We are now closer to the light than to the dark. The spring equinox and yesterday’s clock change has brought….well, squalling wind and rain actually. I’m glad that I got to the allotment on Friday to mulch down those raspberries – one of the huge benefits of being self-employed is having the freedom to take advantage of an hour’s sunny weather.
It’s amazing how all these seemingly-delicate spring flowers survive the onslaught on March weather. On the M5 this morning, I saw primroses on the grass verge and a field of rape gradually turning that classic shade of yellow which epitomises the English countryside in springtime. Back in Birmingham, these muscari bring a welcome flash of colour to the front door.
Matt, unlike me, is impervious to the chill wind and has taken himself off to camp in a wood for a week to learn the art of green woodwork with Mike Abbott, master craftsman. From what I can tell, this involves building your own lathe, putting a newly felled tree through it, going to the pub to dry off, then hopefully using said wood to create extraordinarily clever pieces of furniture.
I’ve sent him off with a box of brownies which, plus beer, are a surefire way to make new friends. I have been known to add beetroot to brownies, something which you either enjoy or you don’t. These ones are plain, which felt more appropriate for a male-dominated woodworking retreat.
They are also child’s play to make. Firstly, melt dark chocolate and butter together over hot water. I’ve used 50% cocoa solids, though you could get away with a higher or lower percentage, depending how bitter (or sweet) you like your brownie.
Beat eggs, vanilla extract and caster sugar together until frothy. You could use a machine for this but why bother? A hand-whisk is just fine.
Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the eggs and whisk to combine.
Then tip in plain flour and, using a large metal spoon, fold it all through until no pockets of flour remain. The bigger the spoon the better.
Pour into a prepared tin and bake for twenty minutes. It needs to be set around the edge but still squishy in the middle. Let cool in the tin before packing up and sending off to the woods.
Woodsmen Chocolate Brownies
Adapted from River Cottage Everyday
165g salted butter
165g dark chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g caster sugar
75g plain flour
Preheat the oven to 175c and grease and line a shallow baking tin. Melt butter and chocolate together in a bowl set over gently simmering water, leave to cool slightly. Beat the eggs, vanilla and sugar together until frothy, then add the chocolate mixture and beat to combine. Tip in the flour and fold through using a large metal spoon. Make sure no pockets of flour remain. Pour into your prepared pan and smooth to the edges. Bake for 20 minutes until set and baked around the edge but still moist in the middle. Cool before slicing.