>> Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Well, the change of seasons has arrived once again.

The trees on our street are looking a little tired and a few are already starting to drop their leaves. Most of them are hanging in there though and managing to maintain a semblance of green; for now at least. But the crows are back. Which to me, signals the beginning of the slow descent into winter.

Along with the changing of the leaves, another layer of clothes and the crows, the start of autumn delivered Chris and I a dose of the flu. We haven’t really felt like eating or cooking for the past couple of weeks and, unfortunately, I had to abandon my weekly cooking and photographing session. But by last weekend we were both back on track and hungry for some satisfyingly rich food. Time to celebrate being well and actually wanting to eat! On Sunday night I roasted a rump of beef which we had rare with béarnaise sauce and scalloped potatoes laden with butter, cream and emmental. Oh and a salad. For dessert I indulged Chris’ chocolate addiction and made the most intensely chocolately brownies I could find.

Now when I say these are intensely chocolately, that’s just what I mean. These aren’t the kind of brownies to have as a sweet snack during the day or to take on a picnic. These brownies need a ceramic plate, a proper spoon and a good dollop of either whipped cream or ice cream on top. These are dessert brownies. Special brownies. Celebration brownies. Super bad brownies. Super bad because I almost fainted when I saw how much butter I had to melt down: an entire packet! I didn’t even need to measure it. I just unwrapped it and added the whole thing. Which was strangely liberating in a way. You have to throw caution out the window with these and just go for it because no amount of wishful thinking is going to make all that butter and sugar miraculously disappear when you put the tray in the oven. But they are good. As good as only something with this much butter, sugar, cocoa and chocolate can be.

The one saving grace of this recipe is that because it’s so rich, you actually can’t physically eat more than a small slice at a time. Well, at least I can’t. Chris managed to eat a decent chunk but then again he’s pretty much a chocolate or nothing guy while I’m more of a vanilla-caramel kind of girl. However, I’m sure plain vanilla ice cream or unsweetened cream would help if you’re determined to finish the whole thing off in one go. (We ate these unadorned since we’d had a bit of a cream overload with the potatoes.)

The addition of the dried sour cherries is a winner. I’d even be tempted to add double the amount suggested in the original recipe because each bite with a cherry in it is so good you really want to have one or more in every bite. (I only had a 75g packet but the original recipe suggested 150g, so definitely go with at least that.) They’re chewy, sweet and slightly tart which works really well with the strongly flavoured but not overly sweet brownie. I added a small handful of pecan nuts as well since I had an open packet in our pantry I needed to use up, but I would suggest using either only cherries or only nuts to get a more intense overall flavour.

A couple of tips:

When lining your tin with baking paper, make sure one piece runs the length of the tin and is wide enough that it overlaps two of the edges. That way you can grab either side and lift the entire brownie out easily without breaking it. Cool the brownie completely before you do this. I'd advise leaving it to cool overnight or for at least a few hours. The brownie will harden as it cools, reducing the risk of it breaking.

The recipe says to "beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency". Because the butter and sugar are not creamed together initially, this is pretty hard to achieve. The mixture will look grainy from the undissolved sugar, and while it eventually looks quite shiny after a bit of vigorous mixing, I wouldn't describe it as 'silky'. But not to worry - it will work out.

Apart from that it's easy. Just make sure to take it out of the oven while it's still slightly undercooked. Hard, crumbly brownie is no one's friend.

And voilà!

Decadent, oh so chocolatey, heartstoppingly good brownies.

Chris said these were so delicious, they gave him super powers....

Now, how's that for impressive?

(slightly adapted from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver)

250g/9 oz butter
200g/7 oz best-quality dark chocolate, broken up into pieces
optional: 75g/2¾ oz dried sour cherries
optional: 75g/2¾ oz chopped nuts
80g/2¾ oz cocoa powder, sifted
65g/2¼ oz plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
350g/12½ oz caster sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line a 30cm/12 inch rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the cherries and nuts, if you're using them, and stir together. In a separate bowl, mix together the sifted cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar, then add this to the chocolate, cherry and nut mixture. Stir together well. Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency.

Pour the brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. You don't want to overcook them, so unlike cakes, you don't want the skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle. Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares. (These make a fantastic dessert served with a dollop of crème fraîche mixed with some orange zest.)



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