Gooey Chocolate Brownies

I love chocolate brownies. They are some of the most amazing things to have been created in the kitchen however they still cause dispute between people who make them. Should they be cakey? Should they be fudgy? Personally, I fall very strongly on the fudgy side of the argument. If I wanted something chocolatey with a cake like texture, I would make a chocolate cake, not a chocolate brownie! These brownies are about as fudgy as you can get. You need to watch out though as with such a high butter and chocolate content, they are liable to soften up in the heat if you make them in summer and whilst not an issue if you are at home, this can cause problems if you are taking them on a picnic! Try adding an extra minute or two to the cooking time if you know they brownies will be in the heat for an extended time before you eat them as they will stay fudgy but won’t melt everywhere which from experience, is incredibly messy (but really, really yummy)!

The fudgy chocolate brownie is generally accepted to be a descendent of the Bangor Brownie. This came about after the creation of brownies in the late 1890s and in the 1900s, the Bangor Brownie with its fudgy, dense texture was created. It differed from the original brownies by adding extra chocolate and eggs to the mixture. The recipe I am using today is a take on the Nigella Lawson recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess – a book I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who enjoys baking. Unlike Nigella, I do not put walnuts into the brownies and have been known to add chocolate chips to them.

They are very simple to make too requiring minimal experience and always go down well. Not only that but you don’t have to eat them just as brownies. If you are hosting a dinner party or having friends over, chocolate brownies make a wonderful base for a dessert or can be warmed up and served with ice cream. Baking times really do vary dramatically by oven so making something like brownies a couple of times is a good way to get to know your oven and also leaves some rather nice leftovers.

21325912_1696710787027286_598464611_n
Mocha dessert featuring: mocha mousse, coffee macaron, coffee caramel, chocolate brownie and tempered chocolate garnish

If you are feeling adventurous, why not try adding a swirl of caramel or peanut butter (thinned down with a little milk and sugar to make it smooth) into your batter in the tins to make the brownies a little more exciting? You could also add small pieces of fudge, candied orange peel, chopped nuts or a tiny amount of coffee to add to the flavour and texture.

 

 

 

Chocolate Brownies

Prep time 25 minutes, cook time 25 minutes

 

Ingredients:

375g dark chocolate

375g unsalted butter

500g sugar

6 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

225g plain flour

 

Optional:

100g white chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)

100g dark chocolate roughly chopped (or chips)

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180oC)

Line two eight inch square pans with baking parchment

Place the butter and dark chocolate into a large, thick based pan together and heat on a low light until it has all melted and combined. Keep stirring to prevent the chocolate from burning. I have also found that putting the butter into the pan first helps prevent the chocolate from catching.

21330736_1696716077026757_1689371546_o (1)
Line the pan with butter to prevent the chocolate burning

Measure out the sugar and the eggs into a jug

Add the vanilla to them and beat until they have all come together

21390310_1696710790360619_1131835953_o

Once the butter and chocolate have melted together, remove from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool for a minute if it feels hot to prevent the egg from curdling when it is added.

21362371_1696710797027285_1039636095_o

When the chocolate mixture is slightly warm, slowly pour in the eggs and sugar whilst stirring to combine it all together – depending on the temperature of the chocolate at this point, the combined mixture may thicken slightly as the egg is added

Once all the other ingredients are combined, slowly stir through the flour in two or three batches making sure that there are no clumps left over. I tend to do this with the balloon whisk that I use for beating the eggs and sugar earlier

21362095_1696710820360616_643986752_o

Add in the chocolate chips and stir through and immediately divide the mixture between the baking pans to make sure the chips don’t melt into the rest of the batter

21389344_1696710833693948_2142429771_o

21363367_1696710823693949_696892946_o.jpg

Bake for about 23/24 minutes or until the surface looks cracked and there is a slight wobble. The brownies will still cook a little after they are removed from the oven but make sure they are not raw in the middle!

21330957_1696710830360615_2024467812_o

Once the brownies are cool place them in the fridge to firm up before cutting as they can be really fudgy if they aren’t quite cooked enough for the flour to set.

