Searching for the perfect brownie recipe can be a bit like searching for the perfect zone two flat: stressful, tricky, fraught with disappointment and likely to give you the suspicion that others, far more successful at the task, somehow know something that you don’t. Just when you think that it’s never going to happen for you, the worlds align and the right thing comes along. You preen it, tweak it, make it exactly how you want it and show it off to everybody you know. I jumped for joy when given my keys for the first time, and my excitement was no less palpable when I discovered Felicity Cloake’s Perfect Brownies when scrolling through the Guardian recipe archives one afternoon.
Much like estate agents, cookery writers are all bravado when claiming that they have the exact thing you’re looking for. Just as I trawled around every available flat from Brixton to Brockley, and Deptford to Denmark Hill; I have done the rounds with the ‘Ultimate’ brownies and ‘Foolproof’ brownies without any real degree of success, finding just as much disappointment in a tray of dry cake as I would upon finding a ‘luxury ensuite’ is nothing more than a shower tray wedged into a cupboard (yes, this has happened.) I’ll stop with the property comparisons now, but I will tell you this: this is the only brownie recipe you will ever need.
Felicity Cloake is a girl who really knows how to do her research. If you haven’t read her “How to Cook the Perfect…” column, the idea is that she chooses a dish, cooks a number of different recipes and then amalgamates all of the good bits to create the perfect specimen. For her brownies, she drew upon the expertise of Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson, Prue Leith, the Ballymaloe Cookery School and Alice Medrich; a veritable round-up of experts if ever there was one. They are exactly how, in my opinion, brownies should be: moist and fudgy, and with a dusty and slightly crisp crust, and nothing at all like a slice of chocolate cake. This is achieved through using very little flour and whisking the eggs to get air into the batter, much in the same way that you would a flourless chocolate cake.
These brownies are, of course, wonderful when made exactly to Felicity’s recipe, and I do this often, but, much like the magnolia walls in my flat, I see them as an opportunity for creativity. In the past I have tarted them up with salted caramel, kirsch-soaked cherries and vanilla cheesecake – although never all at once. These peanut butter brownies are made in much the same way as you would the more ubiquitous cheesecake brownie; by swirling peanut butter buttercream into the brownie batter before putting it into the oven, which firms as it bakes. Due to my allergy, we never have peanut-based desserts at home, and the ones I make for my husband, I can never taste. He had a birthday last week and his office has the rule that whoever has a birthday provides the cake, so I made him these to take in. When I asked him how they were, he said: “Like Snickers, but better.” Which doesn’t help me out much as I’ve never had a Snickers, but you get the idea.
Peanut Butter Brownies
For the brownies
200g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter
300g soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs, plus one yolk
60g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
60g cocoa powder
For the peanut butter buttercream
60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
65g icing sugar
200g smooth peanut butter
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180ºc and line a square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, then set aside to cool.
In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, or using a hand whisk, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Turn the speed up to high and mix for five minutes until the batter has increased in volume.
Using a large metal spoon, fold in the melted chocolate. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder and fold into the mixture, being careful not to knock out too much air whilst doing so. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin.
Beat together all of the ingredients for the peanut butter buttercream and spoon tablespoonfuls over the top of the brownie batter. Using a knife, swirl the buttercream into the batter, try not to swirl too much as you want discernible pockets of each, rather than a blended mixture.
Bake the brownies in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes. They should be set at the edges and wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool fully in the tin before attempting to slice. Don’t worry if they sink a little in the middle, that’s how they get so squidgy.
One year ago: Strawberry, Almond and Coconut Baked Porridge
Other chocolate recipes on More than Just Toast:
Fried Nutella and Strawberry French Toast Sandwich
Vegan Double Chocolate Banana Bread
Emergency Chocolate Mousse