It's not as if I were short of a brownie recipe or two: I have over the years made them on easy autopilot; but I am no less grateful for this everyday, no-notice version. They are less extravagant - I use cocoa powder in place of the good-quality chocolate, and stud the mixture with a newstand's or convenience store's bar or two of milk chocolate - although to taste them, you would never, never guess. They ooze with such dark elegance and deep, deep chocolatiness.
This is the recipe you turn to when a child or colleague informs you last thing that you're expected to bake something for a bake sale tomorrow. You can just smile serenely and head for the cupboard. If you're working from a more restrained array, so are clean out of light brown sugar, and there's no chance to nip to a convenience store for the chocolate, then just use 1 1/2 cups regular white sugar and up the butter to 1 1/2 and the cocoa to a heady 1 cup.
A final note or, rather, nag: when I say cocoa powder, I do mean unsweetened cocoa; do not under any circumstance ever substitute drinking chocolate.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a medium-sized saucepan.
When it's melted, add the sugar, stirring with a wooden spoon (still over a low heat) to help it blend with the melted butter.
Whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and pinch of salt, and then stir into the pan; when mixed (this will be a very dry mixture, and not wholly blended at this stage), remove from the heat.
In a bowl or jug, whisk the eggs with the vanilla extract and then mix into the brownie mixture in the pan.
Stir in the chopped chocolate and quickly pour and scrape into a foil-lined baking tin or disposable foil pan, spreading the mixture with a spatula, and cook in the preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes. It will look set, dark and dry on top, but when you feel the surface, you will sense it is still wibbly underneath and a cake tester will come out gungy. This is desirable.
Transfer the pan to a rack to cool a little before cutting into 16 pieces and dusting with confectioners' sugar. I love these gorgeously warm. But then again, I love them cold, too. Actually, when cold they are properly speaking more brownie-like: gooily tender within and moreishly chewy on top.
Make Ahead Note: The brownies can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container. Will keep for total of 5 days.
Freeze Note: The brownies can be frozen for up to 3 months in airtight container, layered with baking parchment. Thaw overnight in cool place.
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From Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. Copyright 2010 Nigella Lawson. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.
Tools You May Need
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