Friday, 13 September 2013

Birthday Brownie

I should be telling you about another great meal last night which used up another of the can of left over kidney beans (the ones I failed to put in the chilli for the Husband's birthday). It was a healthy bean salad type thing, all the more succesful because both kids ate it and enjoyed it. I also made some cheeky toasted cumin flatbreads to go with, which made me feel all domestic goddess-y again because - a confession - I haven't made bread of any sort for a good couple of months now.

But healthy suppers and flatbreads will have to wait for another time, because I cannot get brownie out of my head.

I don't have much that's original to say about brownies. It's mostly been said before, some of it by me, here, but when has that ever stopped me? Badly made, they can be one of the most disappointing things on earth - dry, unyielding - just, well, disappointing.

On the other hand, get it right and you have absolutely one of the best types of chocolatey treat you can, in my humble opinion, ever eat. Rich, damp, squidgy, revealing the hidden treat of a nut or carefully chosen nugget of dried fruit (cranberries and cherries are my favourites, bringing an edge of sour to the party), a good brownie is absolutely to die for.

When I was wracking my brains to think of a suitably birthday-ish treat to take with us last week end and stick candles in to allow for the purposes of singing 'Happy Birthday', brownie was the obvious solution. As it's not actually the Husband's birthday till December, I didn't want to go all out with a bells & whistles birthday cake (plus, the obvious difficulty of keeping something (possibly elaborate) intact on a campsite was vexing me), but I wanted something celebratory. 

Flapjack would absolutely NOT have done.

Nigella offers brownie as a birthday cake solution, and I have to say, she's right. Stacked up, with candles in the pieces, it looks very festive. It's also dead easy to make. Marvellous.

La Lawson reckons you can get 48 out of this quantity. I got 24 (admittedly fairly generous) pieces, but I wouldn't have wanted to go much smaller, and as we were 45, I made 2 batches, one with walnuts, one with dried cranberries. Do watch them like a hawk once you've baked them for around 20 minutes. I set my timer for 22 mins, and probably did take them out at around 25 minutes, but they will continue to cook in the tin, once you've taken them out of the oven, so don't leave them too long in the oven.

Chocolate & Cranberry Brownie

2375g unsalted butter
375g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
6 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
450g caster sugar
225g plain flour
1 tsp salt
300g dried cranberries (if you prefer, use 300g chopped walnuts)

Pre-heat the oven to 180 and line a tin with greaseproof paper (I have a roasting tin which is approx 27 by 23 cm and 4 cm deep. Nigella's is bigger (33 by 23), so her brownie is probably thinner and so more easily cuttable into 48. It's up to you. I won't judge you...)

In a large pan, gently melt together the chocolate and butter, then set aside to cool slightly. 

Beat together the sugar, eggs and vanilla, and in a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Beat the eggs and sugar into the melted butter & chocolate, then the flour, then stir through the cranberries. 

When it's all combined, scrape it into the prepared tin and bake for around 25 minutes. It's worth checking a little earlier just to see how its doing. The top will be paler and may have started to crack, but make sure the middle is still a little squodgy when you take it out of the oven.

Cut into pieces and serve - with or without candles.


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