What’s the secret to a perfect chocolate brownie? | Kitchen aide

May 17, 2019 Off By readly




What’s the secret to a fudgy-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-top brownie? When I ask friends who somehow produce perfect brownies every time, they look mystified and say they don’t do anything special.
Alexia, Bethnal Green, London

It’s not a question of doing anything special, Alexia, but of doing things right – as we’ve noted here before, get just one little factor in baking even slightly out of kilter, and you can soon find yourself in terrible trouble. Throw in the godawful mess that the combination of flour, eggs, chocolate, sugar and butter leaves on a worktop, is it any wonder so many of us leave it to the experts?

And you don’t get many more proficient in chocolate brownies than Kate Jenkins of Gower Cottage Brownies, in Reynoldson, south Wales, who makes more than three tonnes of the stuff each and every month. So what’s her tip? “First up, the quality of your ingredients: you can’t get away with cheap chocolate here, so a proper 70% cocoa Belgian one is a must. As are decent eggs and butter.”

Jenkins set up shop 12 years ago as a quintessential cottage industry, when she began selling her brownies at the local village store, but the business has since expanded to such an extent that she’s about to move into a shiny new 3,500 sq ft purpose-built unit on an old poultry farm down the road. Her base recipe, however, has stayed more or less the same, save for a tweak or two as the operation turned more professional. “When I started out, I’d bake them at home at 160C fan for 35-40 minutes, but I played it by eye a lot – a brownie needs to come out of the oven when it has a slight crust but is still a bit wobbly in the middle, so start checking at the 25-minute mark. Now, though, in our commercial ovens, it’s 30 minutes at 150C.”

At home, however, as Nigella Lawson writes, you need to stay alert: “Keep checking: the difference between gungy brownies and dry brownies is only a few minutes; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.” Not only that, but domestic ovens are notoriously unreliable: irrespective of what the dial says, they can be out by as much as 40C, which will make a world of difference in baking especially, so get to know your oven intimately, or invest in a good thermometer.

Claire Ptak, of Violet bakery in Hackney, north-east London, also advocates baking low and slow at 160C, “which is annoying, because most dials have settings for 150C or 170C”. But her key advice has to do with the mixing: “That lovely, crusty layer you get on top is essentially meringue, so whisk the eggs and sugar well before folding in the other ingredients. It needs volume, but not too much, otherwise you’ll end up with chocolate cake.”

Once you’ve folded in the flour, melted butter and chocolate (plus whatever other flavourings you fancy, be that chocolate chips, chopped nuts or vanilla), tip the lot into a greased and lined baking tray, but make sure it’s not too deep, Jenkins warns: “Four to five centimetres, max, otherwise you get too much crust and not enough chew.” Ptak, who last year made the royal wedding cake, always knocks back her brownie before it goes in the oven, too: “Just a hard tap on a bench will do, to release any excess air bubbles.”

Most recipes recommend leaving brownies to cool right down before cutting into squares (though the sainted Delia gives hers only 10 minutes’ cooling time), but Jenkins adopts an altogether more radical approach to resting. “I always leave mine overnight,” she says. “The crust settles better and is much more even that way.” It’s not rocket science, she adds. “Any fool can make a good brownie. I mean, look at what’s happened to me.”

Do you have a culinary dilemma? Email feast@theguardian.com

This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our journalism is independent and is in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative. By clicking on an affiliate link, you accept that third-party cookies will be set. More information.

Source of this (above) article: https://www.theguardian.com/food/2019/may/17/secret-chocolate-brownies-kitchen-aide