As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a baker. In fact, I’ve never really baked all that much until this December. I used to marvel at friends and family who would whip up cookies and pies at Christmas’ past, thinking, “How do they find the time? It all seems so complicated; how do they understand how to do it all?”
This December, I’ve finally had the time on my hands to do it all in the ideal way. I bake several times a week, if not daily. I find following the exact steps of a cookie recipe very relaxing actually, as opposed to creating something on the fly when cooking dinner. I’ve really started to come into my own as a baker and have identified my favorite recipes – recipes I will return to for years to come for holidays, birthdays and other special events.
Yesterday, I made the most amazing brownies I have ever tasted. The recipe belongs to one of my favorites, Nigella Lawson, and her book Feast: Food to Celebrate Life. She makes these speckled brownies for New Year’s Eve, arranging them as a tower and lighting them ablaze with candles. They are the most moist, gooey brownies I have ever encountered, and, as Martha would say, that’s a good thing; I absolutely hate dry brownies. I guess it helped that I used more than 3 sticks of butter and 13 ounces of the best chocolate I could afford.
I happened to forget to add the white chocolate until after I had already placed the pan in the oven. But I didn’t worry; I simply sprinkled some on top of the loose mixture and continued to let them bake. I also got a little over-zealous with the powdered sugar, but it was all due to the excitement of wanting to get it just right. I plan on making these for New Year’s Eve myself, and topping them with powdered sugar, edible silver baubles and sparkling candles. The recipe follows after the next photo.
- 3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 13 oz best quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 6 eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 9 oz white chocolate buttons, or good white chocolate, chopped
- About 2 teaspoons confectioners sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the sides and base of a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan with aluminum foil or baking parchment. (I used a glass dish and parchment, using a bit of butter to get the parchment to stick to the pan.)
Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a large heavy-based pan over low heat. (I used a double boiler.)
In a bowl, beat the eggs together with the sugar and vanilla extract. Allow the chocolate mixture to cool a little, then add the egg and sugar mixture and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt. Then stir in the white chocolate buttons (I used chips). Beat to combine then scrape and pour the brownie mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes. You can see when the brownies are ready because the top dried to a slightly paler brown speckle, while the middle remains dark, dense and gooey. Even with such a big batch you do need to keep checking on it; the difference between gungey brownies and dry ones is only a few minutes. Remember, too, that they will continue to cook as they cool.
To serve, cut into squares while still warm and pile up on a large plate, sprinkling with confectioners sugar pushed with a teaspoon through a small sieve, and dotting with candles as you go. Set alight and enjoy the festive scene.