Wednesday, 14 April 2010

I&R and brownies

I think it was an unwritten law of the I&R (Integration and Release) team.
Nobody in HR would even consider putting in a job offer something on the line of:
"Required skills and knowledge:
bla bla bla
technical bits
geeky pieces
Extremely sweet tooth (whole sweet tooth arcade a plus)"

Still, one of the first questions that would inevitabily surface on the first days was: "Do you like sweets?" 
Sometimes there was somebody who would answer "no" or "not particularly", and after recollecting from the collective gasp of horror and shock, the general thought was: "oh well, it's not that important: we can get his/her share then!". Most of the time people that started without sweet tooth developed it: we made sure of have them follow a learning curve on this important aspect of office life as well.
To me it was quite the perfect condition: I bake, I experiment and I got plenty of willing testers.
We had a round table close to Beth's desk where we put all the sweets. When Chris joined the team, he tried some counter measures by bringing in some fruits, but we were so far ahead on the sugar high-way that there was little he could do.
There was always something tasty to eat, people who wouldn't bake used to bring in chocolate bought in the shops and so on.

As one of the pillars of I&R, James would intercept sugar 1 mile away, just the mention of keywords such as "cake", "cookies" or "chocolate" would have him jump from his seat looking around and trying to locate the font. One day he brought in some brownies he baked and they were amazing. 
James' chocolate brownies
A bit high on cholesterole, sugar, fat, calories, basically a overall of everything, I liked them a lot and I asked him the recipe. He wrote me the recipe and I kept using this recipe, not changing anything, but the baking time, and adding some chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios if I felt like it.

Last Saturday I was feeling lazy enough to just strictly follow the recipe: I brought a tray to Miky and Corra as I was invited over for dinner and with was left of the mixture I baked a small round brownie for my dad. On Sunday morning the kitchen was still smelling of chocolate, which is the best way to start a morning, to me.

So here is the recipes for James' chocolate brownies, copied and pasted from the mail he wrote more than 2 years ago:

300g unsalted butter
300g dark chocolate (I use 85% cocoa stuff as there’s loads of sugar in the recipe)
5 large eggs
200g plain flour
1 tbsp vanilla essence (not mandatory)
450g granulated sugar
1 tsp salt

Melt the broken chocolate and butter over a low heat in a bain-marie. While that’s going, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla essence together until the mixture is smooth and coats the back of a spoon. When the chocolate and butter has completely melted, stir in the eggs and sugar and continue to mix until smooth again.

Sift the flour and salt together and then slowly add to the mix, stirring as you go.

Now pour into a baking tray or similar lined with baking/greaseproof paper and pop in the oven at 180 degrees (gas mark 4?) for 20-25 minutes. At least, that’s what the recipe says; I always need to give it longer. Here's the only difference: in all the ovens I had since then (already 3!) I needed to bake the brownies for 45-55 minutes.

When done, the brownie should have a darker brown top that’s starting to crack, and shouldn’t wobble any more. It doesn’t matter if you take it out to check and then pop it back in, much easier than cakes :)


  1. I have James' famous brownie recipe too but I haven't made it yet. I usually use an American brownie mix -- bad, I know.

    I will have to make sure James knows you wrote about him today - will forward him the link.

    I love the photo -- makes me want to reach in and grab the brownie myself.

    I have been loving the Pastiglie Leone you sent me. I'm trying to make them last but it's hard as they are so delicious.

  2. Bella!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I have located your blog. There is much excitement that we are named by name.

    I have so much to write to you about. I've made a decision to keep it very old skool and to use pen and paper like you have done to me. Email me your home address and i shall get scrawling.

  3. Liz: glad you liked the Pastiglie Leone, I'm happy I remembered the right flavour!
    Beth: I'm waiting for the real paper letter, girl! :-D