Fearing a backlash from faithful readers, I thought I should post about food again. I know you can only take so much of this I love my city so much it hurts chatter. Now back to the grub.
If you ask me, there is nothing more humdrum than a brownie, it’s flat, monochromatic and always tastes of chocolate. It’s almost ludicrous to expect something other than that of a brownie, because really that is what it is, and I must say that this one is no different.
When it comes to brownies I don’t like to stray too much left of centre, I like to keep within the brownie boundaries and never wander off into wild interpretations and unique embellishments. I like my brownie just like that girl-next-door, you know exactly what to expect and there are no surprises. Unlike the girl across the street and down the road to the left, who’s full of twists and turns and palatal meanderings; I like to keep my brownie just as it is.
I've always been this way when it comes to the brownie, even when I was younger. I hated it when mum would put walnuts or cherries or even dates in the brownies, I just wanted them plain, completely and utterly unadorned. Bear in mind, I was also the kind of kid that preferred just butter on my toast and sometimes when I was feeling rather brash and impulsive I would go for some Nutella. But most times it was plain old butter and bread for me.
I am not so plain nowadays, I do fancy a bit of jam on my toast sometimes, and when feeling bold (and sometimes stupid), I spread myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Okay, so I only did this the one time and hated it, and deduced that it must be a North American phenomenon as to how Vegemite is mostly an Australian-thing.
But tried and true, there are just some combinations that marry well. More than peanut butter and jelly and better than pork and beans, brownies and vanilla ice cream go together like the proverbial peas in the pod. I would go even as far to say that the combination is up there in realm of powerhouse combinations like fish and chips or chocolate and churros.
When it comes to brownies, I think that the best recipes use some form of “real” chocolate, and when I say real, I mean not the powdered kind. There isn’t anything wrong with supplementing the recipe with some cocoa powder although I must say I prefer the taste of brownies that contain some sort of chocolate. And I have to say that the same goes for vanilla ice cream. There’s no use putting all that elbow grease into making an ice cream if you aren’t going to use real vanilla beans. This no time for vanilla extract and god forbid vanilla essence. You don’t exactly need to go for the Tahitian stuff; you can buy inexpensive vanilla beans for around $4.95 that will do the job just fine and is miles better than using and essence or extract.
Here is the basic recipe for brownies, if you aren't as plain as I am be inclined to add a few things here and there, be it some walnuts, some banana or a splash of Brandy, go for it.
Fudgey Brownie Squares
adapted from this book
makes 16 squares
70g unsalted butter, diced
170g bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), roughly chopped
¾ cup raw caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup plain all-purpose flour
icing (confectioner’s) sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare a 23cm square tin with parchment paper.
Set a medium heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Place butter and chocolate in the bowl and stir until just melted.
Remove bowl from water and using a whisk stir in sugar. The mixture will look grainy at this point but this is all right.
Whisk in eggs, one by one and add the vanilla giving one last vigorous whisk before the flour is added.
Gently sift in flour and salt and using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the flour until it is just incorporated into the batter.
Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a dul crust forms and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Remove brownies from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Turn out onto a cutting board and slice into 16 pieces.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (see recipe below).
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
makes about 1-litre of ice cream
1 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds extracted (still retain the empty pod)
4 egg yolks
350ml full cream milk
450ml pure cream (35-45% milk fat), refrigerated
In a small dry bowl combine sugar and vanilla seeds, using your fingertips and sugar granules, separate the vanilla seeds that tend to stick to each other.
Place sugar, vanilla seeds and egg yolks together in a large bowl and beat until thick and pale.
Place milk and empty vanilla pod into a medium heavy based saucepan over low heat and bring the milk just to a gentle simmer.
Remove from heat and strain the milk using a fine sieve.
Gradually pour the strained milk into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking slowly as you go.
Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk the custard until it thickens. (If you have a thermometer, the custard should be at about 60°C.)
Remove custard from heat and pass through a fine sieve again to remove any clumps that may have formed.
Place in the refrigerator to chill for 1-2 hours.
In another bowl, whisk cold cream until just thickened.
Remove custard from the refrigerator and using a whisk, incorporate cream into the custard*.
Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions**.
When churned, transfer ice cream to a 1.0-litre airtight container and place in the freezer.
The ice cream should be ready to serve after 1-2 hours.
*Ensure that you do not add the cream to a warm custard mixture.
** Under no circumstances should you place warm custard into an ice cream machine, unless you want to destroy it.