So I know we’ve talked about brownies here before. And for a long while, whenever I made these ones and contemplated writing about them I thought, ‘who really needs another brownie recipe?’. But do you know what? I’ve been making this recipe in one form or another since I was fourteen and still love them, so I obviously need it in my life, and maybe you do too*. Because where the 12-minute version I wrote about previously is dense in a soft, cakey sort of way, uninterrupted by chunky additions and gently nuanced with brown butter (and let’s not forget that salted peanut butter frosting – now I’m losing my train of thought and wondering why it’s been so long since I made them), today’s recipe is almost its opposite. In brownie terms, anyway.
Fairly heaving with pecans and white chocolate, these have just enough dark, intense batter to bind everything together. They straddle the line between baked good and confection, really. And make no mistake, they are ALL about the chocolate. I think in general if you’re going to eat or cook with chocolate you shouldn’t waste calories on the bad stuff, but particularly so in this case, where there is nothing much to hide behind – not even cocoa to help boost things – and you’ll really notice subpar ingredients.
As for baking brownies in a combi steam oven vs a regular oven, though the latter is completely fine, and I successfully made brownies for years in one, the moisture of the combi steam lends a fudginess you just can’t otherwise get, plus it’s a little more forgiving if you overbake by a minute or two (and who here hasn’t done that to a tray of brownies at least once?! Guilty). Given the option I’ll never go back to a conventional oven for any brownies.
I wish I could give you the origin of the recipe but I have no idea, and it’s been heavily adapted anyway. My first version of it is written in metallic gold pen on the mauve pages of a spiral-bound notebook I used to keep recipes in as a teenager (there’s some good stuff there, people! Although the somewhat incongruous and very nineties cat-in-a-vase photo on the cover is probably not one of them). The edits in the margins are many and include total deletion of a dark chocolate and coffee glaze. Fourteen-year-old me thought it was the best part of the recipe, but my adult tastebuds deem it a bit over the top for richness (I know, really?!), and I can’t be bothered with the effort of making it when the brownies themselves are so good.
In other, sort of related news: I am finally on the Pinterest bandwagon! I’ve had an account linked to this site since I started it but until a couple of weeks ago was only pinning the recipes I posted here. I’ve finally started pinning all sorts of other things from around the web which will work well in a steam or combi steam oven, and I have to say I’m a bit addicted. Late to the party, I know, but it’s the perfect medium for a girl who loves lists and organisation but is generally a visual learner. Anyway, if you’re Pinterest-inclined, hop on over there and follow along. If you haven’t discovered its joys yet, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
*Incidentally, how many brownie recipes IS enough?? I can report that after a lifetime of testing, I have somewhat settled on three go-to versions chosen for different ‘features’. But I could probably be convinced to add another if it were warranted. Send me your best - goodness knows I seem to have no shame when it comes to trying new recipes involving sugar and fat.
Fudge Brownies with White Chocolate and Pecans
Makes 20 bars (or one 20cm/8in square tray)
As mentioned above, the chocolate you use is key. I used Callebaut 54.5% dark in the batter and Callebaut white callets/buttons for the white chocolate add-ins. I buy both from a wholesaler in bulk quantities a couple of times a year - it’s pricey but worth every cent. And probably no more expensive than continually buying smaller quantities at the supermarket. If you cook with a lot of chocolate but, like me, have a tendency to quietly mow through a bag of decent buttons left open in the pantry, do yourself a favour and buy the whopping 5kg/11lb blocks if you can find them. It sounds crazy and maybe it is, but I find if I have to take a giant knife to it and cut it into pieces I’m far less likely to snack on handfuls of the stuff every time I pass the kitchen.
You may choose to enjoy your brownies at room temperature or even slightly warmed, but I oddly love them about 5 minutes after they come out of the fridge. Still cold, super fudgy, with the white chocolate bits almost snappy between your teeth.
250g (9oz) best quality white chocolate chips (if all you can find are baking chips, buy it in block form instead and chop)
50g (2oz) unsalted butter, chopped (cold is fine)
75g (3oz) dark brown sugar
50g (2oz) caster sugar
275g (10oz) best quality dark chocolate, chopped into pea-sized pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract or paste
65g (just shy of 2 ½ oz) plain white flour
100g (4oz) pecans, roughly chopped (walnuts are also good)
Before you do anything at all, pop the white chocolate chips into the freezer while you get everything else ready. It’ll help them hold together during baking, instead of melting into the brownies and disappearing.
Preheat your oven to 170⁰C (combination steam). If your oven has variable steam settings, use 50-60% steam. Line a 20cm/8in square tin with baking paper and extend it up the sides for ease of removing the brownies later (I use a cake tin but a shallower tray would be ideal).
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sugars together. You want the sugar to mostly dissolve otherwise your brownies will be grainy. Remove the pan from heat and immediately drop all the dark chocolate in. Give it a stir and leave to sit for a minute or two while the residual heat melts the chocolate (beware: if you stir too much the mixture can split and it won’t ever really come back together, so just mix it a couple of times until it’s combined and smooth).
Once the chocolate has melted completely and the mixture is cool enough to touch, mix in the eggs and vanilla. Fold through the flour, then the pecans and cold white chocolate.
Spread the mixture into your tin and bake for 15-16 minutes, or until a skewer tests almost clean (a few crumbs on the skewer are ok). Cool to room temperature, then chill until completely cold before removing the whole slab from the tin and cutting into bars or squares.
These will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for about 5 days, if you can make them last that long.
But I don’t have a steam/combi-steam oven! Bake them in a regular oven at 180⁰C for 20-25mins. If you want to approximate something more like the texture of the combi steam version, half fill a shallow dish with boiling water and place it on the bottom rack of your oven when you bake the brownies.