As with many things in the annals of food history, and history in general, the origins of the brownie are somewhat obscured. Certainly this much loved cross between a biscuit and a cake originated in the US; one of the most common attributions is to a chef at a hotel in Chicago who was asked to create an easy-to-eat desert for ladies attending the 1893 World Fair…another version tells us that a chef omitted the baking powder from a chocolate cake recipe…
Whatever the origins, there is no doubt that this delicious concoction of chocolate, butter and eggs has gone on the take its place in the Baking Hall of Fame, altered and amended in a hundred different ways over the last hundred years. Some add nuts; walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts – still others add dried fruit from cranberries to goji berries and apricots, some employ white chocolate in place of dark…and so it goes on.
And then we come to today’s version – this historic treat is slimmed down to incorporate all things we love – the chewy fudgy chocolatey texture that is more a cake than a biscuit, contrasted with the crisp snap of flaked almonds and the sweet/salt winning combination of chocolate and vanilla-infused salt (more about this intriguing ingredient in a forthcoming post).
This recipe comes from my latest cookbook crush – Sweet Tooth by Lily Vanilli (aka Lily Jones) an amazingly talented artisan baker from London – her work is fresh and visually beautiful; she takes classic procedures and techniques and brings her own quirky creative edge to baking.
- 160g plain flour, sifted
- ⅓ teaspoon baking powder
- pinch sea salt
- vanilla salt for garnish
- 30g unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 300g dark chocolate (I use a mixture of Callebaut 53.8 and 70% cacao solids)
- 4 eggs - free range
- 175 caster sugar
- 30g flaked almonds
- In a bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, baking powder and salt - set aside.
- Melt the butter and sugar together in a double boiler (see notes for procedure). Remove from heat as soon as everything is melted and stir gently to bring together. Set aside and allow to cool slightly.
- Beat the eggs and sugar together on high speed for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is pale and slightly thickened.
- Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture, then stir in the sifted flour mix until well combined.
- Refrigerate for a minimum of 40 minutes (I have prepared the biscuits to this stage 24 hours before - as long as the mixture is well covered).
- Remove the mixture from the fridge a few minutes before using so it's not too hard; preheat the oven to 180c fan forced.
- Using a dessertspoon or an ice-cream scoop, take up the mixture in spoons-sized chunks, roll into balls and then flatten on the tray using the flat of the hand; leave a gap of approx 4cm between them.
- Press the almond flakes into the top of the biscuits, sprinkle with the vanilla salt and bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Watch carefully, as soon as the tops of the biscuits are shiny and cracked all the way across, remove from the oven.
- Leave them on the tray for 5 minutes then carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely.