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Brownie promise 🍫👩🍳 💝
Choc and awe.
We’ve been under the weather all month, so we’re in need of a delectable slice of much-needed cheer. Enjoy our special brownie edition!
Classic chocolate brownies
If it’s your birthday, we will probably make you brownies. They’re easy, they’re an instant crowd pleaser and we are very much over the ordeal of attempting to carry an iced cake in a Tupperware on a rail replacement bus service.
This is a classic brownie recipe – no frills, no fancy additions (although don’t let us stop you). Sian bakes them so often she knows the method by heart, but recently she added a simple extra step that is worthy of sharing. Leaving the batter in the fridge overnight before baking will make your brownies even more fudgy and delicious. You’ll get that beautifully crackled top, too.
Makes 16. It’ll take you around 15 minutes to prep the batter before leaving it overnight. Then 30 minutes baking time.
300g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
60g plain flour (gluten-free flour works just fine)
1/4 tsp salt
110g cocoa powder
90g chopped dark chocolate (the exact size of a Green & Blacks bar, a complete coincidence)
Line and grease a medium-sized baking tin. One with high sides is best so you get a really good squidge.
Melt the butter in a pan and stir occasionally. Remove from the heat when it's just beginning to darken. Leave to cool or your eggs will scramble during the next stages.
Meanwhile, beat your sugar and eggs together into a thick mixture.
Add the vanilla extract and cooled butter and then sift in your flour, salt and cocoa powder. Fold everything carefully until you have a delicious batter.
Finally, throw in the chocolate chunks and mix again.
Pour your batter into your prepared tray and then leave in the fridge overnight. You do at least get to lick the bowl if you’re feeling impatient.
Remove your brownie batter from the fridge about three hours before you want to bake, and then preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Pop the tin in the oven for around 30 minutes, until the top is starting to crack and a cocktail stick in the centre comes out just a little gooey.
Leave your tray to cool on a rack and then slice into squares.
Bertha Palmer – a woman who, rather aspirationally, has an entire section of her Wikipedia page devoted to “luxurious mansions and lavish spending” – is thought to have helped invent the brownie in 1893. She asked the pastry chefs at the prestigious Chicago hotel she owned with her husband to come up with a new sort of cakey confection to serve in the Women’s Pavilion lunchboxes at the city’s World’s Columbian Exposition that year. She needed a small sweet something that wouldn’t be messy and unwieldy to eat, meaning pies, puddings and towering slices of cake were off the menu. Bertha’s chefs rose to the challenge, and came up with a double chocolate brownie topped with walnuts and finished with an apricot glaze.
No one knows, however, if this beloved bake was actually called a brownie back then, but it wasn’t long before the name became commonplace – the word “brownie” was used to describe this sort of cake in Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book just three years later (her original 1896 recipe doesn’t contain chocolate, though). And as for Bertha and her team’s pioneering brownies, well, they must have been a huge hit, because the exact same recipe is still used by the Palmer House Hotel today.
The Brownie Diaries
There aren’t many feelings or festivities we can think of that wouldn’t benefit from the addition of a tin of brownies, and food writer Leah Hyslop most certainly agrees. Her latest book, The Brownie Diaries, has recipes for every season and for every mood, from high spirits to heartache. We can’t wait to work our way through it – Fancy A Pint? brownies, featuring the winning combination of stout and salted peanuts, are first on our list, followed by All Grown-Up brownies with their sherry-soaked raisins and toasted almonds. Leah makes a charming brownie guide, and her delicious imagination means we can all have a sweeter, squidgier life.
The Brownies – Girlguiding’s section for girls aged 7 to 10 – weren’t always known as the Brownies. In 1914, they started out as the Rosebuds (who would then “blossom” into Guides), but most girls thought it was a rubbish name, so the following year, it was changed. The new one came from Juliana Horatia Ewing’s short story about two messy children who decide to be more like Brownies – the Scottish household spirits who creep around homes at night to do chores in exchange for a bowl of cream or milk. The magical, mythological inspiration didn’t stop there – the small groups that make up a Brownie unit, known as Sixes, have similarly folklorish names such as the Leprechauns and the Ghillie Dhus.
The phrase “brownie points” is thought to have its roots in the Brownies, thanks to their lend-a-hand attitude and system of reward badges for skills, interests and good deeds – but of course, it’s not quite that straightforward. Brownie badges in the 21st century are a bit more exciting than they were in the past, and girls can now earn badges for speaking out and knowing their rights, or for being fascinated by space and aviation. It’s a far cry from the 1980s, when Laura (a proud Sprite for life) accidentally set fire to the Brownie hall while being tested for her fire prevention badge.