When I first wrote about the ridiculous number of keys I owned for work, I never thought I would come across a case of actually feeling like I should be asking for more keys or even stronger locks.
On Thursday afternoon, someone discovered that my main freezer had suffered an attempt on it’s life. The unknown assailant had tried to open the freezer door by force and bent the lock in the process. This prevented it from closing fully, so when it was finally discovered, the internal temperature was hovering at 20’C and the thermostat was beeping in alarm. When I was told, I sprinted down the corridor to the freezer to be greeted by the sight of two kitchenhands and a chef, trying in vain to bend the lock back so that the door could be shut and the alarm would stop. I’ll never forget the sight of all those trays of melted ice-cream. Over 600 ice-cream sticks I had spent hours prepping, lying waste in multi-coloured pools like the drool of an alien monster; several tubs of back-up ice-cream and a few sheets of Danish pastry : all this equates to a large amount of food/money wasted. Not to mention if you work alone and each ice-cream stick represents precious time you spent standing in the chilly coolroom, scooping and skewering them. It was so distressing, my right eye actually started twitching involuntarily; a stress related trait I seem to have picked up from my mom.
The worst thing is that I work in an irritatingly super-security-conscious building, so, as my boss says, “It had to be an inside job!” I had made a point of locking the freezer this time because of its precious cargo. In the past I would open the unlocked freezer and occasionally discover that someone had filched a few ice-creams and had the gall to discard the used sticks on the floor of the freezer. If you’re going to steal, at least bin the sticks instead of leaving them there for me to discover and clean up!
It’s times like these that you don’t need a Mentos, so much as a big dose of chocolate. I baked this chocolate brownie last weekend when Calamari came over to rock it out with B. There’s still one piece left and it’s waving a very cheery hello to me at this very moment.
You can never have enough chocolate brownie recipes, I’ve decided. They’re a bit like shoes, or little black dresses, or even Qantas airplanes : “Subtly, each aircraft is different, so please pay attention to this safety announcement”.
Subtly, each chocolate brownie recipe is different, so please endeavour to try them all! Some yield incredibly moist and goey brownies, others are more cakey and firm. I like mine a little inbetween; almost chewy, and I always feel a little better and a bit more comforted after a small dose of chocolate. My personal preferences for brownies also include :
1. The darker the chocolate, the better.
2. No fresh fruit (not even raspberries) or dried fruit (like raisins, currants..).
3. Blondies are vastly inferior to brownies, but white chocolate chips folded into the brownie mix is OK, if you really must.
4. Toasted macadamia nuts are great, for a bit of texture and interest. Pecans and walnuts are also good, but given a choice, macadamias would come first.
I already have two favourite brownie recipes that I usually turn to, but sometimes it’s also fun (and therapeutic) to see what else the brownie world has to offer. This particular one, by my favourite domestic goddess, Belinda Jeffery, is unusual because unlike most recipes I’ve come across, the chocolate is not melted in a double boiler then mixed with the flour, eggs, etc. Instead, it is tipped into the food processor with sugar and processed until fine, then combined with the soft butter and eggs, and processed again.
The resulting brownie (which keeps very well) is rich and slightly chewy with a great crust. It soothes all ills and helps you carry on through the daily disasters of life…
Failing that, call the police and have the damn freezer door finger-printed.
Double chocolate pecan brownies :
(from Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery)
90g roasted pecans
1/4 cup (35g) plain flour or spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
225g good-quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
2/3 cup (150g) castor sugar
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 x 60g eggs
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
120g good-quality milk chocolate, cut into small chunks
icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat your oven to 160’C. Butter a 22cm square cake tin. Line it with a sheet of buttered foil, then line the base with buttered baking paper. Set aside.
Pulse the pecans in a food processor to chop them coarsely. Tip them into a bowl and toss them with a couple of teaspoons of the flour. Set aside.
Whiz the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in the processor until they’re just combined, then tip them into another bowl. Add the dark chocolate and sugar to the processor and whiz them together until the chocolate is very finely chopped. Add the butter, eggs and vanilla extract to the chocolate mixture and whiz them together for 1 minute, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice with a rubber spatula. Add the flour mixture and pulse it in only until everything just combines into a thick batter. Use a spatula to stir in the pecans and milk chocolate chunks. Smooth the batter into the prepared tin.
Bake for about 40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownie comes out with moist, but not wet, crumbs on it. Cool the brownie in the tin on a wire rack. Once cool, pop it in the fridge to chill.
When you’re ready to cut it, grasp the foil and ease the whole brownie out of the tin. Invert it onto a flat plate and gently peel away the foil and paper, then invert it again onto a chopping board.
Slice the brownie into bars with a hot, dry knife. Just before serving the bars, dust with icing sugar to give them pretty snowy tops. Layer the remaining bars between sheets of baking paper in an airtight container. Store them in the fridge for 10 days or so (or freeze them for up to 4 weeks).
[Note: For the chocolate, I used a Belcolade 64% dark chocolate and Kennedy & Wilson milk chocolate which is lightly flavoured with cardamom. Also, I didn’t have the required cake tin, so used a round similar sized tin instead, with a removable bottom, which didn’t require lining with the buttered foil as stated in the recipe.]