Deb's Best Cocoa Brownies

I assume by this stage many of you will be familiar with the wonderful, amazing, always inspiring food blog Smitten Kitchen. If you have yet to visit this site I suggest you get yourself over to it pronto (there is a link to your left) - but please finish reading this first! Some of you may also know from reading my little blog that my baking skills do not necessarily match my cooking ones and if you've read my recent post on cocoa cupcakes you will know why and therefore I won't repeat myself. Suffice to say I am always looking for full-proof baking recipes - easier said than done - and when I do happen to chance upon such recipes I cling to them like there will never be another one like it. Which is why when I found this brownie recipe, made it, ate it and loved it, I just had to tell someone (lucky I now have blog, eh?) I'll be honest with you, I was not looking for a brownie recipe specifically. You see, my first job when I moved to London was at a fabulous cafe in the City Of London called The Place Below - it's in the crypt of St.Mary-le-Bow, how cool is that? Don't let the fact that it's vegetarian put you off, the food they serve here couldn't be further from hippy dippy, leafy rabbit food. Strangely too, the star of the show in this wonderful establishment was their beyond gorgeous brownies, baked in house, of course, by a crazy Kiwi whom I remember fondly. What makes this story even weirder (well to me it's weird) is that a few months prior I had made my first ever batch of brownies from a recipe I found in a Waitrose magazine. The recipe belonged to a Mr. Bill Sewell and at the time they were the bestest sweet thing I'd ever put in my mouth. So good, in fact, that I was convinced I'd found the holy grail of brownies. I stopped looking for any other recipe because what more do you want from a brownie other than rich, fudgy, chocolatey, with a hint of crust on top deliciousness. You can imagine my excitement then when I found out the proprietor of my new place of work was none other than Bill Sewell himself - I had no clue until I'd been working there a few days. Embarrasingly when I met him I acted like a giggling teenager confronted with her Pop Idol and yes I tried to relay the same story I am telling you today.

So when browsing through Deb's recipes on Smitten Kitchen I almost dismissed her cocoa brownie offerings. Then I remembered that I had a whole lotta cocoa powder in my cupboard that needed using up before I returned to Chicago, hence why the two sweet dishes I've posted here have both contained the stuff. Prompted by my girly night I set about making these hoping they would be even half as good as Bills. Now, you'll rarely find me saying this so enjoy it: 'I officially eat my hat'. Yep, they are that mouthwateringingly brilliant! I cannot tell a lie, I was dubious. I thought they would be distinctly underwhelming but in reality they are the perfect texture, the perfect sweetness, the perfect chocolately, the perfect everything. I have found my new brownie recipe, so to Deb, thankyou, thankyou, thankyou. Sorry Bill!


150g unsalted Butter

200g granulated sugar (you can use 280g caster sugar but I had none and even ran out of granulated!)

80g confectioners sugar

80g cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

tsp vanilla extract

2 cold eggs

60g flour

handful white chocolate chips

I've made a few ammendments but none that would drastically change the outcome.

This is how easy it is. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees. Prepare a baking pan - I actually had to use an oval dish lined with foil (please see smoked haddock pie post for explanation!). Put a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. I went to a chocolate workshop a while back and for the first time I was told not to fill the pan up too much, therefore only steam should be hitting the bottom of the bowl, not water! Bung in the butter, sugar, cocoa and salt. Let it melt slowly, you can give it an encouraging stir now and again but try not to fiddle too much. It will eventually turn into brown rubble, which doesn't look particularly appetizing but it will get better, I promise.

Measure out the flour and leave to one side. When the 'rubble' is ready take it off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Transfer to a larger bowl.

Add the vanilla extract and stir with a wooden spoon. Then add the eggs one at time, thoroughly mixing after each. When both eggs have been combined, toss in the flour and stir until it's completely incorporated and you are left with a lovely chocolately, relatively smooth batter. This will involve a lot of elbow grease, if you will, but it'll be worth it:) Now you can stir in the white chocolate chips or whatever you fancy.

Pour batter into baking pan and smooth evenly to edges. Bake for 25mins and then check with a toothpick - insert it into the middle. If it hasn't set then cook for a further 10. In total I baked the brownies for 35mins and they were perfect. If the toothpick comes out completely clean then you've cooked them for too long so you want a trace of batter on it. Cool on a rack and then transfer to the fridge. Deb explains that it's much easier to cut them this way and it's true.

I'm so excited for you because now........... behold the brownie!

dessertAine Carlin