As a child, I was an avid cookbook reader and collector. Of course, growing up in a small town in the middle of the countryside, there weren’t too many opportunities to actually buy many new cookbooks so the few that I did have were well-treasured. One of my most loved books, judging by the ingredient-encrusted pages, was a cookbook devoted to chocolate. Although the book itself has long since disappeared, it did leave a legacy behind – my beloved Chocolate Brownies recipe.
It’s always the mark of a good recipe when you forget about it for a while, only to be reminded by a friend, family member or an event that it’s time to dig it out again and these Chocolate Brownies have been part of my life for nearly twenty years now. While in college, my housemates and I occasionally used to have groups of up to 20 people over for dinner. For those nights, the brownies were a great prepare-ahead desert for lots of people, delicious served with whipped cream or, like Ice Cream Ireland, with a ball of vanilla ice cream and some chocolate sauce drizzled over.
These are not brownies for purists, the ones on the outside of the tin being rather more cakey than many Americans would like – although do make sure that you don’t overcook them. Every oven is different (the temperature I give below is for a fan oven) so use your own judgement as to whether they are cooked or not. I use cocoa instead of chocolate and, although you may balk at first, these brownies are not complete without the nutty textural contrast that you get from the walnuts. Do use real butter, there’s just no point in substituting anything else, and try to get your hands on good quality real vanilla extract instead of the horrible stuff that passes itself off as “vanilla essence” in the supermarkets. Apologies for the old imperial measurements but I’ve never made these in metric!
The night before the Boyfriends’ birthday last week, I made up a double batch – it’s the reason why I always have two swiss roll tins in every kitchen I put together – which, when piled high and with stuck liberally with candles, made an easily transportable and servable pub birthday cake. Any leftovers keep happily for a few days in an air-tight tin but they don’t normally get to stay there for too long!
Caroline’s Chocolate Brownies
Caster sugar – 13oz
Vanilla extract – 1½ teaspoons
Butter – 8oz, melted and cooled
Eggs – 4, lightly beaten
Plain flour – 4oz
Cocoa – 3oz
Baking powder – ½ teaspoon
A pinch of salt
Walnuts – 4oz, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C and thoroughly butter an 8 x 12 inch swiss roll tin.
Put the caster sugar and vanilla essence into a large bowl and pour the melted butter over. Stir thoroughly then beat the eggs into the mixture. Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the bowl, mix well and fold the roughly chopped walnuts through.
Pour and scrape the chocolate batter into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until the brownies are just set in the middle. If your testing toothpick or skewer comes out with a couple of crumbs clinging to it, all the better. Cool on a rack before cutting – I find a pizza wheel works well.
Makes 24 brownies.