Who could have foreseen just three short weeks ago as I was preparing to become Mrs Cook that the world would suddenly become such a crazy place - half of us frustrated at being stuck indoors and a bit short of toilet roll, eggs and flour; the rest of the world striving to get us back to normality, risking their lives on a daily basis to bring us our freedom.
As always, times like this bring out both the worst and the very best in us. I have been utterly privileged to marry my lovely husband at long last and spend the best day ever with (most of) our loved ones. And as a daily keyboard jockey, been lucky enough able to stay in the safety of my home with hubby and my lovely daughter and stay in touch with family and friends as we ride this crisis out. I love that the street we live in (along with many others) have created a support network that we could call on if we needed - and have joined in the #clapforcarers on a Thursday night.
I won't dwell on the human behaviours that have upset me. Suffice to say it has made me reflect on the person I am and the company I keep. And how life will change in the future.
But for now, we are lucky enough to continue to have many pleasures in life. The fact that as a family we've never spent so much time together - normally we're dashing off to work or clubs or to visit family in two separate counties. I can count the number of times the three of us have spent a whole weekend at home over the last year on one hand. This time together is a blessing for us. I'm lucky enough to have had time to watch the primroses unfurl in the grass outside the dining room window as I juggle video conference after video conference. And to take pleasure of the tiny birds that have sought refuge to grow their new family in our super-urban garden.
But mostly for someone who loves her food, I've had lots of kitchen time - albeit with a slightly depleted pantry. Cooking is one of life's simple pleasures for me and whether it's cooking for one or for a small family, it can be a joy to create something. Of course it needs to be balanced with exercise, particularly if the cooking is cake related!
Anyhoo, I could rattle on for ages. But I'm guessing you just want me to cut to the chase and give you the recipe. Before I do, here are a few tips:
Dark chocolate - ideally 60% cocoa or higher, but the cheap supermarket plain chocolate works just fine
Butter - unsalted is preferable; if you can't get it then something like Stork can be used (other baking margarines are available) but not spreadable butter as the water content is too high
Sugar - caster is best. Alternatively light brown sugar or 50/50 caster and dark brown sugar works - your brownies will be fudgy with a caramelly taste
Tin - if you don't have an 20cm square tin, you can use a 9" round tin, a small lined baking tray or even a small foil roasting tray. Just adjust the cooking time slightly - start checking after 20 mins. The smaller your tin, the deeper the brownies so the longer the cooking time.
Storage - keep in an airtight box for up to a week. If you need to freeze, wrap well in clingfilm and then in a ziplock bag or airtight box and freeze for up to three months. Thaw at room temperature for six hours before eating.
185g Dark Chocolate
185g unsalted butter
85g plain flour
275g caster sugar
3 large eggs (at room temperature)
100g chocolate chunks - optional - you could use nuts or dried fruit if you'd rather
Preheat oven to 160c fan/180c/gas 4
Line the base and sides of a 20cm (8") square cake tin (approx 3" deep) with baking parchment
Melt the dark chocolate and butter gently until liquid. Leave to cool to room temperature
While the chocolate mixture is cooling, chop the white chocolate into small pieces.
Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl
Whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and pale and fluffy. When the mixture is ready, the beaters should leave a trail on the top of the mix when you lift them up. This takes anywhere from 4-10 mins depending on your mixer. If you don't have an electric whisk, this is a great workout for those bingo wings with a manual one.
Using a rubber spatula, fold the cooled chocolate into the egg mixture using a gentle figure of eight motion. Try to combine well without over-mixing.
Sift the flour and cocoa (again) into the chocolate and egg mixture, and mix using a figure of eight motion.
Finally gently stir in the chocolate chunks until evenly distributed
Pour into the pan and bake for 25 mins.
Bake for 25 mins then pull the shelf out a bit and gently shake the tin. If the brownie wobbles in the middle, it's not quite done, so slide it back in and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the top has a shiny, papery crust. (I also double check the middle with a cocktail stick) Take out of the oven.
Cool in the tin until completely cold, then cut into sixteen squares and demolish!!
Hope you enjoy baking this. Share the pics of your creations over on my Facebook page.
Stay safe, stay home if you can. And if you're a Key Worker - thank you from the bottom of my heart