When I was a teenager, Saturday night dinners followed a fairly similar path. Eating as a family would normally result in steak, thickly cut rooster potatoes roasted in the oven with chilli flakes and rocket dressed with parmesan, olive oil and balsamic. If it was just my sister and I, we would raid the Chinese ready meal section of the supermarket for crispy peking duck and pancakes, enough egg fried rice to sink a ship and crispy rolls with plenty sweet chilli dipping sauce. But pudding was always the same, a rich indulgence of chocolate that would make even Bruce Bogtrotter wince. Ben and Jerry’s chocolate brownie ice cream, a treat that was only ever allowed when it was on offer normally, would always make it into the freezer if Dad was on supermarket duty, paired with a thick chocolate cake topped with chocolate curls. For a man who used to place a slice of chocolate cake between two slices of bread for the atrocity that is the cake sandwich, it’s fair to say Saturday was our family’s indulgence day.
I guess we’ve always been a chocolate-loving family, since it’s really the only sweet my dad will be tempted by on a menu. His speciality is beetroot brownies, a River Cottage recipe firmly his own now and it’s nice to sit at the family table watching him melt chocolate and butter in the oven (it sounds odd but it’s the most fragrant and gorgeous perfume I can think of) and turning chopping boards pink with roasted beets. My own chocolate brownie efforts until recently were largely contained to packet mixes, always triple chocolate natürlich, and baked in those disposable trays that came within the box. At an age where I could make dinner with my eyes practically shut and had the Be-Ro Victoria Sponge recipe memorised, my homemade brownies could never match up to those that were packet mixed, swirled through indulgent ice creams or of course my dad’s beetroot version.
Which is why I could barely contain my excitement when these entirely experimental gluten free brownies were pulled from the tray, sliced into cubes whilst still warm and eaten kneeling on the floor in front of the coffee table in an almost prayer-like fashion to the baking gods. With my other half not especially keen on sweet things – only pies and brownies really – the fact he devoured around five in one evening was a pretty sure sign I’d broken away from my packet mix comfort blanket. And what’s more, they are so simple to make its perhaps the most relaxed you can be while baking without actually lying down (there is some stirring involved). Naturally gluten free, there is no need to scour for brown rice or buckwheat flour, just good old ground and whole almonds and a good helping of salt. If you prefer, you could scatter the top of the brownies with chopped rather than whole almonds but I do like the crunch. And add more or less salt if you like, but salt has always been a wonderful partner for dense dark chocolate, with richness that spreads across your nose in a wave of heat. Of course, my brownie expert father was an official taste tester before I posted the recipe – his resounding thumbs up having devoured this portion early morning before a flight was enough to know I’d done him proud. I hope you feel the same about this recipe too.
- 200g 70% dark chocolate, chopped
- 150g unsalted butter, cubed
- ¼ tsp sea salt flakes
- 100g caster sugar
- 75g soft light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 75g ground almonds
- 100g whole almonds
- 100g good quality milk chocolate chips
- ½ tsp sea salt flakes to finish
- Preheat the oven to 160oc/140oc fan and grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment. Place the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and melt together with the salt, taking care not to let the bowl touch the water. Once melted, remove the bowl from the pan and cool slightly.
- To ensure the sugars are smooth, pulse together in a food processor to remove any lumps then add to the chocolate and butter mixture. Beat with a handheld mixer or whisk by hand until thickened then beat in the eggs one by one. Then beat in the ground almonds.
- If you used a food processor to blend the sugars, chop around 70g of the whole almonds in the processor into chunks or simply chop by hand. Stir into the brownie mix and then pour into the prepared tin. Dot over the reserved whole almonds and bake for 30 minutes to a fudgy texture. Bake for around 5 to 10 minutes longer if you prefer your brownies to be slightly firmer. Once baked to your taste, remove from the oven and cool in the tin before lifting onto a chopping board and cutting into 16 squares. Store in an airtight container for up to five days.