Three years is a fair chunk of time. It’s as long as I was at university for – longer if you consider that the academic year runs from October to June. To the day, it’s the length of time that it took for me to qualify as an accountant. I was an only child for three years before the slightly unwelcome arrival of my younger brother.
The last three years have taken me from the tail end of my mid-twenties to these first few months of my thirties (a fact I still find almost impossible to believe). They’ve seen a house move and several office moves. There have been some strange times and some difficult times but, thankfully, a lot of happy times too. I think there’s been quite a lot of growing up done in the last three years. And for the most part, it’s all been documented here.
In many/most ways, I’m a terrible blogger. I read a lot of resources and how to guides when I started and I’m pretty sure I don’t do any of the things I’m supposed to.
I have no editorial calendar and absolutely no idea what I’m going to post next week. I don’t really understand a lot of things that I should really care about like SEO or words that end with ‘isation’ (optimisation, monetisation etc). The concept of scheduling pins or facebook posts baffles me. The vast majority of my tweets are in-jokes with my friends. Sometimes I take a photograph and realise that not a single thing is in focus (as above – but I sort of love that you can see the reflection of the clouds in the egg yolks).
It totally amazes me that I’m here still three years (and a day) after my first post, let alone the fact that you are too.
I’ve made a lot of brownies in the last three years and I’ve eaten a fair few more. They’re are almost always the first thing I think about baking when the urge strikes. There’s no situation that can’t be made better by a batch of brownies.
They are also, in my opinion, a gateway gluten free baked good. They don’t particularly rely on flour for structure or taste and I tend to think that a flourless brownie is really quite a superior thing. Their gluten freeness is an added bonus but all I care about really is that they are rich and chocolatey and slightly squidgy as any good brownie should be. You shouldn’t really need any add-ins to enjoy a brownie but if you want to spread a layer of sticky, salted caramel in there, I totally support that choice.
Thank you for the last three years – for showing up here and reading my posts, even (or especially) the rubbish ones. Thank you for the emails and tweets and comments and the myriad of other ways that you’ve made me feel slightly less crazy over the last few years. I definitely owe you a brownie or two.
I've played around with these brownies a fair amount over the last few months to get something that I'm happy with - one of my main discoveries was that a store-bought caramel sauce works better if you want an actual layer of caramel but it's not quite as tasty as the homemade stuff. The disadvantage of the homemade stuff is that some tends to melt into the brownie so you get little pockets of caramel and then patches that just taste like caramel. I don't think this is a bad thing myself. Either way, they're pretty rich and a small piece goes a long way.
- 150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
- 80ml (1/3 cup) double cream
- 45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (or more, to taste)
- 300g (12 oz) dark chocolate (70% is ideal), roughly chopped)
- 175g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 170g (1 cup less 1 tablespoon) demerara sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
- 35g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- It's probably easiest to make the caramel first if you're making it by putting the sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Heat it over a medium heat, swirling the sugar round to ensure that it all melts. When it is all liquid and golden brown, take it off the heat and add the cream (it will fizz up, don’t worry). Stir with a wooden spoon to incorporate before adding the butter and salt and beating the mixture until smooth. Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature before chilling until required.
- To make the brownies, preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a 23cm square tin with greased paper.
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a bowl of barely simmering water, stirring constantly until they're all liquify. Pour the chocolate mixture into a bowl, add the sugar and beat well. Add the eggs, one by one, followed by the vanilla and continue to mix until combined. Finally, gently mix in all of the dry ingredients.
- Pour about 2/3 of the batter into the tin, add the chilled caramel in splodges and cover with the remaining brownie batter. It doesn't matter if there are a few gaps where the caramel peaks through.
- Bake for about 30 minutes until just firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. For best results, chill in the fridge for an hour or so before cutting.
The salted caramel is, of course, optional. Feel free to leave it out (or use store bought) if you'd rather. I used the same base brownie recipe to make quadruple chocolate brownies for my boyfriend to take to work the other day by chopping up as many random half-opened different types of chocolate bars I could find in the fridge and throwing them in. They went down very well.