According to Wikipedia, Theobroma is a genus of small, understory trees native to South America. The name,Theobroma, translates to “food of the gods” and one of the 20 species is Theobroma Cacao – do you see where I’m going with this?
I always knew it – chocolate is truly heavenly!
In some ancient South American cultures chocolate was so highly valued that it was used as currency and was ritually used in ceremonies. It was a valuable trade commodity and the Aztecs required citizens to pay their tributes in cacao seeds. After the conquistadors had finished their overwhelming romp through the South Americas and took some home, it was firmly established as a status symbol, only afforded by the elite of Spanish society. In those days it was taken as a beverage and jealously guarded – in fact the Spanish kept it to themselves for decades, adding spices and sugar to sweeten the bitter brew. Eventually the secret got out and it became a symbol of wealth and power throughout Europe until developments in the processing of the beans during the Industrial Revolution made it affordably available to general society.
Chocolate plays an important role in our household. Ever watchful of my young children’s diet, I limited their access to this deliciousness, meaning that when I presented them with a chocolate flavoured treat their love for me overflowed! Of course, now that they are older, it is impossible to really have much control over what they eat out of the home, but a batch of freshly made chocolate brownies is still a pretty sure-fire way to encourage affection from affectedly ‘cool’ teenagers.
There are almost as many recipes for brownies as there are stars in the sky, but to end up with a great product, top quality ingredients are the only way to go and I always add a little salt as it seems to accentuate the chocolate flavour. Brownies can be plain and simple for school lunch boxes or, with the addition of a berry coulis or a rich ganache topping, adult and sophisticated. Imported cocoa is much richer and darker than the run-of-the-mill supermarket shelf product and is worth the extra expense if you want to tart up the brownies to use them for a special dessert. The most important thing to remember with brownies is not to overcook – they really should be just a little moist or squidgy.
I have two recipes here – the first is one that I have used for many years as a lunch box filler. It can be made with or without nuts or added choc chips and makes a large – 13″x9″ – pan. I have given the simple preparation method and, alternatively, the method for Thermomix users.
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 cup oil (I use canola or grapeseed as it has no strong taste)
1/4 cup cold water
Preheat oven to 160C. Grease a 13″x9″ baking pan and line with baking paper.
Beat all ingredients together on low speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth.
For Thermomix – mix all ingredients at speed 6 for 30 seconds.
Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes – no longer. When cool cut into squares.
This second recipe results in a much darker, richer brownie and would make a gorgeous dessert, served with whipped cream. The following method is for use with a Thermomix, but should be easily adapted if you don’t own one.
150 gm butter
250 gms caster sugar
80 gms cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
60 gms plain flour
3/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 160C and grease and line a 20cmx20cm baking pan.
Place butter in Thermomix, melt 50C/speed 1 for 3-4 minutes.
Add sugar, cocoa, salt, vanilla, blend 30 seconds/ speed 4.
Running at speed 4, add eggs, one at a time, through hole in lid and mix 30 seconds.
Add nuts, reverse 15 seconds/ speed 2.
Pour into pan and smooth top. Mixture will be very thick.
Bake 25 minutes – or until a toothpick comes out almost clean.