I've mentioned before that I've been teaching my stepson Christian (14) to cook on and off for the past seven years, during which, I have discovered that my teaching skills leave a lot to be desired.
You know how when you have guests and are cooking dinner and a guest says "can I help with anything?" and if you actually give them a task, it totally throws off your timing and overall cooking mojo? (Am I the only one?) Well I'm the same with teaching cooking.
Somehow, my groove gets totally thrown off, I forget important instructions and assume that somehow my stepson understands what I mean when I say "fold" or "drizzle" or "small dice" when I haven't even shown him yet. I get exasperated (inwardly) when he forgets to let the wok smoke before adding the oil or takes 45 minutes to peel a shrimp or two.
One thing that IS fairly easy to teach though, is baking. Maybe it's because there is little in the way of mise en place to get wrong and timing is much less of a worry than when you're trying to bring the various components of a dish together at the same time.
Not ONCE while making these brownies did I feel the need to say "Let me just do this part..." and Christian was so proud of the finished product.
I had made some sea salted butter caramel ice cream the day before specifically to serve with these brownies and they do go together a treat, but each would make an indulgent little sweet all on its own.
The brownie recipe is Lulu Grimes' from the back of this month's Olive Magazine, and is one of the best I've ever had. Knowing that I was going to be serving them with the caramel ice cream, I didn't feel the need to add chocolate chips or nuts to the mix, but there's no reason you couldn't.
Do the ice cream first, so that it's set when the brownies are almost cool.
Rich Chocolate Brownies with Sea Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
takes approx 4 hours, including cooling, makes 9 servings of each
For the ice cream:
2 cups double cream (heavy whipping cream)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cups golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 pinches, fine sea salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
Put the sugar in an even layer in a heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan over a moderate heat and leave it alone until you start to see the edges melting and going golden brown. Slowly stir the sugar with a wooden spoon for a minute or so, until all of the sugar has melted and is a deep, dark golden brown and bubbling away. Add the butter, a little at a time and stir well between each addition until just combined, then pour in the cream. The caramel will seize up at this point because of the addition of the cool liquid and the pan will bubble madly, but turn down the heat a little and stir rapidly for 6-7 minutes, until the caramel has dissolved into the cream, (this is where having a 14 year old around comes in handy) then turn off the heat.
Beat the eggs well in a bowl and add the vanilla, salt and then stir in the milk. Pour the thick caramel cream into the milk, whisking well as you go, then refrigerate this mixture for a couple of hours before churning.
Use an ice cream machine to churn your ice cream base for approximately 30 minutes (follow the manufacturer's instructions) then scrape into an air tight container and pop in the freezer for an hour or so to finish firming up.
For the brownies: (Thanks again Lulu!)
100g (3.5oz) unsalted butter, chopped
200g good quality dark chocolate, chopped (We used Valrhona, but Green and Black's 85% dark would be good)
4 free-range eggs
250g golden caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Heat the oven to 180C (350F) and line a 22cm square brownie tin* with baking parchment.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave or in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water then cool to room temperature.
Whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, then sift on the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Fold this in to give a fudgy batter and pour into your prepared brownie tin, smoothing out to create an even thickness.
Bake for 25-30 minutes**, or until the top is cracked but the middle is just set.
Cool completely before lifting out to cut.
*We used a 20cm tin because I don't have a 22cm one. This meant our brownies were a little thicker, especially around the outside, where they rose and set a little more, which we rather liked.
**Better to err on the side of undercooked if you want fudgy brownies. Cooking for too long will produce a drier, more cake-like finished product.
Serve the brownies still ever so slightly warm with a scoop of the caramel ice cream on top.
I think tomorrow I'm going to make some hazelnut praline, which I'm going to powder and sprinkle on the top.