Birthday brownies: Caroline’s Chocolate Brownies
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.
I’m so glad you are generously sharing your chocolate brownie recipe with us!! Years ago I remember getting a lunch box of these brownies (from a thoughtful cousin…) while away for the summer at a language college. They were so yummy!!! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again.
Caroline,As a recipient of one of the Boyfriend’s birthday brownies batch, may I compliment you on your beautiful buns (- ok, I know they’re not “buns” but I was on a run of “b”s there!) Anyway, thanks for the sampler AND the secret.Mick
Ruth: they’re the very brownies that used to travel by post to you in French college. I used to be very busy those summers, between sending you baking along with day-by-day plot summaries of Home and Away!Mick: thanks for your kind comments on the brownies. I don’t think that the photo – an old one – does much justice to the final product so I may have to make another batch soon. When I do, I’ll make sure the Boyfriend brings some more to work for you!
Hey Car,I’m currently hankering after a new cookery book as i’ve read my current ones cover to cover (in bed) so often that i’m now back to an old non-pictorial student cookbook. You know what I like – Nigel’s Diary, Nigella’s How to Eat.I was thinking of purchasing Tamasin Day Lewis’ ‘Bible’ – have you read it? Any reccommendations?+ Happy birthday to the Boy!
I don’t have Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible, Neva, but I have loved the other cookbooks that she has written and, like Nigel and Nigella, she gives good context. At the moment I’m reading The Fish Store by Lindsey Bareham, which has some very personal memories of her family and marrige break-up alongside a selection of great recipes. I’m also loving The New English Kitchen by Rose Prince – lateral thinking for any kitchen, not just an English one! Like Nigel, she’s very strong on toast. I also loved Tessa Kiros’ Apples for Jam and any of her books are also worth picking up for a mixture of storytelling and very usable recipes. Call in on your way to West Cork and I’ll lend you a pile of cookbooks!