Brown

  • ‘Life has taught me that 95% of people are always wrong.”

That actually deserved its own bullet point. Don’t know where that’s from? Go have a little Internet peek. In fact no, scrap that, there’s really no need. What good will that do? Sometimes things are best appreciated without knowledge of every minute detail, with every painful little aspect fixed and screwed down in front of you. Analysis is one way of dealing with life, and then there’s a vague, casual, breezy bliss.

You’re probably wondering where all this is going.

I’m talking about brownies, friend. Brownies.

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Baking is an art which requires painstaking precision and by-the-book loyalty. There are typically a few tweaks here and there, as most of my fellow baking friends would agree whenever it comes to tackling recipes made by different people from different parts of the world. Thing’s like surrounding temperature and ingredient quality/origin and oven tolerance all varies from place to place, from country to country. I tried making a Nigella meringue once with my mother and realised only at the very end that no, our 40 degree weather was not the same as ‘room temperature’ in South London (we worked something out in the end). All in all, the ratio’s got to be right down pat.

Um.

Yes, brownies. I looked into my pantry and heard myself physically sigh as I realised there was no more dark, treacly muscovado sugar left. Can’t treat anyone or myself to dense, chewy, fudgy goodness anymore, I assumed. But just as how 95% of people are usually wrong, so was I. Wow, I can’t discount myself from anything anymore.

I stumbled across this recipe online, entitled ‘Robert’s Absolute Best Brownie Recipe’. You’re most likely not a human if you are not tempted by this alluring title, and really, who doesn’t indulge in some excessive link clicking. It looked too good to be true. I remember the first time I tried it I didn’t follow the instructions perfectly. Since there is so little flour (quarter cup only) in a whole batch, I turned up my nose and added more.

And more.

But there’s a science to this, and after my first try, I realised I was quite foolish. Childish even, for not being able to wait. The next attempt yielded something quite magical. And you have to be the one to try it before you can come close to understanding what exactly I mean. I think I should just get on with it.

~

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 8 ounces (228g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DIRECTIONS

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • 2. Line an 8 or 9-inch square pan with 2 long lengths of aluminum foil or parchment paper, positioning the sheets perpendicular to one other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan. Lightly butter the foil or parchment.
  • 3. In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the chocolate and stir by hand until it is melted and smooth.
  • 4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs by hand, 1 at a time. Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute—time yourself—until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. [Editor’s Note: There are two crucial elements in the making of these brownies. One is throwing yourself into the making of them by stirring them “energetically,” as the recipe stipulates. The second, also spelled out in the recipe, is making certain you stir the batter thusly for a full minute. It may appear to separate a few seconds into stirring, and it may appear grainy midway through, but when you stir with vigor for a full 60 seconds–and we do mean a full 60 seconds, along the lines of “One Mississippi, two Mississippi…”–you’ll end up with a batter that’s rich, thick, satiny smooth, and glossy as can be. Therein lies the difference between dry, crumbly brownies and the world’s best brownies.]
  • 5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the center feels almost set, about 25 minutes.
  • 6. Let cool completely before cutting.

I adjusted the amount of sugar and removed all the additional nutty additions just to present the purity of the batter on its own. And see the bolded clause? That right there is the most important part. Get it wrong and the entire thing will crumble before your eyes. These things are depressing, so just follow and be honest with the timing. What you’re looking for is for the batter to suddenly pull away from the sides, yielding a glossy chocolate pool, almost gurgling and bubbling with stick and bick, rich and thickly dripping.

This is a base batter, so go ahead and add whatever you like before thrusting it in the oven, be it nuts, marshmallows, berries, cream cheese, or hell’s bells, more chocolate. The intense stirring time might vary actually, from 1 to a full 5 minutes. Mine took a full 5, whilst the other time I’m sure it took much shorter. My biceps were fit to look part of a rock crag. Though after sufficient bicep rest, I took these babies out of their scorching hell and let them rest, like a sighing thing, settling down, fudgy bellies swelling.

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