best ever (cocoa) brownies & the business of blogging

cocoa brownies cocoa brownies

Important things first. THE brownies.

I’ve always been a bit of a chocolate snob but even more so when I worked with chocolate. If you had have asked me a few weeks ago whether I’d prefer my baked good to be based on cocoa powder or real dark 70% cocoa solids, there would have been a resounding preference for the latter. But I recently stumbled across a brownie recipe that has changed my opinion dramatically. Luscious, rich and chocolatey – just the thing to make one rethink their baking with cocoa powder philosophy.

Still not convinced?

Well the way I think about it is that chocolate is made up of flavourless cocoa butter and all the flavour and colour parts. When cocoa powder is made it’s all about taking the cocoa bean, and removing the cocoa butter and what you have left is ground into cocoa powder. So the chocolatey goodness is really all in the powder. When you bake with cocoa powder, the butter takes on the fatty roles played by cocoa butter in your real chocolate. Not such a bad swap when you think how delicious creamy unsalted butter can be in it’s own right. The other bonus is that cocoa powder tends to stay on the shelf until next time you’re ready to bake. Unlike a block of glossy chocolate which can be way too tempting for some to resist.

The type of cocoa powder you use makes a big difference to the flavour. I’ve experimented with a super dark alkalised (dutch process) powder which gave a lovely intensity to the brownies – perfect for dark chocolate fans. I’ve also made them with normal natural supermarket cocoa powder, which were paler with more of a milk chocolate flavour profile. I served one of each at my singles Valentines dinner on the weekend and the crowd was pretty evenly divided as to preference.

There’s more details to come of how I celebrated 14th February but for now I’ll share my Valentines dessert.

cocoa brownies cocoa brownies

On the business of blogging, I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to my decision to pack in my day job and become a full time blogger. Thanks everyone for the support.

The question that always follows is ‘but how do you make money from blogging?’. So I thought I’d share my current thinking.

i. advertising
This is a path that many blogs follow but it’s not something that interests me. As a minimalist, I hate the thought of ruining my design with ugly ads. So don’t worry stonesoup isn’t about to sellout.

ii. recommending other people’s products
Also known as affiliate sales, this is when I recommend a product and then someone follows my link and buys something, I get a commission. For some businesses like amazon.com and fishpond.com.au, the person doesn’t have to buy the actual book I’ve recommended, it can be anything at all in their store, just a long as they have entered the store via my link I get a cut. Sweet.

At this stage I’ve only setup a book recommendation page and there’s my now reading list. So if you are planning to buy books I’d really appreciate it if you supported stonesoup and swung by on your way to your preferred online bookstore.

iii. selling your own products
According to my business plan, this is where the bulk of my income will come from. Last year I self published my first cookbook ‘And the love is free’ and am selling it exclusively through stonesoup over here. If you haven’t picked up a copy, I highly recommend doing so. It makes an excellent gift for the special Mum in your life.

In 2010 I have heaps of exciting plans to write more books. At this stage I’m thinking of publishing in ebook format, but may bight the bullet and do another print book as well. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments about whether you’ve had any experience with cookbooks in ebook format or how you feel about the concept? Watch this space for more news.

I’m also looking into doing an iphone app so when you find yourself stuck in the supermarket trying to decide what to cook for dinner you can have my 5 ingredient 10 minute recipes at your fingertips. There’s also the possibility of an online cooking class with video tutorials but I haven’t really fleshed it out at all.

iv. donations
Given that there’s a heap of free content on stonesoup, I’ve been meaning to organise a tip jar of sorts so if anyone feels like contributing, they can. I don’t expect to generate much income from this, but every little bit helps. Will let you know when I get my tip jar up and running.

cocoa brownies

best ever cocoa brownies
makes about 18 small chunks

Adapted from Deb over at Smitten Kitchen.

I’ve given a minimalist touch to the method. For some reason Deb used a double boiler to melt the butter and then had a complicated things for cooling the mixture. I just melted the butter and stirred everything into the saucepan and the popped the lot into a loaf tin. So simple and so good. No need to worry about splitting chocolate while you melt it. This is the perfect recipe for beginner brownie bakers. I’ve included cup measurements for those that don’t have kitchen scales. With the butter just use the measurements on the side of the pack to estimate the correct amount.

I found Deb’s brownies to be a little too sad and flat so rather than baking in a 20cm square pan like she did, I used a loaf tin and increased the cooking time significantly resulting in generous chunky brownies as a result. Yay.

These brownies are very forgiving in terms of the cooking time. I like my brownies super moist and squidgy so tend to err on the under baked side but these babies are still delicious when cooked through. You could cut and eat them warm from the oven but I like to let them cool and chill overnight which makes for easier cutting.

150g (5oz) unsalted butter
1 1/4C (255g or 9oz) sugar
3/4C (80g or 2 7/8 oz) cocoa powder
pinch salt
1t vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2C (75g or 2 1/2oz) plain flour
1C chopped nuts, such as hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts or pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 160C (325F). Line a loaf tin 24cm x 12cm (approx 9 1/2in x 5in) with baking paper or foil so that it overlaps the sides.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. When just melted, remove from the heat and stir through sugar. Add cocoa powder and stir until well combined and any lumps are gone.

Add vanilla, salt and eggs and mix well. Gently fold through flour until only just combined – don’t over mix. Stir through nuts if using then pour into the loaf tin.

Bake for 50 minutes to and hour. Or until the top feels just set and a skewer inserted into the middle emerges slightly moist.

Cool in the tin then either cut or refrigerate overnight and cut the next day.

cocoa brownies

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The definitive guide to salad will continue later in the week with the shaved salad special – I posted 2 zucchini recipes last week and was getting chocolate withdrawls – thus the brownies – a little chocolatey reward in the middle of all that healthy salad talk.

And I’m on track with my goal to read 26 books this year – have just updated my now reading list.

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