Baking brilliance: Achieving the perfect chocolate brownie comes down to these 10 things

Of all the recipes in my arsenal, this is by far the most requested. And lucky you, because this is going to change your life – you can thank me later!

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Getting the perfect texture
The perfect brownie is usually fudgy in texture. Brownies don't contain enough flour to get fully cooked through like a cake (a knife will never come away clean) and as a result, a common mistake is to overcook the brownie mix, resulting in a dry crumbly brownie.  

Added cocoa is a no-no
Many recipes include cocoa powder, but this is a mistake too (in my opinion). If you use a dark chocolate in the preparation of the mixture, additional cocoa is unnecessary and can make the brownies powdery and a little bitter.

The simplicity is the selling point
The best thing about brownies is that even my five-year-old can make them (well, sort of… if you don’t mind a fair bit of double-dipping). The basic mixture should be as simple as melting the things that need to be melted and mixing it all together.  

The chocolate
This recipe is heavy on the chocolate, which can make it a bit pricey. You can use any chocolate that takes your fancy; I usually use a better-quality baking chocolate, much less expensive than supermarket chocolate and, once melted with the butter, is just as delicious.

Gluten-free
Because the recipe is low in flour, it lends itself to a gluten-free version. Simply replace the self-raising flour with gluten free self-raising flour and Bob’s your uncle!

Variations
I mostly make the relatively straight-and-narrow version (pecan nuts and dark chocolate chips), but you can add pretty much anything you like. Some of my more inspired additions are white chocolate chips, speckled eggs, mini marshmallows, cornflakes, crushed cookies and jelly beans. (Let's pretend jelly beans are inspired.)

Nuts
You can also go nuts with nuts. Pecans are the standard, but hazelnuts are lovely (toast them beforehand and rub off the skins in a tea towel), as are pistachios and white chocolate chips. Flaked almonds give it a bit of crunch, and walnuts have a good amount of bitterness to offset the sweet chocolate.

Cooking time and temperature
They cook at a low temperature and for quite a while. Set your oven to 150°C and bake until the top doesn’t wobble when you shake the tin. Remember to place a tray below, as they occasionally bubble over the sides.

Cooling and cutting
To get perfect squares, leave them to cool completely before you cut them. That will often require leaving them overnight – if you can hold off that long.

Storing
Brownies keep extremely well, about 2 weeks in an airtight container or 3 months if frozen.

Try these fool-proof chocolate brownies:

Ingredients:
250g butter
350g dark chocolate
10ml vanilla essence
10ml coffee powder
3 eggs
225g castor sugar
75g self-raising flour
150g chocolate chips
175g pecan nuts

Preparation:
Butter and flour a 23cm square cake tin. Preheat the oven to 150°C. In a microwaveable bowl, mix the butter, chocolate, vanilla and coffee. Heat in the microwave until melted. Set aside to cool slightly. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and castor sugar together. Fold in the self-raising flour. To this mixture, add the melted chocolate and butter, and mix well. Then fold in the chocolate chips and pecan nuts. Pour all this into the baking tin and bang a few times on the countertop to dislodge any large air bubbles. Bake in a slow oven for about 40 minutes. 

The mixture should have a defined crust on top and should not be wobbly, but it will still be slightly soft to the touch and a skewer will NOT come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave until completely cold (preferably overnight) before cutting. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container. The brownies can be stored for about two weeks in an airtight container, or about a month if frozen.

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