Ooooh…I can still taste it. The heavenly contrast between a crisp fragile shell and the moist chocolate loveliness, oozing in its deep dark centre…When I tested the results on my neighbours, it was a resounding success!!
For me, a brownie is not the light cakey version (that’s a chocolate cake!). A brownie needs to be moist and dark with a smooth velvety texture on the inside. On the outside, it needs to have a thin, shiny, papery crust. The chocolate flavour needs to be deep and intense yet not so much that it overpowers the palate.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with recipes which call for a different balance between the five basic ingredients common to all brownies: chocolate, flour, sugar, fat and eggs. I’ve mixed and matched and got pretty close, yet two things weren’t perfect.
Firstly, the chocolate flavour was sometimes too sour or bitter, or one dimensional and boring. Secondly, I found it difficult to consistently produce the perfect interior. Often, it would be too dry. Other times, it would be too grainy, sticky and pudding like. I wondered why top restaurants are able to consistently get it so right. These are the secrets.
Secret Number 1: Use a blend of chocolates for a deep complex flavour
To have exceptional chocolate flavour, you need a blend of unsweetened, bittersweet chocolates and cocoa powder. Unsweetened chocolate gives an assertive flavor but is sour and acrid on its own. Bittersweet chocolate doesn’t have much punch because of the added sugar but for the same reason, it is smooth and mild. Cocoa powder is needed to add depth and complexity.
Secret Number 2: Temperature control for consistently perfect interiors
The traditional toothpick method does not work for me. There are too many variables which mean that I couldn’t achieve consistency. Overbaked, and the brownies ended up dry and bland. Undercooked, and it ended up too wet and gooey. So I decided to experiment with internal temperature. I found that if I removed the brownies from the oven when the centre reached 215°F and let it rest for 1.5 hours so it slowly continues to cook as it cools on a wire rack, it gives the unique crunchy crust on the outside whilst retaining an intense, moist yumminess inside, every time.
Here’s the recipe
My version is an adaptation of America’s Test Kitchen’s Brownie recipe. All the ingredients are available in most Hong Kong supermarkets.
Ingredients for a large tray
1/3 cup Hershey’s natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup boiling water – plus 2 tablespoons
2oz Baker’s unsweetened baking chocolate (100% Cocoa) – finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick) melted
1/2 cup Mazola canola oil – plus 2 tablespoons
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups of sugar – (17 1/2 oz)
1 3/4 cups White Wings premium all purpose plain flour – (8 3/4 oz)
3/4 teaspoon crushed sea salt
6oz Dr Oetker fine cooks’ bittersweet chocolate (54% Cocoa) – cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- Adjust the rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 350F
- Cover the cooking tray with baking paper
- Whisk together the cocoa powder and boiling water in large bowl until it’s smooth
- Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted
- Whisk in melted butter and canola oil
- Add eggs, yolks and vanilla and whisk until smooth
- Whisk in sugar until it’s fully incorporated
- Add flour and salt and mix it in
- Fold in the bittersweet chocolate pieces
- Scrape the batter into the tray that is lined with baking paper
- Bake for 20-35 minutes until the centre of the brownie is precisely 215°F
- Remove from the oven immediately once internal brownie temperature is reached and gently place on wire rack, still nestled in its baking paper cocoon. It will continue to slowly cook as it cools for 1 1/2 hours
- Cut into squares and serve
Perfect for school lunch boxes but most ideally eaten with a large dollop of vanilla ice cream.
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How do you know when the internal temperature reaches 215°F?
A cooking thermometer is essential because every oven has different characteristics. If you don't own a cooking thermometer, we carry the widest range in Hong Kong. So why guess when you can get it right every time?
Widely regarded as the world's best cooking thermometer, the SuperFast Thermapen 4 comes in a variety of colours and is handmade in England. It told me exactly when to remove the brownies from the oven. It’s the world's fastest reading cooking thermometer meaning that you’ll spend less time with your hand in the oven. Click through to its product page to see why both Alton Brown and Rick Stein rate it as one of their most important tools in their kitchen.
Alternatively, our ChefAlarm in-oven cooking thermometer comes with a saucepan probe clip that will attach to most baking trays. The probe stays in the oven and the ChefAlarm will automatically alert you when the temperature reaches the preset temperature.
And if you need help timing, consider our TimeStick digital timer.
Take a look around our store. It's focused on monitoring, measuring and safety products for the home. Just as much thought has gone into putting together the product range as has gone into writing this blog post.
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