21363582_1696710810360617_651504448_o

Let me know how these went for you in the comments – I love seeing what you guys have been making at home! See here for last week’s Cooking from Basics recipe for Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake and here for the last recipe in the Baking section, Artisan Loaves.

Have a fab week and see you all next monday!

H

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes have been a staple of my lunches since going to university. They are relatively economical, can be made with pretty much anything you have (including leftovers) and are delicious. You can use them to make a small amount of meat go very far which I have found to be a life saver when you are living off a student loan. They tend to freeze well and are also quite sturdy so once cooked, portions can be cut and put either in boxes or just wrapped in Clingfilm before being put in the freezer as the pasta has enough structural integrity to hold its shape when cool. This meant taking a slice of it in my bag to lectures was a simple task and provided me will a filling lunch during the day.

One of the things I find really interesting about this dish in particular (and to be honest, any dish involving mushrooms) is how they cook. As the fruiting bodies of a fungus, mushrooms hide beneath the soil and once ready to produce spores, they absorb liquid – rain in the wild – and sprout. They can appear out of nowhere overnight but this property is also what leads to them being very easy to burn when cooking. When you first add the mushrooms to an oiled pan, they absorb all the oil up too resulting in basically dry frying them. This can cause them to burn if they aren’t stirred constantly which is a faff if you are trying to get on with another part of the meal. To avoid this, small amounts of water can also be added which again, will be absorbed but if you manage your proportions well, can leave just enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms get to a certain temperature, the heat breaks down the cells holding in the liquid resulting in the mushrooms releasing any water, juice and oil which is contained in them also causing them to shrink which is why the reduce down so much in volume whilst cooking.

The other interesting part of this dish (from a science perspective) is the cornflour. When I was younger, I used to be allowed to play with cornflour as a treat if I was well behaved. Whilst this was a messy, messy endeavour for all involved it did have the benefit of being an introduction to quite a complicated bit of science, the non-Newtonian fluid. As a small child, few things were more exciting than this bizarre mixture that ran through my fingers and I could sink my hand into but if I tried to jerk it out again, the mixture would turn solid and shatter with enough force. Even now as a 21 year old, I find it fascinating! In this recipe, you can only have this fun before the cornflour is added to the sauce as the moment it is mixed in, it thickens up massively giving the sauce a smooth texture.

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Chicken Pasta Bake    –     about £1.90 per portion, makes 6 portions

2 Large Onions (or three medium/small)

500g mushrooms roughly chopped

2 chicken breasts – cubed

½ cup of milk (125ml)

Chicken/mushroom stock

4 tbsp of cornflour

Oil

400g pasta shapes – I use spirals normally

Cheese

21125018_1686134991418199_784859581_o

Optional

Garlic

Basil/parsley

Salt and pepper

 

Dice up the onions and sautee in a pan with a small amount of oil.

21081979_1686135078084857_846304307_o

Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and a small amount of water (I would go for about two tablespoons). This helps prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their liquid. (Should you wish to add garlic, one or two cloves either diced or minced should be added at this point)

Add the chicken and stir until it is sealed (that is to say that the outside of all the chicken has gone white.21104359_1686135108084854_1141188406_o

Add the milk and bring to the boil

Add the stock – if powder, just sprinkle it in and if it is a cube, crumble it up into the mix and stir it through

21082015_1686134994751532_195117734_o

Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to create a slurry and add it a bit at a time to the mixture making sure that you stir well after each addition and wait for the sauce to thicken up before you add more. If there is more liquid in the sauce, you will need more of the cornflour but you may not need it all!

Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and add the basil or parsley at this point

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC) and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the bag.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour it all into an ovenproof dish pushing any exposed pieces of chicken down below the surface

21081948_1686135291418169_80660660_o

Add a layer or grated cheese over the top and place in the oven. Personally I use cheddar for this but you could use any cheese that you like (though I would avoid blue cheese in this scenario as I don’t think it would go with the chicken and mushrooms particularly well!)

