Well hello there. Here we are at last… together, alone. As this is your first time, I was thinking maybe we should start off gently, perhaps with a nice basic Victoria Sponge. I could guide you through the basic techniques. We could try out a few simple things, find out what you’re comfortable with and take it from there…
But then I thought, to heck with that! I feel like being naughty today. So for my very first recipe I am going to show you my equivalent of the car chase at the beginning of a Bond film: My Legendary Snickers Brownies! It’s going to be a wild and dizzy ride. So strap yourself in; I wouldn’t want you to get hurt:
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
- A nonstick brownie pan – approximately 10 inches long, 7 inches wide and at least 1 inch deep
- Silicone or baking paper
- A large metal mixing bowl
- A large glass or ceramic mixing bowl
- Several smaller bowls, three or four
- A stiff mixing spatula
- Several smaller spatulas
- A big chopping knife
- A large palette knife
- A pattern scraper (optional)
- Several spoons
- A fork
- Some toothpicks
- Vegetable oil to help things slip out more easily
- An electric hand mixer
For the brownies:
- 75 grams of butter or margarine
- 150 grams of dark chocolate broken into pieces
- 3 large eggs
- 90 grams of dark soft brown sugar
- 100 grams of white or golden caster sugar
- 75 grams of plain flour
- 25 grams of cocoa powder plus extra for dredging, (I’ll explain later)
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 4 Snickers bars finely chopped
For the topping:
- 200 grams of crunchy peanut butter
- 75 grams of salted peanuts
- 200 grams of plain cream cheese at room temperature
- 150 grams of dark chocolate
- 75 grams of icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4.
First off seize your brownie pan. Be masterful; show it you mean business. Lubricate it liberally with some vegetable oil. Then cut out an oblong of baking paper. This needs to be either baking parchment or silicone paper, which you will sometimes see referred to on the box as ‘Baking Paper’. Do NOT use greaseproof paper as it has a tendency to leave a sticky mess. Once you have your oblong, carefully massage it into the sides, corners and crevices of the lubricated brownie tin. Make sure you have cut off enough paper so that it rises above the edges of the pan. This will help to prevent overspill when the batter rises and make it easier to extract the finished product:
Next we are going to construct a device known as a double boiler in which to melt the chocolate. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds; it’s basically just a metal bowl sitting over a pan of boiling water. Place a small amount of water into a large saucepan to a depth of no more than a couple of inches and bring it to the boil, either by turning on the stove or by giving the water a smouldering stare (which is what I usually do). It is important that the base of the bowl and the water do not touch, and most vital of all, do not allow any water to get into the bowl – you want things to get steamy, not soggy:
Once the water in the pan has come to a boil, turn the heat down low and place the butter and broken dark chocolate pieces into the bowl. They should start to melt immediately. Stir them with your stiff rubber spatula until you have a smooth, thick, velvety dark liquid. Please note, it is vital that you don’t overheat the chocolate as it could burn and turn gritty. You can help avoid this by turning off the heat while there are still some lumps of unmelted chocolate in the mix. Keep stirring and just let the steam from the water melt the chocolate the rest of the way until it is completely liquid. Slip on some oven gloves and remove the bowl from the heat. Set it aside to cool a little…
While you’re waiting for your goo to cool, grab your big knife and slice the four Snickers bars into thin piece like so:
Put half of the chopped Snickers piece into one bowl and leave them as they are for now. The remaining Snickers pieces you will need to put into a separate bowl because they will be wanting some special attention. They need to be pampered and powdered – cocoa powdered to be exact. Sprinkle on about two heaped tablespoons of cocoa and then gently tumble and caress the Snickers pieces with a spoon until each individual piece is evenly dusted. The reason for doing this is because these pieces are going to be mixed into the brownie batter. The cocoa coating will help to maintain an even distribution throughout the body of the brownie. Otherwise the Snickers pieces will have a tendency to sink straight to the bottom (not unlike every single one of my hopes dreams):
In another small bowl, measure out all the dry ingredients; that’s the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. Give them a good forking until they are thoroughly mixed. Then in yet another bowl, (I know, there’s a lot of bowls), measure out the two sugars. Fork them around too and then set these two bowls aside – not too far though as you’re going to be needing them soon…
From this point things are going to pick up pace. So keep up, because if you fall you’re on your own, ‘cus I’m gonna go on…
By now your melted chocolate mixture will have cooled down to a tolerable temperature, because the next things you are going to add to it are the eggs. Putting eggs into hot chocolate will result in chocolate scrambled eggs, and that’s not what we’re going for today. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. For the purposes of this photo essay I put all the eggs in at once, because I’m in demand and my time is precious:
Once you have beaten in the last of your eggs, tip in the sugars and mix thoroughly. Brown sugar, no matter how soft, tends to be a bit lumpy. So watch out for those and press them out with your spatula until you have a smooth liquid-like mixture:
Now the dry ingredients – mix thoroughly:
And finally (for this stage at least) add the cocoa dusted Snickers pieces. As before, you need a gentle touch with these pieces – stir them into the batter with a tender folding motion, as if you were massaging a lover’s toes:
We’re almost into the home stretch now as far as the brownie phase goes. But don’t flag yet, this is the trickiest part. So keep those pretty eyes on me.
