Take these out of the oven while still slightly wobbly for the perfect squidgey centre
If there’s one thing I admire more than a brilliant baker, it’s a brilliant baker who is also a wonderful cook. While that’s not to say there aren’t a number of people, professionals or otherwise, who are talented at both, baking and cooking involve some fundamental differences in attitude and approach to ingredients and how they are used.
While a chef is generally constrained only by his or her creativity, throwing together ingredients and experimenting with pinches of this and splashes of that, a baker’s art is somewhat restricted by the confines of science: a cake will only rise with the right ratio of fat, sugar and flour; accuracy is key; and following a recipe to the word is important to achieve the right results. Of course baking can still be creative, and cooking is full of scientific detail, but moving seamlessly from one to the other is not always as simple as it might seem.
Firm yet fudgy, packed full of toasted nuts & chocolate chunks
is one of those admirable chefs who manages to make the move effortlessly. His wonderful London cafes and restaurants are testament to this, with the menu moving from crusty sourdough and flaky, buttery pastries in the morning, through platters of stunning salads piled sky high and studded with jewel-like pomegranates or other exotic additions, to expertly and surprisingly seasoned meat and fish dishes, incredible vegetables, pillows of the most perfectly crunchy, chewy middled-meringues I’ve ever tasted and rich, deliciously decadent desserts.
So, too, is Ottolenghi’s first cookbook
, a mouthwatering adventure in three parts: Vegetables, Pulses and Grains; Meat and Fish; Baking and Patisserie. With a whole third of the book devoted to all things baked and sweet, this is a chef who knows his stuff; who can transfer the instinct and imagination of his savoury dishes into amazing sweet treats; who hasn’t simply ended his book with the standard chocolate fondant or crème brûlée
that is sadly so often seen padding out the back of less imaginative recipe books.
Dense, fudgy brownies packed with white chocolate chunks & toasted macadamias
Ottolenghi is the first to admit that these delicious treats don’t always come easy, making no bones about the fact that baking can be a difficult and time consuming process: ‘Cakes and pastries can sometimes go horribly wrong, they are almost impossible to resurrect and they do take time to prepare’ being the opening gambit of his introductory chapter. However, after this somewhat brutal honesty, he then goes on to say that ‘the gratification of good baking is unbeatable‘ and that he and his team ‘desperately encourage any person who loves breads, cakes and sweets to try to make them at home’.
This time I actually allowed my brownies to set before slicing!
And I would desperately encourage you to make these brownies. Adapted only ever so slightly from a wonderful recipe in Ottolenghi’s book, they are everything a brownie should be – rich and dark, firm yet moist, shiny-crusted, chewy-middled and full of chocolaty flavour. Toasted macadamia nuts add texture and a slightly salty, nutty tang to the velvet-smooth, sweet chocolate base, while accents of chunked white chocolate melt in your mouth with every bite.
I’m constantly searching to find the perfect chocolate brownie recipe as the seven or so recipes listed on this blog
will attest, and while I’m loathe to ever call it a day in the search for perfection, this is about as close as I think I’m ever going to get. Served warm with a cold scoop of rich vanilla ice cream puddling on its surface, this brownie might just be my idea of pudding heaven.
Dense, delicious & utterly addictive – best served warm with cold vanilla ice cream
The more eagle-eyed amongst you may notice that the edges of each brownie square are actually fairly neat. In this recent post, I claimed an inability to wait for pans of brownies to cool, resulting in scraggy edges and still molten middles exploding widthways before the chocolate has had a chance to set. However this particular batch was made to take to an event and I wanted to make sure that they both looked appealing and didn’t all stick together/fall apart during the transport process, so I did what any sensible adult would do and waited for them to cool slightly. It was a sheer test of willpower. But, as the old English (and adopted by Guinness) phrase goes, ‘Good things come to those who wait‘.
And these brownies are definitely a good thing.
White Chocolate & Toasted Macadamia Brownies (adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook)
(makes 16 large brownies)
150g macadamia nuts
200g unsalted butter
250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
3 large free range eggs
230g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
280g plain flour
200g good quality white chocolate, chopped into coarse chunks
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and line a 23cm square tin.
Spread the nuts evenly on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 4-5 minutes until a lovely nutty aroma fills the kitchen. Remove and allow to cool, before chopping coarsely.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove as soon as the mixture is melted – you don’t want it to get too hot – and allow to cool slightly.
Whisk together the eggs, golden caster sugar vanilla gently, taking care not to overmix – you don’t need to incorporate any air if you want rich, dense brownies. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate then sift in the flour and salt, folding to combine.
Fold in the toasted nuts and chopped white chocolate then scrape into your prepared tin and bake for 20 minutes or so, checking the pan after about 15 as brownies are always much better slightly under than over baked.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before slicing (if you can wait that long!).