It may sound hard to believe but I can take or leave chocolate and tend to gravitate towards citrus or fruit desserts instead. Having said that, I have always been partial to chocolate brownies and spent many happy hours in my kitchen trying to perfect a recipe for what I consider to be the ultimate brownie; one with an intensely chocolaty taste and a chewy, almost fudgy, centre. These brownies do use quite a lot of sugar, so make sure to counterbalance this with a good (slightly bitter) dark chocolate. The other key thing is not to over-bake the brownies. If they still seem slightly unset in the middle at the end of the baking time, they are probably ready because they will continue to cook and set as they cool.
I have also included my recipe for popcorn ice-cream which is an amalgamation of various recipes that I came across on the internet. To make it, I experimented using freshly popped corn and – horror of horrors – butter-flavoured microwave popcorn and without a doubt, the microwave popcorn made the best ice-cream. As such, I would recommend putting all preconceptions aside and doing the same. My state-of-the-art ice cream maker was irreparably broken a few months back and as a stop-gap I bought an inexpensive ice-cream maker from Lidl… and I love it! Ever since I acquired it I have been experimenting with different and unusual flavours of ice-cream/sorbet. This popcorn ice-cream is definitely one of my favourites.
265g chocolate (minimum 70% solids)
430g caster sugar
150g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
320ml double cream
1 bag of butter-flavoured microwave popcorn, made according to instructions
4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
A pinch of sea salt
50g popcorn kernels
1 tblsp vegetable oil
50g light brown muscovado sugar
2tblsp golden syrup
A pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 170C/Fan oven 150C/Gas Mark 3. Line a 35cm x 24cm x 5cm baking tray/tin with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
- Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of lightly simmering water making sure that you do not let the base of the bowl touch the bubbling water. Stir the chocolate mixture occasionally.
- Remove the bowl once the chocolate has melted and add the sugar, stirring well until fully incorporated.
- Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and stir into the chocolate mixture making sure that no ‘pockets’ of dry ingredients remain. Lastly add the eggs and stir these in so that they too, are thoroughly incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until the brownies are flaky on top but still a little squidgy in the centre.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting into 24 squares.
- Place the cream and milk in a medium-sized saucepan over a moderate heat and bring up to the boil over a moderate temperature. Remove from the heat and add the bag of popcorn. Set aside and allow to steep for 60-90 minutes to infuse the popcorn flavour into the cream/milk.
- Strain the popcorn mixture through a fine-mesh metal sieve into a clean saucepan. Press the popcorn firmly against the sieve with the back of a metal spoon to extract as much of the cream/milk as possible and set aside.
- Place the eggs and caster sugar in a bowl and whisk together until well combined.
- Separately bring the popcorn cream mixture up to the boil and remove from the heat. Pour the warm cream mixture onto the eggs whisking all the time and then return everything to the saucepan and set over a moderate-to-low temperature. Stir continuously (about 15-20 minutes) until the mixture thickens and forms a custard. Add the salt and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating for a couple of hours.
- Churn the popcorn custard in an ice-cream maker according to the instructions.
Makes 600ml approximately.
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a moderate-to-high heat and add the popcorn, swirling the pan to make sure that the popcorn kernels are coated in oil. Cover with a tight fitting lid. The popcorn will start to pop… quite furiously at first before slowing down. Once it starts to slow down, take the saucepan off the heat.
- Meanwhile place the sugar, golden syrup and butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a high heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and a dark golden toffee forms. Tip in the popcorn and stir so that it so that it is all coated in toffee. Tip the popcorn out into a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray, separating out the popcorn as much as you can, and allow to cool.
- Place a warm brownie on a plate and top with a scoop of ice-cream and a handful of toffee popcorn. Add a drizzle of chocolate sauce or some salted caramel sauce if desired.