from one generation to the next
During November the Cookbook Guru is cooking from the Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine. I have already posted a potato and egg curry recipe which I loosely adapted to suit my diet, but in light of my recent post urging cooks to be mindful of the severe shortfall in recipe testing to which new books are subjected, I thought I’d share my critical analysis of a recipe from the magazine.
In August this year I bookmarked the recipe for Spiced Hazelnut-Cacao Brownie from a section featuring sugars and spice. I had local hazelnuts and an open packet of cacao nibs languishing unloved in my fridge, so it seemed a good way to despatch them. I made my choice based entirely on the topping baked onto that brownie. The magazine’s full page photo looks very tempting!
We follow a gluten free diet so the brownie itself is my loose adaptation of the one printed in the magazine, but I made other changes as well.
The original recipe stipulated 250g chocolate, 200g of 65% and 50g of 70% cacao solids. My question is why? I interpreted this as 250g dark chocolate and used Lindt dark bittersweet with a cacao content of 58%, the chocolate I buy in bulk and have on hand for cooking.
I reduced the massive 300g of expensive muscovado sugar to 200g of local brown sugar, and the plain wheat flour I converted to a combination of chestnut flour, hazelnut meal with a small amount of psyllium husks to give the cake strength.
I don’t have a kitchen hand to clean up my cooking mess, so rather than melting the chocolate and butter in a double boiler as instructed I used a saucepan over low direct heat, stirring constantly and removing the pot from the heat the minute the butter was melted. The remainder of the chocolate melted in the residual heat, then the saucepan became my mixing bowl. It was a simple process.
I followed the instructions and ingredients exactly for the topping, but struck a trap as soon as I began using a spoon to sprinkle it over the surface of the brownie. The small elements, the chilli and salt flakes had fallen into the bottom of the combined ingredients and the first spoonful I sprinkled was heavy with chilli and salt. I would have been better to sprinkle each element individually to get an even distribution.
The baking of the slice was routine and went pretty much according to the instructions. I cooled the slice in the tin, then transferred it to an airtight container overnight.
With camera and props ready for the finished product shots in the soft morning light, I heated my 25cm long cooks knife so I could make a clean cut through the brownie slice with a single action, but the large pieces of toasted hazelnut offered quite a bit of resistance to the razor sharp blade and my clean cuts became ragged. I should have anticipated this outcome, and in fact, close scrutiny of the full page photo in the magazine reveals where nuts were removed to give the knife clear passage. I know this is a minor issue really, but after years of working in a caterers kitchen where the expectation is that baked goods look perfect, it rankles!
It was a fine tasting brownie, but not outstanding or special, although it did seem to improve after a day or two. I suspect the chilli and the salt were added as a trendy after thought. The subtle cinnamon flavour is delicious but I found the chilli and salt superfluous.
If I had gone to buy the ingredients specifically to bake this brownie I would have been outraged at the cost, it was a very indulgent treat. Would I make it again? No, I would make Celia’s GF Chestnut Flour Brownies or Nigella Lawson’s GF Almond Meal Brownie.
250g unsalted butter
250g dark chocolate
200g brown sugar
90g hazelnut meal
90g chestnut flour
10g psyllium husks
40g Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
hazelnut cacao crunch:
50 dark chocolate, roughly chopped
50 whole hazelnuts, roughly chopped
50g cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
Grease a 22cm X 25cm slab tin and line it with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160C.
Measure and prepare the topping ingredients and place then separately on a plate. Set aside.
In a large saucepan over a low heat, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring gently to prevent the chocolate from overheating on the bottom of the pan.
Remove the chocolate from the heat and stir in the sugar.
Add the eggs one at a time, stirring thoroughly to combine.
Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly with a wire whisk then stir them into the chocolate mixture and mix lightly until combined.
Tip the batter into the prepared slab tin, spread it to the corners of the tin and smooth the top surface.
Sprinkle over the topping ingredients one by one.
Bake the brownie until it feels firm and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the centre, about 45 minutes.
Cool in the tin on a wire rack.
Cut into 20 squares and store in an airtight container.