When I was in my early 20s I worked as a sous chef in the kitchen of a well-established and well-loved London deli. Most of the time it was just me and three super fun and sweet Algerian guys bumping into each other in the tiny basement kitchen and pumping out Bob Marley or Manu Chao for 10 hours a day. Oh yeah, and we also cooked a little bit.
One of the things that we cooked or rather, baked, on an almost daily basis was the shop’s trademark brownies. These brownies were legendary. People would make pilgrimages from places as far away as Neasden to wrap their choppers around our brownies. Probably. In any case, we sold stacks of them every day to the point where pretty much everybody who worked in the deli (including the floor managers and definitely including the kitchen porter) knew the recipe and could be called on to enter the breach and whip up a double batch at any given moment if stocks got low.
Fast forward ten years or so and I am about to set about the task of making my two year old daughter’s birthday cake for her kindergarten party. Having been rather absent in the birthday-cake-baking arena up until this moment (sorry, nearest and dearest) I rack my brains to come up with a source for a great chocolate cake recipe that will satisfy a bunch of sugar fiends, um, sorry, I mean toddlers. My extremely clever husband suggests the legendary brownies (having been rather partial to their decadent fudginess himself, back in the day). Aha! I thought. What a clever husband I have!
So I locate the recipe (which I handily noted down all those years ago) spend a bunch of money on unreasonable amounts of chocolate and butter (I did say they were decadent) only to eventually pull out of the oven a tray of something hard, crumbly and somewhat charred smelling. I don’t know what it was but it definitely wasn’t brownies. As I stirred my disappointed tears into the batter of the rather underwhelming sheet cake which was to replace the paving stone I had just inadvertently baked, I racked my brains to answer the question: WHAT? WENT? WRONG? I scanned the recipe. I gnawed on a chunk of singed brick (chocolate flavour). I questioned my sanity. It was just as I was cracking a lovely unsuspecting organic egg into the cake batter of disillusionment that it dawned on me. Eggs. Do brownies require eggs? Yes. Were eggs listed as an ingredient in my hastily scrawled notes from 10 years previously? Nah-uh. Hence: candied concrete slab. (Well, of course we ate it).
And so, after baking a succession of rather more successful birthday cakes over the last couple of years (thanks to birthing an additional child… and also to the fact that one birthday party per person per year never seems to be enough these days… this year Sophie turned 4 and I ended up baking her 3 birthday cakes plus a batch of cookies… do we now count out a person’s age in batches of baked goods received instead of number of candles? Is someone going to bake me 39 different varieties of confection for my next birthday? Please? But I digress…) I have worked up the courage to give the legendary brownies another crack.
And I’ll remember to give some eggs a crack this time round too. How many, you ask innocently? Um, six. And, no, that’s not a typo. It’s the number of eggs it took to get the batter to pourable consistency. Extra vanilla and salt seemed obvious additions, plus some research into the benefits of whipping the eggs with the sugar have produced, I think, a delectably decadent and fabulously fudgy brownie.
Decadent Fudgy Brownies
Makes 24 smallish brownies
Bake time: 30-40 mins
Oil for coating baking tray
450g (15.9oz) bitter chocolate
450g (15.9oz) unsalted butter
6 large free-range eggs
500g (17.6oz) white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g (5.3oz) all-purpose flour
150g (5.3oz) cocoa powder
¼ tsp table salt
- Pre-heat oven to 180C (356F / Gas Mark 4). Lightly oil a 33cm x 23cm (13 x 9 inch) baking pan and lay two pieces of parchment paper crossways inside so that there is an overhang of paper on each side of the pan. This will help you lift the brownies out of the pan when they’re done. Lightly oil the parchment paper.
- Break up the chocolate into smallish pieces and melt using your preferred method. I used a bain-marie but you could also do it in the microwave.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat.
- Use either a stand mixer or a large bowl and an electric whisk to whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Keep at it for a good minute or so, until everything is combined and has reached a smooth creamy consistency.
- In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder and salt.
- Add half the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until combined. Scrape down the bowl and then add the other half of the flour mixture, whisking until everything is very well mixed and you have a thick shiny batter.
- Add the melted butter and whisk in.
- Add the melted chocolate to the batter. If you used a bain-marie to melt the chocolate, be careful – the bowl will be very hot! The chocolate will set as it cools so make sure you whisk it in quickly and thoroughly, for at least a minute, so that the chocolate will be evenly distributed.
- Pour the batter evenly into your lined baking pan and bake in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes. You can test doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of the pan. What you’re looking for is for it to come out with some sticky crumbs on it. If the toothpick comes out with wet batter on it, leave the pan in the oven for a bit longer; if it comes out clean, the brownies will be dryer and won’t have the fudgy consistency you’re looking for.
- When done, take the brownies out of the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Only when completely cooled, lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment paper wings, peel off the paper and cut into squares.
- Brownies will keep out of the fridge in a tupperware-type container for a good few days and probably up to a week. Try warming one in the microwave for 30 seconds and serving with vanilla ice-cream. Yum!