Scoop the brownie batter into the prepared pan and tip the pan gently from side to side so that the magnificent gunk gets into all the corners:
Now go get the undusted Snickers pieces and dot them at semi regular intervals over the surface of the batter. Press them down with your finger, but not too hard – they just need to be sitting proud and pert on the gentle ripples of the glistening chocolatey lake:
Now you can slide the whole thing into the oven, the top shelf is the best place – and as I said, this is the tricky part. How long do we bake it for? Well there’s no straightforward answer to that when it comes to brownies. If you really press me on it, I’d say between 40 minutes to an hour, depending on how hot your oven gets… but it’s more of an art than a science. You need to stop baking while the brownie is still just a little bit raw in the middle. That’s where the toothpick comes in handy.
Check the brownie mix after about 35 minutes – it will probably still be too raw at this point; you’ll notice a bit of a wobble in the middle. So just put it back to bake a little longer. Check it again after about 15-20 minutes and test it by dipping the toothpick into the centre. If the tip is too gooey, put the pan back to bake for another 10-15 minutes. If just the tip of the pick is gooey, that means your brownies are done:
What you end up with should look like this:
Put the pan onto a wire rack and leave it to cool completely. The windowsill is a good place for this – but you might leave yourself exposed to sneaky brownie pinchers. If that worries you, then after about an hour on the rack you can put your brownies in the fridge to finish off.
I suppose you could just eat your brownies as they are, if you want to play it safe. But I know another way that’s a bit more… how can I put it? Well, it’s just MORE! Would you like me to show you? Okay. I don’t do this for everyone, but you’ve got a cheeky smile so I’ll treat you.
Once the brownie slab has cooled down completely, dollop 200 grams of crunchy peanut butter over the top of it – that’s about three heaping tablespoons. Spread it all evenly with a flexible steel palette knife:
This next bit can catch some people off guard. Take 75 grams, about two good handfuls, of salted peanuts and sprinkle them over the peanut butter:
“Whoa! What? Salty on sweet? Are you sure about this?”
Easy there now, don’t get yourself all hot and flustered; I know what I’m doing. Trust me, this works.
Incidentally, I’m sure you noticed that I resisted the urge to make any off colour remarks about grabbing handfuls of salty nuts – I’m classier than that.
Now them, cream cheese chocolate frosting. I’m sure you are aware that there is already a brand of chocolate blended cream cheese out there. You could use that if you’re in a hurry, and if you’re lacking any taste and refinement. But that’s not how we do things around here. We’re all about quality.
You need 200 grams of plain cream cheese. It has to be at room temperature; this is important. If you add melted chocolate into chilled cream cheese, you are likely to end up with a curdling type situation on your hands. Take the carton out for the fridge about two or three hours before you need it and set it aside in a cupboard. If you take the carton out of the fridge just before you start mixing your brownie batter, it should be just right by now.
You also need 150 grams of dark chocolate broken into pieces and placed into a microwave safe ceramic bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave by zapping it on full power for 30 second intervals until the chunks are about two thirds melted. Take the chocolate out of the microwave and stir it with your spatula, letting the latent heat in the bowl melt the chocolate the rest of the way. Again, it is crucial not to overheat the chocolate – I can’t stress that enough. Set the chocolate aside to cool down a little bit.
Scoop the cream cheese into a bowl and whisk it with a hand mixer for a minute or or so. add about three tablespoons of icing sugar, stir it in with a spatula before giving it a buzz with the hand mixer. Spoon in the rest of the 75 grams of icing sugar, stir and whisk until everything is well combined:
Scoop in the melted chocolate and stir it in with the spatula before giving it a final whisk with the mixer:
Are you all right? You looked like you were starting to wilt a bit. I understand – this recipe does tend to overwhelm some people, and that’s before they’ve even taken a single bite. But come on, don’t droop on my now; chin up, chest out – we’re almost home.
Glop the chocolate cream cheese over the peanut layer. ‘Glop’, is that even a word? I’m not going to bother looking it up. I’ve said it now, so as far as I am concerned it is a word. It means exactly what it sounds like it means. After you’ve glopped, spread the cream cheese evenly with your palette knife:
You don’t have to do this next stage; it won’t affect the flavour at all. But I like pretty things, so I am going to do it. I have one of these metal pattern scrapers for icing:
I just give it a couple of passes over the top with the wavy edge, and that usually does it for me:
Lift the whole block out of the pan by the edges of the baking paper. Place it on some paper kitchen towels, peel away the edges and slice it all up into squares, as big as you feel able to handle:
Well what are you waiting for? Get to scoffing!