Charles M. Schulz: ‘All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.’
I tend to agree. This weekend I wandered through the old town of Limassol. Had brunch at a very nice place and then visited a book fair, in support of a local dog charity. It’s best not to get me started on the treatment of dogs in Cyprus because I might not stop. There are those who care – Sirius Dog Sanctuary being one – and those who do not. My friend’s mom once said, “if you can not love a dog, you are incapable of love”. And I sort of agree with that too. I bought a couple books (a Murakami and a “Book of Modern Essays” published in 1949 including shorts stories by Virginia Woolf and Joseph Conrad) and came home to Ernie, my pug. She keeps me company every day while I cook. And as I write this she is snoring loudly on her chair.
It’s getting close to Valentines Day and hence my mind has started to wander towards chocolate things. There is always room for chocolate, but this year I think I might come up with a few healthy alternatives as well since I am currently trying to shed some weight.
But I couldn’t resist combining a healthy local ingredient – carob – which was known as “black gold” in years gone by in Cyprus. Carob sort of reminds me a little bit of coffee, a little bit of chocolate, and a little bit of treacle. It’s unique, and tasty. And very strong in taste. You can find it easily in Cyprus. They also sell it abroad – probably in a health food store or specialty store. I love carob syrup on pancakes – dare I say more than maple syrup (does that mean I can no longer claim to be Canadian??).
I combined the carob powder with a tried and tested brownie recipe. Carob powder is quite strong, so I didn’t want to overpower the chocolate. You could add an extra 1 tbs if you wanted a stronger carob flavour, but as they are the carob flavour is just subtle and compliments the strong chocolate taste. These brownies are chewy and gooey type and have a crackled top. I cooked them for 40 minutes and when I tested them thought they were a bit undercooked but took them out anyway, because I didn’t want to overcook the gooey center which I love. As a result, these brownies are pretty fudge like, but that’s the way I like them. You could cook them for an extra 5 minutes if you want a more cake-like texture. Not so good for the diet, … but, as Charles M Schulz said, a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt right?
200g good 70% cocoa solids chocolate
200g unsalted butter
4 large eggs
150g caster sugar
200g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
20g sifted carob powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
100g finely chopped dark chocolate (optional)
1/2 cup chopped roasted pecans (optional)
1. Line a 23×32 cm brownie tin with non stick baking parchment.
2. Preheat the oven to 190C.
3. Gently melt 200g chocolate and unsalted butter together, stirring until smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool slightly.
4. In another large bowl, beat the eggs, caster sugar, light brown sugar and vanilla extract for 3 minutes. This is to give the finished brownies a velvety texture.
5. Sift flour, baking powder and carob powder into the sugar mixture.
6. Pour in the melted chocolate and butter mixture with 1/2 tsp sea salt. Beat briefly to combine and stir in another 100g finely chopped dark chocolate (if you want a more chocolatey taste) and/or 1/2 cup chopped roasted pecans.
7. Scrape into the prepared tin, making sure that the edges are a bit “higher” than the center by moving the mixture towards the edges to almost create a dip in the center. (This is so that the center doesn’t rise too much.) Place in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 180C and bake for 35-40 minutes until almost firm in the middle. Test with a toothpick. Mine was still a bit “gooey” in the middle, but I like it that way. In addition, don’t be alarmed if your brownies rise a lot, they will fall down once you bring them out of the oven.
8. Once baked, remove from oven and let cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes before you begin to chop the brownies into about 16 bars or 32 small squares. They will keep in an airtight container for up to four days.