I did promise you some brownies, and I don’t think these will disappoint. They’ve been not-disappointing me for several weeks now, and after four batches (for recipe development purposes? Yes?), I’m still not sick of them.
One of my all time favourite food bloggers, Luisa at The Wednesday Chef, posted about them recently here; she found the recipe in Ashley Rodriguez’s lovely new book, Date Night In. I’ve seen images and links to them all over the place since then, which I guess makes them the current darlings of the food-blogosphere. For good reason, too: the brownies themselves are dark and complex thanks to the addition of browned butter and not too much sugar, and the frosting is peanut-butter-laden and sweet but with a hefty dose of softly crunching salt flakes which tie everything together (if you haven’t been converted to the trend for salt-in-sweet, I’m not sure we can be friends. It’s unbeatable). It seems at first glance as though there’s too much frosting for the brownies, but the balance is strangely just right.
So though I hadn’t intended to blog about brownies which several writers have already given perfectly good recipes for, the people I’ve fed them to recently had other ideas. First I took some to an in-home appliance demonstration for a couple of lovely ladies and their new Gaggenau steam ovens, whereupon the recipe was requested after the first bite. Then I served them at an appliance education dinner where I had to hoard a couple off the serving plate so the staff (ahem) didn’t miss out. When we took the most recent batch to our friends who hosted breakfast over the weekend and one of them couldn’t wait until breakfast was finished to crack the box open, it became apparent the world actually DOES need more brownies.
Ashley’s original recipe and Luisa’s adaptation were written for conventional ovens. I tried that method first and they’re fabulous. Rich, dark and super fudgy. Cooked in a combi-steam, though, their fudginess is taken to a whole new level, so if you like your brownies super dense and squidgy it’s definitely the way to go. Plus, as per the title, they only take 12 minutes to cook! That means with mixing and cooling time, you could have your very own batch in an hour or two. Conventional oven-ers, you’ll need to stand, mouth watering, at the bench for a few minutes longer. I hope you can manage it.
In social media news: I have finally gotten around to putting pictures/links to all the blog’s posts so far on Pinterest! Join me there if that’s your thing. I’m also attempting to navigate Twitter for the first time ever. It probably won’t be pretty, and it definitely won’t be altogether professional, but you can follow me there too – it’ll be good for a laugh.
12 Minute Steam Oven Brownies with Salted Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes 1 x 20cm (8 inch) square tray – I cut this into 20 pieces.
These brownies are incredibly dark and not overly sweet, which makes a great counterpart to the sweetness of the frosting. The original recipe called for unsweetened chocolate and a bit more sugar, but Luisa used chocolate with 70% cocoa solids and the quantity of sugar written below. I’ve made them with both 70% and 85% (supermarket staple Lindt in both cases), and I think I prefer the 85% version. You could add another 25g of sugar, or use chocolate with 50-60% cocoa solids if you prefer things sweeter.
A note on browned butter: if you haven’t been introduced to the joys of nutty, toasty browned butter in baked goods yet, you’re welcome. Also, I’m sorry, because if you’re like me, once the discovery’s been made you won’t be able to just leave things alone and will be substituting it for regular melted butter in all sorts of delicious places. Namely: brown butter chocolate chip cookies, brown butter pound cake, spiced pumpkin cake with brown butter, brown butter spoon cookies...
A note on the frosting: I suspect thanks to life in a warm climate, I found my first batch of frosting soft to the point of melting off the brownies. I’ve revised ingredient quantities to stiffen it up somewhat but didn’t want to lose the lovely soft texture altogether. Because of this I’d recommend not stacking the cut brownies on top of one another for serving/storage (unless they are fridge-cold), or you’ll end up with a brownie layer cake. Also, if you want nice clean-cut pieces, you’ll need to chill the whole slab before cutting with a hot knife to prevent the frosting smudging.
Perfect for Easter? Yes, I think so! I’ll be making yet another batch as gifts and topping them with tiny chocolate Easter eggs.
170g unsalted butter, cubed
100g good quality dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa solids), chopped
3/4 cup (175g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (40g) cocoa powder (I prefer Dutch-processed)
1/2 cup (70g) plain flour (spelt also works well, and though I haven't tried it I think almond meal would make a good substitute if you want to go gluten free)
1/2 tsp salt
100g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (120g) smooth peanut butter (now is not the time to go all natural, salt and sugar free, people. Kraft is just fine.)
1 cup (120g) icing sugar
1/2 to 1 tsp Maldon or other flaky sea salt (I settled on just over 1/2 tsp)
Grease and line a 20cm (8 inch) square slice or cake tin, making sure your lining paper extends over two sides for ease of lifting later. Set your oven to 160˚C on combination steam (if your oven has variable steam settings, use 80% or 100% steam).
Brown your butter: put it in a small saucepan over medium heat. Let it melt then come to the boil and cook, swirling the pan frequently, until it's stopped foaming and the milk solids begin to brown. It will take about 5 minutes, and you'll know it's close when the foamy bubbles on top give way to smaller more distinct bubbles. It'll smell like caramel and nuts and the solids will drop to the bottom and change colour, at which point take it straight off the heat and pour into a heatproof bowl to avoid burning it.
Add the chocolate to the hot butter and leave it to sit for a couple of minutes so the chocolate can melt. Stir to combine, then whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Leave to cool slightly, then add the eggs and mix well (adding them when it's too hot will leave you with scrambled eggs in your batter).
Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and add the salt. Stir gently until everything is combined, then pour into the lined tin.
Bake for 12 minutes, or until the top is set and a skewer tests clean in the centre of the tray. Remove from oven and leave to cool completely in the tin before spreading the frosting over the top.
To make frosting, put all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 3-4 minutes on medium speed, until the frosting is light and fluffy. I'd recommend starting out with 1/2 tsp salt in there and gradually adding more to taste if you want it.
Serve cut into squares or bars. They will keep, covered, at room temperature for a couple of days or in the fridge for about 5 days. Though a lot of baked goods are best served at room temperature, I actually prefer these slightly cooler so the brownie is almost like a piece of fudge in texture.
*But I don't have a steam/combi-steam oven! Easy conversion today: make everything as per the recipe, but bake your brownies in a conventional oven at 160˚C for 20-25 minutes. They'll be dense and gorgeous.