good candied orange in it, the pieces are still chewy, and spike the chocolate throughout. I boosted the orangey hit with a tablespoon of marmalade, but you can just use the marmalade if you can’t find the chocolate. Or you could use some chopped candied peel, if you prefer.
The first and last recipe for making brownies that I learned came originally from Nigel Slater. I just adjust the things I add, but always use this method and it has never let me down. If you make this you will understand why I go back to it time after time.
Recipe: Chocolate Orange Brownies
200 g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300 g golden, unrefined sugar
250 g butter
3 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp marmalade
60 g plain Flour
60 g cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
100 g JD Gross Finest chocolate, very roughly chopped
100 g almonds, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line a tin with baking paper. I use my roasting tray for this, and it is the perfect size. A largish square cake tin will also be fine.
Make a bain marie from a saucepan, with a little boiling water in the base (not more than 3 cm deep) and a bowl over the top. Don’t let the water touch the bowl. On a low heat, melt the chocolate in the bain marie. Don’t stir it too much, just let it sit, or you risk it going grainy. If there are floaty lumps of chocolate , just push them under the molten bits, and they’ll soon melt.
While the chocolate melts, start beating the butter and sugar together. I have a hand-held electric whisk. The butter & sugar must be softer than a gentle whisper, so I’d recommend this as a minimum, unless you are Geoff Capes.
Keep going until the butter and sugar is almost as pale as consumptive Victorian. Please don’t skimp, because you are incorporating air, and it will help produce the most amazing consistency when you eat it later.
As soon as the chocolate has melted, add the marmalade. Once this has just melted, remove the bowl from the bain marie and leave it aside to cool a little.
If your butter and sugar is not quite ready, go back and whisk it some more. You need it to be almost runny, but not actually runny, there won’t be a lot of air in that, but trust me, you’ll know because it gets very creamy.
Sieve together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. This is also supposed to incorporate air, but I often don’t bother with just flour. I have never tested this, by baking one with and one without sifting, but I also don’t get flat cakes, either. However, when cocoa is involved, I always sift it, because cocoa can get a bit lumpy, and it will make your cake feel gritty, until you bit through a lump and get raw cocoa in your mouth.
Incorporate the beaten egg into the butter and sugar, a little at a time. Make sure that it is well mixed before adding more. You can also increase the speed at which you beat each time you add some egg.
Fold in the melted chocolate, chopped chocolate and nuts, using a metal spoon. You don’t want to knock all the air you took ages adding, so only mix until the moment there is no more pale butter streaks.
Fold in the flour and cocoa, and again, only mix until you see no more flour. Be gentle, this is time spent with your cake batter, not a sprint race.
Pour your batter into the prepared cake tin, and use a spatula to get the sticky bits from the bowl. Or if it is your Big Guy’s birthday, you can also let him take the rest of it with a spoon, or his finger.
Smooth the top of the batter in the tin, and put it in the oven for 30 minutes. The cake will sink slightly in the middle, this is perfectly acceptable (I’m not Mary Berry), and is because of the rich, gooey consistency.
Pierce the centre of the brownies with a skewer. In this recipe, unlike many cakes, you want the skewer to be a bit sticky. It should not have any raw cake mixture on it though. Again, you’ll have to trust me when I tell you that the difference is obvious. If it is not quite done, bung it back in the oven, but beware that the difference between raw cake mix and sticky is small, so it should take less than 5 minutes, check it after 3.
If you are going to eat this warm, and it really is tempting, leave at least an hour after it comes out of the oven, or it will be too liquid. These brownies solidify a bit as they cool. Divide them into 12 brownies after the hour.
The brownies are gooey and rich as a warm dessert, for sure. But they really are very, very good served cold, because they have that perfect combination of the crisp shell and rich, soft centre, studded with the nuts and chunks of that extraordinary chocolate.
Eat them on their own, if you must, but they are better with cream or a good vanilla ice cream.
These brownies also keep well in an airtight container, and remain moist and fudgey.