I continued my search for the ultimate chocolate brownie recipe, including the recommended David Lebovitz Dulce de Leche recipe and The Age ultimate brownie recipe. The Lebovitz recipe was good, but still not amazing. The Age recipe was super temperamental and extremely hard to get the texture right as I enjoy a fudgey brownie rather than a cakey one. It also wasn't the perfect flavour I wanted. I tweeted my efforts with The Age recipe and luckily Viviane from Choc Chili Mango saw my tweet. After many exchanges, it turns out that she is a total chocolate brownie expert, having won a competition to have her recipe published in a book. She was kind enough to share her recipe with me and I have since used that recipe countless times for a simple treat to a sophisticated dessert.
The recipe below is wonderful in both the flavour and texture. The use of the brown sugar adds that hint of something to it that I really love. The high ratio of chocolate to flour means that you can achieve the wonderful fudgey texture consistently. I find there is quite a wide window of time when the brownie will stay fudgey rather than other recipes where it's extremely hard to time it right for the texture I want. The brownie also has a nice thin crispy top.
I've made this recipe a number of ways. So far I've tried
* Plain chocolate brownie
* Peanut butter chocolate brownie
* Walnut chocolate brownie
* Raspberry chocolate brownie
* Dulce de Leche chocolate brownie
* Salted peanut dulce de leche chocolate brownie
All the flavours I've tried have tasted amazing. Each has their own appeal. If I had to pick one that I like best, it would be the raspberry one, as the tart flavour from the raspberry contrasts well with the chocolate. I have yet to try using ground nuts instead of flour but I can imagine that the final result will be even more decadent and fragrant.
* Use high quality 70% cacao chocolate. You really taste the difference with the quality of the chocolate. I thought 70% chocolate would be too dark for my liking but when cooked, it loses some of the bitterness and tastes fantastic. I've tried it with 40% cacao chocolate and it's just not as good.
* Use a square cake tin. I usually make a double batch and initially used a large tray to put both batches in at once. This meant that when I got the centre to the right consistency, the edges were far too cooked. A square tin means the edges are not too overcooked when the centre is fudgey.
* Always undercook the brownies. Even if they are really sloppy, leaving them in the fridge overnight will make them lovely and fudgey. Check the brownies after about 20 minutes (at least that's what works for my oven) with a wooden skewer. Take them out when there is a thick mayonnaise consistency batter sticking to the skewer. The brownies will continue to cook a bit more when out of the oven. This will give the perfect fudgey brownie.
* If you are going to add things into the batter, such as peanut butter, dulce de leche, choc chips etc, go heavy handed. Add far more than what you think is adequate or the flavour gets lost amongst the chocolate.
* In the original recipe, the chocolate and butter was melted over a double boiler. I did this initially but thought it would be easier to just melt them directly in a pan. I couldn't taste any difference so I suggest melting directly in a pan as it's much easier. Just keep the heat low so as not to burn the chocolate.
* You may be tempted to reduce the sugar, but don't. The brownie is rich and sweet but the sugar helps to give it the right balance with the dark chocolate. If you want to be healthy, don't make these brownies. I would only drop the sugar if you intend to add other sweet things to the brownies, such as the dulce de leche.
* The brownies taste far nicer when left overnight. They don't taste super awesome when warm, so I suggest you make them a day earlier for whenever you want to eat them, if you can resist chomping into them. I've left them for as long as a week and they're still very good.
That's pretty much all I can tell you about these brownies. They are seriously awesome and you can add anything to them. The flavour combinations are only limited by your own imagination. Go forth and experiment. I'd love to hear about and try out any of your attempts that turn out well so please feel free to leave comments. If you have any problems and questions, I'd also be happy to answer them so leave a comment. I'd like to thank Viviane Buzzi for sharing her recipe with me so in her honour, I am going to call this recipe VB Chocolate Brownies so it has a unique name and people can refer to it and know which recipe is being discussed.
VB Chocolate Brownies
300g bittersweet chocolate
125g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp liqueur or brandy (Grand Marnier, Tia Maria etc)
1/2 cup plain flour sifted (or finely ground nuts)
1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a 23cm square cake tin.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat until smooth.
3. Beat eggs with sugar until thick and light.
4. Add liqueur.
5. Fold in chocolate-butter mixture to eggs.
6. Fold in flour or ground nuts.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes. A wooden skewer inserted into the centre of the brownies should come out still a bit wet.
8. Do not overbake the brownies so keep an eye on it after about 15 minutes. The brownies also do not rise.
9. Let cool in tin for about 10 minutes and turn out onto wire rack to cool. Cut into squares to serve.