For my first bake from the United States, I chose my personal favourite of Californian carrot cake. But if I’m being honest, the archetypal American bake (leaving aside apple pie, which is really Dutch), is the chocolate brownie – born in the U.S.A and the favourite of millions. Somehow, I’ve managed to live all these years and eat countless brownies without ever having tried to make a batch, so it was about time to try.
There are a million variations on the basic brownie recipe, mainly to do with how gooey you do or don’t like your brownies, but also about choices of nuts and additional flavourings (there are even “blondies” if you prefer white chocolate or you want to omit chocolate altogether). If you are keen to calibrate your recipe carefully to your own taste, Felicity Cloake in The Guardian is probably a good place to start. This being my first time, I went for authentic Americanness rather than perfection and headed for Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker’s The Joy of Cooking, probably the most famous American cookbook of all time and the book bought by my mother in New York when my family lived there briefly in the early 1960s.
On the grand scale of things, brownies are not a difficult bake: there’s just one tricky bit, namely knowing when they’re done. Again, this is a function of how gooey you want them: I got panicky and left mine in too long, so they were considerably too cake-like for my taste. So don’t use the “skewer has to come out dry” test if you want them remotely sticky.
With my usual aversion to measuring things in cups, I’ve turned everything to metric.
Brownies are, by tradition, square or rectangular. I used a pretty standard 30cm x 40cm baking tin which resulted in fairly thin brownies. If you like them thicker, either go for a smaller tin or multiply up the recipe.
- 100g chocolate (I used Menier 70%)
- 60g unsalted butter
- 4 eggs (mine were of mixed size and weighed about 200g in total)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 350g sugar
- Vanilla essence to taste
- 100g pecans
- 120g flour
- Preheat oven to 175℃ fan
- Prepare your baking tin by lining its base with baking paper
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler, blend well and leave to cool.
- Add salt to the eggs and beat at high speed until frothy and mousse-like.
- Still beating, add the sugar gradually and then the vanilla essence.
- Gently fold in the chocolate-butter mixture.
- Sirt in the flour and stir.
- Chop the pecans coarsely, add them and stir.
- Pour the mixture into your baking tin, smooth it out so that it’s level.
- Bake for around 20 minutes – less for more fudgey, more for more cakey.
- Cut into squares or rectangles. For the full Americana (and particularly if, like mine, you’ve overbaked the brownies so they’re too dry, they go well with blueberries and whipped cream.