On a recent trip to Scotland, I visited Leakeys (Greyfriars Hall, Church Street, Inverness, IV1 1EY), the bookshop of your dreams – a hundred thousand volumes on tall wooden shelves in a converted 18th century church whose mezzanine also houses a café where incredibly friendly and efficient staff serve exactly the kind of food you want to eat in an area where it sloshes down with rain in August. My travelling companion, a fiction buyer-bookseller extraordinaire and glutton, was most impressed, stating that while popular, the bookshop-café combination is rarely well-executed.
I bought three excellent cookbooks there – one of which is Helge Rubinstein’s The Chocolate Book (Penguin, 1983), of which I used to own the Penguin miniature a long time ago. Ms Rubenstein is another posh (ish) bird who got a wordy Oxbridge degree and went on to write cookbooks. (See also Jane Grigson, Elizabeth David and many contemporary food writers – Nigella, Fuschia Dunlop, Diana Henry.)
Each chapter of The Chocolate Book focuses on a different kind of recipe – savoury dishes, hot, cold and frozen puddings, cakes, biscuits, confectionery and drinks and marches us through the history of chocolate, from its South American origins, through the cafes of Restoration Europe, taking in the Quakers, Hershey Bars and whether or not chocolate is an aphrodisiac. The recipes are so rich, browsing on a full stomach is not recommended and, as you can see there are many illustrations.
Most of the chocolate melted into the batter so the resulting brownie had a mixed chocolatey-treacley (very treacley) flavour. It was fairly light, but also slightly springy and spongey. It was also exceptionally moist, barely holding together when cut, even when cold (the photo was taken not long after it was taken out of the oven).
If I made this recipe again, I would sprinkle the chocolate on top the batter when it was in the tin so the chocolate remained in chips, I would also use a lighter sugar (probably 50/50 caster and soft dark sugar, seeing as they’re the ones I buy, but soft light brown sugar would have a similar effect).
Tips for better brownies and blondies
Things learned through trials and error that will improve any brownie or blondie recipe:
- Whisk eggs thoroughly before adding them to the other ingredients (c/o Amy Sedaris)
- If using fruit puree e.g. banana or pumpkin and the recipe doesn’t specify a raising agent or you’re creating your own recipe, add at least a pinch of baking powder per 100g fruit.
- If caster sugar is specified, use a mix of ¾ caster sugar, ¼ soft dark sugar.
- If you like a brownie which is crispy on top and fudgey underneath, cook for 10 minutes at a higher temperature than listed in the recipe, then turn down to below the stated temperature for the rest of the cooking time. As I have a gas cooker, this usually means cooking for 10 minutes at GM5 and then turning it down to GM3
- Leaving the brownies in the fridge for a few hours when cool makes them easier to cut tidily (c/o a blogpost about brownies with booze-y icing. I‘ve lost the link to the post, but remembered the suggestion).
All baking is undertaken at your own risk and the author bears no reponsibility for chocolate so overcooked it tastes like old toast, ‘pudding-cake’ or brownies that could lag your roof.
Scotched and butterscotched by Elly