There are a lot of brownie recipes out there. So if I'm going to post about something gooey, and chocolatey and square, it ought to be worth your while. And let me tell you, this is. It's not just any old brownie recipe, but one from a favourite place of mine in Sydney, the Bourke Street Bakery. There are a number of them now, but the original bakery café, on leafy Bourke Street, Surry Hills, is on my route to the office I've been writing at lately. Sometimes I stop in for a coffee and exercise all my self-restraint to not order something else to go with it.
And then, after all that, I come home and bake something from their cookbook. This week it was somewhat justified as I was going to the Sydney Film Festival with friends. There's not much time in between sessions, and limited dining options in the immediate vicinity other than popcorn, so indoor picnic supplies are called for. A brought-from-home sandwich or thermos of soup are all very well and good, but afterwards, what you need to power you into the next film, is an intense hit of chocolate. One that's easy to pack in your bag and eat with your fingers in the darkness of a cinema.
Brownies are the perfect portable dessert - at a festival or a friend's house, on a road trip or a picnic... or as far afield as your own kitchen, transported all the way from the tin to your hand (then your mouth). What sets these brownies apart from all others - other than the sour cream, which imparts a smooth richness - are the prunes. Shiny, sweet and silky, and impossibly soft and moist from three days of soaking, they're a perfect match with dark chocolate, adding an unexpected, exquisite, sophisticated texture to the familiar dense, squidgy square.
Chocolate prune brownies
Recipe adapted from Bourke Street Bakery: the Ulimate Baking Companion by Paul Allam
These freeze really well and (dangerously) taste just as good right out of the freezer as they do thawed. If you like your brownies boozy, you can soak the prunes in cognac or brandy rather than hot tea.
300g (10 1/2 oz / 1 1/3 cups) pitted prunes, halved
200ml (7 fl oz) hot black tea
55g (2 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
40 g (1 1/2 oz / 1/3 cup) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
300g (10 1/2 oz) good quality dark chocolate
80g (2 3/4 oz) butter
300g (10 1/2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
100g (3 1/2 oz) sour cream
145g (5 1/4 oz / 1 cup) dark chocolate chips / buttons / chopped-up dark chocolate
Place the prunes in a bowl and pour over the hot tea. Cover and set aside for 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 170 deg C (325 deg F). Grease a 20 x 30 x 4cm (8 x 12 x 1 1/2 inch) rectangular cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. Sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a bowl.
Put the chocolate, butter and sugar into a stainless steel bowl and sit over a saucepan of simmering water - making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir for ten minutes or until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool, then transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle atttachment. Mix on medium speed and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture, mix to combine, then add the sour cream, chocolate chips and prunes with the remaining soaking liquid and mix until just combined.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until just set. Place your hand on top of the brownie in the centre and wobbble to feel if it's set. Allow to cool completely before turning out of the tin. Use a hot knife to cut into squares.