It’s hard to keep a secret like a batch of freshly baked brownies from your boyfriend, especially if they are for his birthday the next day. Our kitchen smelled sweet and the oven still warm, yet I tried to pass it off as a batch of hot chocolate I’d made that drizzly Sunday afternoon. He wasn’t buying it. A guess of a cake followed by brownies quickly ensued and I had to give up, my terrible poker face betraying me. When you live together, it’s hard to keep surprise slabs of chocolate brownie a secret. I stashed the tin in the spare bedroom and forbid C from venturing in. At least he wouldn’t know what flavour they were.
I’m a big fan of birthday cakes, thick fondant icing draped over vanilla sponge with layers of jam and buttercream, dense carrot cake with fluffy cream cheese icing or fudgy chocolate coated with swirls of ganache. Yet my other half isn’t a particular cake fan so I compromised with brownies instead. That is, if you call emptying almost an entire jar of Nutella into a bowl with chocolate chips and plenty of smoked sea salt a compromise. I’d call it next level birthday cake.
Despite C’s quick detective work figuring out his sugary birthday treat, these brownies were whipped up, baked and out of the oven in under an hour and if I had been a little quicker, I could have concealed them completely. These are the fudgiest brownies I have ever made, with that distinctive crackle top with swirls of Nutella adding a little bite once the slab has cooled. Smoked sea salt works wonders in bringing out the flavour of the chocolate and hazelnuts but if you don’t have any, regular flakes will do. I did finish off the slab with a customary spritz of golden edible dust and extra salt before adding a candle, but you could always go over the top with sprinkles or ice a message on top.
Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
- 70g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 100g soft light brown sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- ½ tsp vanilla paste
- 300g Nutella, plus extra to swirl into the batter
- ½ tsp smoked salt, plus extra to top
- 95g plain flour
- 100g milk chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan and grease and line a square 20cm tin with baking parchment. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if using a handheld mixer, and beat until pale and creamy for around 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat again until the two combine to a pale brown colour. With the mixer running, pour in the eggs and vanilla paste and mix until well combined, scraping down the edges of the bowl with a spatula. Add the Nutella and salt and beat again until well combined. Add the flour and carefully fold into the mix, taking care not to overbeat. Stir through the chocolate chips.
- Pour the brownie batter into the tin and level with a spatula. Place 9 teaspoons of Nutella across the batter and using a skewer, marble together with a swirling motion. Sprinkle over a little more salt then bake in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with a few moist crumbs, taking care not to stick the skewer into the melted Nutella. Once baked, remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack. Let the brownies cool completely in the tin before lifting out and cutting into squares or decorating as a birthday surprise. Brownies will keep in an airtight container for around 5 days.