I am a very cheap date when it comes to chocolate. Thorntons? Meh. Godiva? Double meh. Green & Blacks? Wouldn’t give it house room. And as for that 90% cocoa butter carry-on, what on earth is that all about? As far as chocolate is concerned, there are only two contenders in my book: Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut or Cadbury’s Flake. The rest, you can keep.
Probably for this reason, I don’t particularly care for chocolate puddings or chocolate cakes, but give me a big bar of Fruit & Nut or a family bag of Flakes and I’ll polish them off before you can say ‘narrowed arteries’. Luckily, we don’t get Cadbury’s chocolate in Turkey, so my arteries are in a reasonably safe place. I say ‘reasonably’ because the Greek island of Kastellorizo is in the bay right outside our kitchen window, and its duty-free shop is usually stacked to the gills with Fruit & Nut. And they have special edition ‘duty-free-only’ tins of multiple Flakes. Luckily, the ferry is infrequent and to go there requires forward planning – by the time I’ve schlepped into town and deciphered this week’s mystery ferry timetable, the urge for chocolate has usually passed.
I realise that I am mostly alone in my dislike of chocolate-flavoured sweet things, so occasionally I have to splash out on some of the good stuff to make someone a special treat. Today’s deserving recipient is our lovely friend Ömer, who has very patiently carried out a couple of rather tedious real estate tasks for us recently. One of them turned out to be very tiresome and I am sure he wished he hadn’t signed up for it about half way through the job, but he was much too polite to say so and his tenacity prevailed. He is not a lover of fruity cakes (more Bakewell for us then), but does love anything made with chocolate.
Today’s offering is a richer-than-rich chocolate brownie. The sweetness is tempered by the use of a lot of pure cocoa and high-cocoa-butter chocolate, and further offset by the addition of salted almonds. They only give the tiniest hint of salt, but it does take the edge off the sweetness.
In a perfect world, I would use chocolate with 70% cocoa solids here, but the highest we can get in our local supermarket is 60%, so that will have to do.
For the ‘added extras’, you can use whatever combination of chopped chocolate (or ready-made choc bits) and nuts you like. If you can get dried sour cherries, they are also a delicious addition and do their bit to calm down the richness a little. A few diced ready-to-eat prunes would also be good. I’m not adding either of these, as it may make the brownies come under the heading of ‘fruity’ in Ömer’s eyes and I would hate to spoil his chocolate heaven.
I’ve used a mix of walnuts, hazelnuts and salted almonds, plus some dark and white chocolate chopped into chunks. Keep your chocolate chunks in the fridge after you have chopped them – if they get soft while you are mixing up the batter, they may just melt and disappear into the mix while baking.
This cuts into 16 squares – they are quite small, but really one is enough. This is also nice cut into tiny squares to serve after dinner with coffee, in lieu of a pudding.
Decadent brownies with salted almonds
185g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solids) + 50g each dark and white chocolate
3 large eggs (as fresh as possible – stale eggs won’t increase in volume so much when whipped)
85g plain flour
40g pure cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)
20g each of chopped hazelnuts, walnuts and salted almonds (or any mix of your choice)
You will need a 22cm x 22cm (or similar dimensions) square baking tin, lined with non-stick baking parchment
Put the butter into a non-stick saucepan and set over a very gentle heat. Once the butter has started to melt, break the 185g chocolate into pieces and add to the pan. You do not need to let the butter get hot, just warm enough to melt the chocolate. This should only take a minute or so – once the mix has warmed, stir with a spatula until the chocolate has just melted, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool completely. (The mix must be cool when it goes into the oven or the chocolate bits will melt into the mix and disappear.)
Chop the extra 50g each of dark and white chocolate and set aside in the fridge until ready to use. Chop the nuts into small pieces and set aside.
Once the chocolate/butter mix has completely cooled, pre-heat the oven to 170C.
Put the sugar and eggs into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk with an electric whisk until the mixture is pale and very thick, and has approximately doubled in volume. You should be able to see the whisk leaving a distinct trail as it goes through the mixture – see photo below. (You can whisk the mix by hand, using a metal balloon whisk – it will require quite a bit of patience and elbow grease).
Once the mix has reached the correct thickness and volume, very gently pour the chocolate/butter mix into it.
Using a silicone spatula,carefully fold the chocolate into the egg mix until it is well combined – be patient, if you try to rush it, you will knock all of the air out of the mixture. As the mix contains no other raising agents, other than the eggs, you would then end up with flat biscuity brownies!
Weigh the flour and cocoa in a small bowl, then sieve them together into the mix. Again, using your spatula, fold the dry ingredients very carefully into the egg/chocolate mixture.
Once the mixture is well combined and looks smooth, finally add the chopped nuts and additional chocolate, and stir in gently until evenly distributed.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth with the back of a spoon, making sure the mix goes right into all the corners of the tin.
Bake for 25 – 35 minutes (mine took 35 – if your tin is slightly larger, it may take a little less time). After 25 minutes, open the oven door and give the tin a gentle shake. If the cake mix still wobbles, close the door and give it another five minutes, then check again. Repeat if necessary until the mix no longer wobbles when you gently shake the tin. The top of the brownie should be shiny and crisp, and it should have just slightly started to pull away from the sides of the tin.
Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool completely. Cut into 16 (or more if you like) and store in an airtight tin. The brownies are very squidgy, so will keep for at least a week (theoretically – not sure if anyone has ever tested this theory).