Tonight I’m going to the lovely Susan’s house for dinner. After faffing around on recipe websites for two hours in search of a gift to bake and take, I’ve circled back to the trusty Midnight Brownies.
Way back in 2000 the brilliant Claire Robertson of Loobylu had a Celebrity Chef feature on her website. Because there were less people online wittering about their lives back then, I managed to squeak in as a “celebrity”!
Over 14 years later I still get search requests for “midnight brownies” on this blog. Claire’s website has gone through evolutions since that time, but I found the page in the good ol’ Wayback Machine. Thanks to Claire for letting me use her original illustrations here!
This recipe was created out of a desperate need for some sort of chocolate. As university students in the mid-90s we’d often be up late writing essays in blind panic or watching crappy TV shows like Renegade or Sunset Beach. Inevitably the chocolate cravings would seize us, and since we were always too poor and lazy to go out and buy some, I used to knock up a batch of sweet and gooey Midnight Brownies. You don’t have to make them at midnight of course, but somehow they always taste better when you’ve whipped them up in a famished frenzy.
I think the original recipe came from a children’s cookbook and though I have tried all manner of complicated brownies since, I’ve never found better than these. They’re cheap, easy and scrumptious.
200 grams butter
50g cocoa powder (Green & Blacks is best)
340g brown sugar*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g plain flour
70g chopped walnuts, optional
*It’s very forgiving in terms of which kind of brown sugar you use. I’ve made this with light brown, dark brown, muscovado, golden caster, even demerara once in desperation.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Gently melt the butter and cocoa over low heat on the stove. Add the brown sugar and keep heating gently and stir it til its all one melty chocolatey mess.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the egg and vanilla essence til it all looks smooth and glossy.
3. Gradually add in the flour. Stir it up to buggery and taste to make sure it’s okay.
4. Taste again, just to be sure.
5. Pour the lot into a lined 20cm square cake tin, or divide between two 2lb loaf tins – this way you get more edge bits!
6. Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, depending on how ferocious your oven is and how firm versus gooey you like your brownies.
7. While baking, gather teaspoons and flatmates around pot and scrape up every last drop of batter. Use fingers if you’re bunch of savages (we were).
8. Get too impatient to wait and remove from oven after about 20 minutes. I like it when the top of the brownie is firm but when you poke it with your finger it’s still quite squidgy underneath.
9. Wait about 15 seconds for it to cool then eat. Also works well as a bargain molten chocolate cake for dessert when served with some fresh strawberries and softly whipped cream.
10. Next day, heat piece of brownie for 20 seconds in microwave and serve with glass of cold milk for delicious but nutritionally unsound breakfast.
UPDATE Summer 2020 – Biscoff Brownie variation!
For an excellent speculoos spiced variation:
- Omit the walnuts
- Chuck in a teaspoon of speculoos spice mix when adding the flour. I get this one from HollandShopper.nl or you can make your own here.
- Once you have the batter in the tin, decorate with Biscoff spread: warm a generous tablespoon of Biscoff spread in the microwave for 20 seconds or so to make it more liquidy. Using a teaspoon, dot small random blobs of the spread on top of the brownie batter then use a skewer or the point of a knife to make nice marble pattern. Bake as usual.
- If you really want to gild the lily you can then snap a few Biscoff cookies in half, press into the batter, then bake as usual.