A couple of weeks ago we had one of those crisp, sunny winter days – you know, the ones that are utterly gorgeous? – so we decided to visit the Botanical Gardens for a picnic. One of my favourite things to eat on a picnic (or any time really) are these brownies. Velvety and intensely chocolatey, studded with crunchy hazelnuts and scented with the fresh citrus notes of orange, these brownies are one of my all-time beloved recipes.
Of course, you can take the basic chocolate brownie recipe and do whatever you like with it – plain chocolate brownies are certainly more-ish, or perhaps you prefer walnuts to hazelnuts? Sometimes I make two lots of mixture, bake the brownies in two cake containers, sandwich them with whipped cream and strawberries, and drizzle with a chocolate ganache – it certainly makes a fun birthday cake…
This recipe was inspired by the brownie recipe in Tessa Kiros’s wonderful book Apples for Jam – the hazelnuts and orange are my addition.
Makes around 9 squares
150g dark chocolate, broken or chopped
30g cocoa powder, sifted
3 eggs, separated
175g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1/2 cup (around 70g) hazelnuts, roasted, cooled in a tea towel and rubbed so the dark brown skins are removed
zest of one orange
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Butter and flour a square baking tray (mine is about 21×21 cm) that is at least 3cm deep – I also like to line mine in baking paper for easy extraction.
Put the butter in a heatproof bowl that has been placed over a small saucepan of simmering water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water). When it begins to melt a little, add the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted.
Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the cocoa powder. Leave to cool a bit.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. In another large bowl, wish the egg yolks with the sugar and vanilla until creamy, then fold in the flour. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, mixing well, then add the hazelnuts and orange zest. Carefully fold in the egg whites, until everything is thoroughly mixed.
Put the brownie mixture into your prepared baking tray and cook for around 25 minutes, or until a skewer poked into the centre comes out clean. The brownie should still be quite moist in the centre with a crunchy top and edges. Leave it to cool completely before cutting into squares.