In honesty, I’d thought that this post would be full of pictures of daffodils, watery morning sunshine, some fresh Spring fruits and bright, tart flavours. Then, the weather had other ideas.
Days of non-stop, perfect, powder white snow fell from the slate grey sky, and the house was plunged into a solemn, drab quiet, reminiscent of the festive season; the cheerful refrains of Sinatra and Crosby on our lips, a few months too late.
The chill and whistling wind lent itself to more of an indulgent bake today. An excuse to huddle around the sunny glow and warmth of the stove, to stir a rich, glossy mixture and to sit around with cups of tea, nibbling at a dark, sweet treat.
I have always been a devotee of the Alice Medrich cocoa brownie; it’s use of humble cocoa powder in place of the darkest chocolate appealed to me to make a brownie a little more everyday. The resulting brownies were pleasingly decadent and crumbly, though a little more cake-like and dense. However, this time, I deviated – a recipe that involved nutty, amber-russet buerre noisette and the whipping of eggs and sugar to silky cream ribbons.
I used this quiet time to create a caramel laced with crystals of sea salt reminiscent of the snowflakes whirling endlessly past the kitchen window. This, spread over the top of the still warm brownie gave a sweet glaze to counteract the bitterness; a brownie which had more bite than the Medrich incarnation, and a crisp, cracked crust into which the caramel ran. A final dredging of cocoa powder to finish, and small pieces were carved to warm our insides on such a bitter day.
browned butter salted caramel cocoa brownies
adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall via The Guardian
300g light brown sugar
3 tablespoons greek yoghurt
100g cocoa powder
50g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
for the caramel
100g granulated sugar
1 tsp butter
a pinch of good quality sea salt
2 tbsp single cream
cocoa powder to finish
Brown the butter in a heavy bottomed pan, and leave to cool. Meanwhile, beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until they have doubled in volume and are pale and form ribbons from the whisk. Gently fold in the yoghurt. Whisk in the cooled butter. Sift in the cocoa powder, flour and salt and fold into the mixture until just combined. Spread into a tin (25x15cm) greased and lined with parchment paper, and bake for 20 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the centre is removed with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Leave to cool. Meanwhile, put the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and place on a medium flame. Shake occasionally until the sugar begins to melt, and allow to bubble until a deep caramel colour is achieved. Add the cream and butter, and swirl in. Add 1-2 tbsp of boiling water to form a pouring consistency, allowing you to pour the caramel over the brownie. Once cool, dredge with cocoa powder, and slice into 16 small pieces. Store in an airtight container.