It’s not usually Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes that I’m drawn to in The Guardian Weekend – I’m far more likely to tear out the Ottolenghi page, or the Dan Lepard section. I don’t know why, since we seem to share pretty similar values, food-wise. And often the subject of the column gets me interested, but then the recipes never quite inspire me as I hope. I think maybe some chefs, some food writers connect and some don’t, and me and Hugh have a bit of a disconnect. Or we did.

He found my weak spot in the 4th June issue with a whole feature on brownies, the peak for me being a peanut butter and chocolate brownie recipe – a combination which I have both made and written about before, but these sounded, and crucially looked in the accompanying photo, soooo much better. There’s a peanut butter layer. With cream cheese. I swiped the magazine from work and, well, it’s 26 days later and it’s still languishing on the TV table. However, when my mum asked me to provide some cake for a charity garden do my parents were hosting, I remembered that there was another recipe in the feature, one which had almost passed me by, for cocoa brownies, the kind of thing that could be whipped up fairly quickly from store cupboard ingredients.

Well, to cut to the chase, I made them, I gave them to my mum and they were apparently quite unpopular with the garden-going public; luckily as it turned out, because she saved me a piece and now I can confirm that these are some good brownies indeed. Worth the slightly tedious step of beating sugar and eggs to the required thickness. Like all good brownies, they’re thick and squidgy inside with a crackly top, but the flavour provided by the cocoa is surprisingly deep and rich and the combination of muscovado sugar and browned butter rounds out the sweetness nicely. I included the optional step of adding chocolate chunks to the batter, so I don’t know how they’d be without any chocolate at all, but I’m willing to bet still delicious. Ladies of the Cotswolds, your loss is my gain.

Update! By coincidence, I mentioned this to someone at work who had just made the blondies from the very same feature. She brought some in and they were all kinds of awesome: coconut, cardamom, white chocolate chunks, and straight from the fridge with a texture like fudge. Hugh, I salute you.

Cocoa brownies

Makes 16

170g butter
200g caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g cocoa powder
50g self-raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
100g dark chocolate, chopped (optional)

Heat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 22cm square tin, or proportions thereabouts.

Melt the butter over a medium heat until it browns lightly and smells nutty. Set aside to cool while you beat together the sugars and eggs until thick and glossy. You’ll need a food mixer or electric hand mixer for this – it takes a long time, so don’t give up until the mixture is discernibly thickened. You should reach the figure of 8 stage (when you can draw a figure of 8 with a ribbon of batter before it disappears).

Beat the vanilla extract and browned butter into the egg/sugar mixture. Stir together the cocoa, flour and salt and gently fold in. Fold in the chocolate chunks, if using, and scrape the brownie into the tin. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the mixture is no longer wobbly but still moist in the middle. 

From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Brownie Pointers’, The Guardian Weekend, 4 June 2011

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