Until I was about 12, the ‘brownies’ I knew were a boiled fruit cake of sorts, laced with brown sugar, spiked with mixed spice and studded with raisins. They were made using a recipe handed down from my grandmother, Marnie, and there wasn’t a skerrick of chocolate in sight.
But then, in my moody teenage years, I was introduced to a more cosmopolitan type of brownie. One that was fudgy, rich and dense with dark chocolate. The type of brownie that originated in the United States – a combination of cake, cookie and fudge baked as a slab.
And it became an obsession. An obsession that involved an important decision.
Which camp do you stand in when it comes to chocolate brownies? Cakey or fudgy?
The truth is, I can go either way, depending entirely on my mood – whether I am looking for something wickedly rich, dense and fudgy, or something lighter and more cakey. What’s the difference in cooking terms? It depends largely on the combination of ingredients and the proportions used, along with the mixing method. If you understand what is ultimately affecting the texture, choosing a brownie recipe suited to your mood becomes a whole lot easier.
The fudgy type generally will have a higher fat (butter or oil) and chocolate ratio to flour (ie, very little or no flour) and their cakey cousins will have the reverse – more flour or cocoa powder and less fat and chocolate. Brown sugar will also give you a fudge-like texture as will the addition of extra egg yolks and a shorter baking time. Less sugar will mean less crackle on top – essentially less of a crust. Chilling your fudgy brownies will push them towards a more ‘chewy’ texture, as will the addition of more sugar. The higher the cocoa content of the chocolate you use (such as a 70% cocoa content chocolate versus a 45% one), the more intense and less sweet the chocolate flavour. Likewise if you include cocoa powder.
Baking time will also affect the character of your brownies. It’s important not to overbake any brownie but if fudgy brownies are your aim you almost need to underbake them. Most recipes will ask for ‘moist crumbs’ (not wet batter) to cling to a skewer when inserted in the centre – a fail-safe guarantee that your brownie will still have a moist, irresistible centre (no matter if it is a fudgy or cakey type) once cooled.
Here I’m sharing with you a collection of brownies for all moods – Salted peanut brookies (a brownie/cookie hybrid) for when you’re feeling playful and a little child-like; Fudgy chocolate & cherry brownies for those times when you are craving something outrageously rich and slightly grown-up ; Minted raspberry brownie trifle for those cakey-brownie-lovers after a delightful surprise; and Gluten-free beetroot, hazelnut & orange brownies for something grounded, honest and just a little wicked.
Ahhhh, chocolate brownies. The ultimate mood food.
Bake Anneka's brownies
This brownie one of those wickedly rich, unashamedly fudgy and completely over-the-top ones – the type that never disappoints. But be warned, only a small piece will suffice. Feel free to replace the brandy with an orange liqueur or whiskey. Alternatively, for a kid-friendly version, simply replace it with water. It is also particularly good served for dessert with a generous scoop of vanilla or coconut ice cream.
These brownies bring the wonderful combination of orange, chocolate and hazelnuts together in small individual packages. They also benefit from the earthy sweetness that the grated fresh beetroot adds… not too sweet and layered with flavour. Because they are also slightly fragile, make sure you bake them either in silicone pans or paper-lined metal muffin tins to make removing them from the pans hassle-free.
These trifles are a complete contradiction in terms when it comes to eating them – they are rich yet refreshing, sweet yet tart, indulgent yet light – and that’s what makes them so good. There is a flavour surprise in every mouthful.
These clever cookies are the hybrid of a brownie and a chocolate chip cookie – dark, rich and chewy on one side and crisp, simple and familiar on the other. The perfect cookie really!
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
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Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.