Thursday, 3 September 2015

Even better Brownies

Well hello there. Long time, no see. Hope you've been keeping well? And how was your summer? Grab a coffee & a piece of brownie and tell me how you've been.

Over here at Recipe Junkie HQ it feels like it's been the summer of many things. The summer of all things Dutch, as we headed East for the Haarlem Jamborette, an international scout event that takes place not far from Amsterdam every 4 years. 

In fact, when we went 4 years ago, I'd just started this blog... As well as chaperoning 20 fantastic scouts & explorers for 10 days of 'scout type' fun and adventure (lighting fires, hiking, singing, camp firing, water games, plenty of outdoors), we visited Amsterdam and Utrecht, 

experienced amazing coffee art

visited a big Dutch theme park called Walibi World, and consumed vast amounts of Dutch mayonnaise, Vla ( a type of flavoured custard that is just ambrosial) &amp Sprinkles, and prawn crackers (don't ask).

Vla & Sprinkles. A true delicacy

Back home, it's been the summer of sheep, as we welcomed 26 woolly lodgers of the Shetland and Herdwick varieties to act as ovine grass cutters, and general providers of amusement with their surprisingly idiosyncratic sheep-like ways - especially their propensity to escape and nonchalantly stroll around the garden nibbling the roses & looking for human company...

Can you see why we needed the grass cutting?

It's been the summer of seizing the moment, and heading to the beach whenever possible - of the children choosing to go to the beach as 'the best thing ever', 

Of seeing dolphins, of the exhilaration of the waves, the joy of watching everyone else go home and know that you have the beach to yourselves; 

The summer of the ghillie kettle

Turns out that brewing up on the sand after a swim, usually wrapped up in a fleece (it may have been sunny, it hasn't always been warm), and then drinking it with a home made welsh cake or other bake, is one of my favourite things (funny that).

It's been the summer we finally made it up Cadair Idris - not the highest mountain in Wales, but one that's been on the Husband's bucket list for sometime. 

A view!

Which way?

And it's been a summer of sunsets

Sunset over the River Teifi

It's been a summer of family and friends as people finally sussed out that we really do live in a fantastic place, and we've welcomed visitors - some for an hour, some for a week and everything in between.

It's been a summer of fruit as the garden we have inherited has revealed gooseberries, red currants, blackcurrants, plums and now apples. The greengages are on the way too. There has been much rejoicing and jamming; stoning, freezing and the promise of crumble to come as Autumn creeps in.

It's also been a summer of community - starting to get to know our neighbours; working out who can sell you eggs in your hour of baking need; knowing that in times of crisis, like if you get the lawnmower stuck & set fire to the grass, at least 3 people will come running with buckets of water (ahem); working out how you can help them back; and the summer of understanding that there's stiff competition in the village in all things produce related.

And on that note, it has been the summer of the brownie. Not just any brownie though - the summer of my even better PRIZE WINNING chocolate brownie. Indeed. 2nd prize in the Ferwig Show. The final detail of flaked almonds on top came after the show. I'll nail it next year (not that I'm competitive or anything). Sadly, my jam came nowhere...

Chocolate Brownie

Due to a dinner party earlier in the summer when we had a coeliac amongst our guests, I had a bag of gluten free flour in the cupboards and have been experimenting. I'm not sure if it makes any difference, but it's good to know that it works supremely well in this bake - bring on the gluten free! What undoubtedly does make a difference is the presence of ground almonds which adds to the squodge factor in a most delightful way. After all, there's not much more disappointing than an insufficiently squodgy brownie - at least in culinary terms. Finally, the combination of milk & dark chocolate nails this recipe, as it means it's chocolatey enough for me, but not so dark that Pink won't eat it.

375g unsalted butter
200g milk chocolate
175g dark chocolate
100g gluten free (or just plain) flour
125 g ground almonds
a good pinch fine sea salt
6 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
350g caster sugar
50g flaked almonds

Your tin needs to be approx 33 by 23 cm and around 5 cm deep.

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.

Line the tin with greaseproof paper.

if you're using blocks of chocolate, chop them up quite finely - or buy drops. 

Put the butter & chocolate in a large pan and melt gently together, then leave to cool for a couple of minutes.

Sift the flour and combine with the ground almonds and salt.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract.

Once the melted butter & chocolate has cooled for a bit, beat in the egg mixture, then the flour mixture, making sure everything is combined.

Scrape into the prepared tin, sprinkle the flaked almonds on top, then bake for 25-ish minutes, but check at 20 - you don't want to over cook these beauties. 

You're looking for light and a little cracked on top, but still dark and dense underneath. if you're a brownie virgin, I'd recommend making these a few times, just to get the hang of it, you understand...

By the way - a good tip for slicing these babies - put the cooled brownie in the fridge, and then after it's cold, use a hot knife to slice cleanly through. A great tip that I pinched from the fabulous Vicky North - who also planted the idea of using the ground almonds in my head...


  1. Yum, got any left? Welcome back, happy Autumn! :) I am now hankering for vla too! :D

    1. Err, no. Vla - isn't it a wonderful thing. I tried to see if I could import it but way too expensive. Just have to wait another 4 years, I guess.

  2. Love those brownies. Only second? I can't believe it. I know it's not really a good thing but I'm oddly impressed that you set fire to the grass with a lawnmower.

    1. I was quite happy with 2nd - don't want to be overly confident etc given that we'd only been here a couple of months by the time the show came round! It was the Husband - we have 'land' that requires a ride on mower. he got stuck and the hot exhaust set the dry (yes, in Wales, it was dry!!) grass on fire...


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