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Who doesn’t love brownies? Ok, potentially a lot of people but we are not some of them! These are a firm favourite in our family and it has been a long time since I have made any. How could I resist a Christmas theme at this time of year?
I am a self confessed perfectionist when it comes to baking. Most things I make are designed to look perfect, they require precision and often a steady hand. The end result isn’t always what I had in mind and I am my harshest critic. I want to teach my girls how to bake and decorate but I struggle to give up some of the control. Brownies are perfect to do this with, they are not meant to look perfect. They should be rough around the edges and homely.
The recipe I have used for years is one from Humming Bird Bakery. It is gooey and because it uses real chocolate it has a very intense flavour. Ordinarily I don’t fiddle around with it but this time I added the zest of three oranges for a Christmas flavour twist to it. (I wanted to make it with a gingerbread flavour but Hubby told me I was insane and that would be disgusting…. I think it would taste nice. No?)
To ensure a smooth baking experience, prepare everything in advance. Measure out all of the ingredients into bowls and have any equipment and utensils to hand. Things can get forgotten or burnt/over mixed if you aren’t prepared.
‘By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail’ Benjamin Franklin.
I melted the chocolate myself, as I didn’t want Pinky to get a steam burn. When melting chocolate ensure that the heatproof bowl you use fits snuggly in the saucepan without touching the bottom. If the bowl touches the bottom of the pan or the water you put in it the chocolate will burn and taste extremely bitter (not in a good chocolate way). If you get water in the chocolate it will split and go grainy. Yuk!
Before adding the other ingredients I added the orange zest to the melted chocolate to ensure it mixed in well and didn’t clump. You could also use an orange essence but I haven’t found one I like yet. If anyone knows of a good essence brand let me know!
I use two square brownie tins when I am making these. This is bigger than the recipe recommends so mine come out thinner than intended but I like them this way. Because it is such a rich flavour it can get a bit sickly. I have always cut them up into small pieces but now I spread the mixture more the portion size can be cut bigger.
I cooked these for 40 minutes at 180oC. The recipe says they should be done after 35 minutes. I learnt a long time ago (due to mistakes) that every oven runs at a different temperature. I have made these in 30 minutes before and I have also used an oven that meant they took over an hour to bake! The best way to check is get an oven thermometer. I don’t actually have one but I now know my oven well enough to know where the heat spots are and how accurate the temperature actually is. Use your instincts basically. Baking can be all about trial and error.
Once these are done and cooled completely I cut them up into triangles. I had every intention of trying to make them all the same size… That didn’t happen (give it up love it doesn’t matter).
I decided to use some Candy Melts I had in the cupboard to decorate. These can be melted using the same method for chocolate or in the microwave. Once melted put in a piping bag (carful this is warm!) and pipe however you like. You could dip the brownie straight in if you wanted*. Then I added some smarties and sprinkles to finish the look (thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration).
*The candy melts are quite thick once melted which is ideal for piping rough details. Add a little vegetable fat to thin the mixture out if you are dipping (I would anyway). Be careful not to add too much fat, but if you do, add more candy melts to thicken it up a little again. Little by little is the key. Candy Melts can also be reused, if you have some left at the end leave to cool, it will harden at room temperature, then place in a sealed plastic bag until you want to use them again.
I gave Pinky some triangles to decorate and she had so much fun. I use a cable tie at the top of the piping bag, which stops any mix coming out of the top. I find this useful myself but it even more effective for a three year old who doesn’t really have the two hand piping coordination. I put the smarties and sprinkles into bowls for her because, as I suspected, things got a little messy and no one would want to re use they ones she didn’t need!
The final result….