This is a recipe for anyone who has ever fought it out over the last crispy-edged piece from a pan of brownies.
I appreciate that this may not apply to everyone. Some people prefer the middle slice, an altogether more uniform and yielding experience, devoid of any edges, contrast and – dare I say it? – character. Of course I’m not going to judge you on your brownie preferences (ok, maybe I am), but they do say that variety is the spice of life and there’s something about the contrast of texture as crisp, chewy crust melds into smooth, fudgy middle that makes a brownie pretty much perfect in my eyes.
I’m not alone in this debate. The crispy-edge phenomenon is such that you can even buy a ‘Baker’s Edge’ brownie pan, designed so that every slice delivers a crisp corner for guaranteed texture satisfaction. Beyond the world of brownies, this preference can be seen in the infamous triple cooked chip (crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle) or chocolate chip cookies, where anyone who’s anyone suggests that they need to be baked big enough to allow each texture to develop: the crisp crust, the chewy outer edges and finally the soft, melting centre.
The search for the perfect brownie is one that will never end, not least because nobody can agree on exactly what it is that makes one just right. But forget the cakey, fudgy, chewy, chocolaty debate – even within my own fairly made up mind on the matter, I always have a sense that an elusive better brownie may be hiding just around the corner. The result of this is that I rarely bake the same brownie recipe more than twice. I have to add in a little more chocolate or sugar, reduce the butter or add in some sort of syrup, stir more quickly, whisk more slowly, throw in add-ins or strip them back to basics.
I first heard about the idea of using golden syrup in brownies from this Nigella-worthy post. Having forgotten about it for a few months, I then encountered the original recipe in my Paul A. Young cookbook, a chocolatier fast becoming a firm favourite in the little loaf household for his ability to help overcome my inability to make a good ganache. The amount of butter is slightly reduced, replaced with golden syrup and lashings of melted chocolate (of course), all adding up to make a rich, dense brownie. My addition to the proceedings is a small amount of cocoa powder (brownies always seem to taste better with both chocolate and cocoa) and the way in which these brownies are baked i.e. the crispy edges.
The end product of a moist dark batter baked in individual moulds is a beautiful brownie with a shiny, crackled crust, crispy edges and a dense, deliciously fudgy middle. They’re incredible served warm with melting vanilla or pistachio ice cream, but every bit as delicious as a mid-morning snack, tea time treat or anything in between. They come in single servings so there’s no fighting over who got a bigger piece (but also no surreptitiously sneaking an extra sliver from a square when no one’s looking) and they bake up nice and deep meaning lots of lovely middle surrounded by all that crispy crust.
I’m calling them brownie bites because it sounds good, but they’d actually make an absolutely massive single mouthful. So please eat them slowly, enjoying in several bites. The slower you eat, the more time you have to work out exactly how you can justify taking a second . . .
Chocolate Brownie Bites (adapted from Adventures with Chocolate)
(makes 8 generous sized brownies)
200g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
75g unsalted butter
60g golden syrup
3 medium free range eggs
75g light brown sugar
110g golden caster sugar
75g plain flour
15g cocoa powder, sifted
Handful of cocoa nibs (optional)
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Grease an eight hole muffin tin or, if using a non stick silicone tin like I did, simply set on the side. You could also bake these in little muffin cases if you want them to be portable.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie, stir in the golden syrup then set aside to cool slightly.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together with the brown and caster sugars until pale and thick, about 5 minutes.
Whisk the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, taking care not to incorporate too much air. Fold in the flour and cocoa powder and stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into your prepared muffin tins, filling practically to the top (they won’t rise very much). Sprinkle with the cocoa nibs if using and bake for 18 – 25 minutes. Baking time will slightly depend on the temperature of your oven and you don’t want to overbake these, so check them at an early stage. The middle should still have some wobble and a toothpick inserted should come out with moist crumbs clinging to it.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before tipping out of the tins. Serve immediately or store in an airtight tin for a couple of days. These brownies also freeze well (and I’ll show you what to do with them in my next post so watch this space!).