21104257_1686135354751496_1899645058_o

Bake for half an hour or until the cheese has melted and the top layer has gone crispy.

21081953_1686135364751495_87834986_o

For a vegetarian alternative, use more mushrooms instead of the chicken! It is still delicious and will reduce the price too.

This can be eaten cold and freezes well.

 

Whether batch cooking for yourself or making dinner for friends, this recipe is wonderful for many occations and is super versatile. You can add or take away ingredients or even change up the sauce completely to keep things fresh. Personally, chicken and mushroom is a favourite of mine so I tend to make this one quite a lot!

Let me know in the comments if you try this one yourself and pop a picture in if you can!

See here for the last recipe in the Cooking From Basics series – a delicious bolognaise sauce – or if you fancy trying your hand at some bread making, why not have a look at my recipe for Artisan Bread from last week.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a super chocolatey recipe that you do not want to miss!!!

H

Bolognaise Sauce

 

For me, pasta with bolognaise is very much a comfort food. We used to have it when my mum worked away as I wouldn’t get home from school until 18.30 and my dad from work at a similar time so there was never time to cook on those days. Luckily mum would make up a huge vat of this stuff and freeze it so we would come home and have a fab dinner which just needed to be reheated.

One of the best things about this sauce is how versatile it is! You can use it just on pasta, you can make it into a lasagne. I have been known to just have it on toast if I’m super hungry. The recipe I use is very basic, it only has 4 main ingredients with a smattering of seasonings but I know that some people put in mushrooms and sweetcorn too so if you like them in your bolognaise, feel free to add any extras!

The recipe itself produces a large amount of sauce so make sure that you have boxes to store it in! It’s perfect for after a long day as all you need to do is bung it in a pan (either defrosted or still frozen – though I would add a little water in the second case to prevent burning), cook up some of your favourite pasta and hey presto! You have yourself a delicious meal!!

 

Servings ~ 10                                                                                            Cost per portion ~ 50p

 

Ingredients

Passata/chopped tomatoes

500g Beef Mince (Or for a vegetarian option, use quorn or soya mince!)

2 Large Onions – I use cannon onions (about twice the size of a fist)

3 Large Carrots

Oil

Garlic

Red Wine

Basil/mixed herbs

Chopped Tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Worcestershire Sauce (about a tsp)

Ketchup (about a tbsp)

Soy sauce (about a tbsp.)

 

 

Equipment

A large saucepan (with a lid)

A chopping board

A large knife

A wooden spoon (or equivalent)

 

Optional, if you are using passata, you can thicken it up (so the final sauce is less wet) by boiling it in a pan for 15 minutes or so to reduce it down. Add about a teaspoon of sugar while it’s boiling and should you wish to add garlic to the sauce, this is where you put it in!

 

Dice up the onion and place into a large pan on a medium heat.

Grate the carrot and add it to the pan and fry until it starts to soften.

20839774_1675327505832281_1841552192_o
Onions and carrots in a pan with a little bit of oil at the bottom

Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and add the mince a little at a time (I generally go for a quarter of the pack and break it up as I put it in).

Make sure the majority of the mince has gone brown before you stir it through and add the next potion of the meat. If you wish to use quorn mince instead, this is where you would add it but unlike meat, you do not need to brown it, just stir it all in and move on to the next step.

20839873_1675327632498935_532951728_o
Make sure to brown most of the meat before stirring it througt!

Once all the mince is incorporated, add the tomato and stir it in.

If you wish to add red wine, garlic, salt and pepper, basil or mixed herbs, now is the time to do so.

 

Leave the sauce with a lid on a low heat to simmer for at least half an hour or even longer if possible!

20861080_1675327695832262_2091887734_o

 

The sauce will darken a little while it is simmering so don’t be alarmed if you come back to find it a different colour to when you started!

I go for a medium ladle per portion as that suites me just perfectly.

The sauce is so versatile and can be used in pasta bakes, lasagne or just as plain bolognaise – I have been known to just eat it on toast too!

 

Let me know what you think of it in the comments and I’ll see you all next week for another baking post – this time, bread related!

H