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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{ 43 comments }

yurika February 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Jules,
Understand your chocolate preference and thank you for reminding me that butter can replace the cocoa butter in the recipe. I’ve been wondering why Stephanie Alexander uses cocoa powder instead of chocolate in her brownies recipe. Seems like great cooks think alike! Late congratulations on your new job.

jules February 15, 2010 at 7:19 pm

thanks yurika
lovely to hear from you. and very kind of you to put me in the same league as stephanie

ali February 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

I do appreciate the minimalistic approach without the clutter of advertising. Go the chocolate and zucchini recipes! I love both those foods.

amin February 15, 2010 at 7:58 pm

jules,
great post. i recently came across the margaret river chocolate company’s cocoa – it has an amazing colour, aroma and smooth balanced flavour. perfect for baking, desserts or as a hot mug of cocoa with milk for a sound sleep. apparently research continues to label cocoa as a “super food” due to its high level of antioxidants that prevent cancer – nearly twice the antioxidants of red wine and up to three times those found in green tea!
please tell us more details about how you celebrated 14th feb – have you found love?
amin

Elaine February 16, 2010 at 4:15 am

Hi Jules,
I saw your brownies on Tastespotting. They looked so delicious, it has inspired me to make these dark, delicious treats. They are in the oven right now, magically baking and sending wafts of deliciousness in the air. Thank you, thank you for sharing your brownie recipe! I think I found a keeper. :)

Elaine @ A Series of Kitchen Experiments

Donalyn February 16, 2010 at 8:02 am

Gorgeous recipe! I have always used cocoa powder for brownies, because that is what my Mom always did. It is usually more economical, and as you mentioned, less of a temptation, especially to any kids you may have hanging around – voracious little buggers, kids. The best reason though is the flavor – I have never found another brownie that tops the flavor I get from cocoa powder,

jules February 16, 2010 at 10:18 am

glad you appreciate the ad free environment ali and good to hear from a fellow chocolate and zuccchini lover

amin
thx for the tip. will keep an eye out for the marg river cocoa.
promise to share details of my valentines day dinner next week

pleasure elaine
you don’t waste any time do you? great work. the brownies are totally keepers

donalyn
aren’t you lucky to have had such a wise mother. and glad to hear I’m not the only one with a mysterious disappearing chocolate problem

Hannah February 16, 2010 at 11:10 am

These look delicious! I absolutely love your pictures.

Tiffiny Felix February 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm

lol…I’m so anti-cocoa powder in brownies I almost didn’t read this post. But I’m glad I did :) These look so fudgy! I’m going to have to try them on our next treat day :)

presleyanne February 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Hmm…I’m generally anti-cocoa powder, but you make a good point. I just find that things I make with cocoa powder have some sort of bitter flavor that things I make with chocolate don’t have. Do you think this has more to do with the kind of cocoa powder, or the balance of sugar and fat in a recipe, than just with cocoa powder being less tasty?

jules February 16, 2010 at 2:52 pm

hannah,
they are delicious trust me. glad you like the photos

tiffiny
I’m glad you read it as well. You’re going to love the texture of these babies.

presleyanne
sugar tends to mask bitterness so it could be the amount of sugar in the recipe but then again cocoa powders vary massively in their flavour profiles especially the amount of bitterness so I’d probably start there first. the other thing is that people have different sensitivites to bitterness – sounds like you are a supertaster in the bitterness arena which is going to make it harder for you

Kaushik | beyond-karma.com February 17, 2010 at 5:33 am

I’ve been enjoying your site. I love the minimalist and elegant look-and-feel, and your recipes are delightful. Maybe it will motivate to cook more.

On blogging, I started with a complicated site with affiliates and ads, and then decided to simplify and just focus on excellent content and selling my books. Ads are not just cluttering, they have the effect of taking readers away from the site. My next step is to self-publish.

Thanks, you have a delightful and inspiring way.

jules February 17, 2010 at 5:52 am

kaushik
thanks for your kind words. really hope stonesoup inspires you to get into the kitchen a bit more.
and thanks for sharing your insights into the business of blogging.

louise February 17, 2010 at 8:16 am

the brownies look so scrumptious. perfect with a cup of milk :)
do you know where and the name of a really good quality cocoa powder. i just find the supermarket brands a little average.

thanks :)

Erin February 17, 2010 at 6:14 pm

How funny that you made brownies… last year I made myself a massive batch with the justification that if I couldn’t have love, I’d have chocolate.

Even though I’m now with a lovely lad, I thought it would be fun to start a Valentine’s Day tradition of brownies. We used the Bourke Street Bakery recipe and they are definitely the best I have ever made. Rich, but not too heavy, and the perfect match with my much-loved vanilla ice-cream.

However, having to soak the prunes for 3 days definitely makes this recipe a plan-ahead treat. Thanks for this quick, stand-by recipe. I’m sure I’ll refer back to it when I get an unexpected hankering for brownies!

Sue February 17, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Jules,
I made these yesterday. I love brownies but all my recipes use so much chocolate, Nigella Lawson uses 375g in hers. I’m on a budget here! I didn’t have quite enough cocoa but even so these turned out beautifully. Fudgey and dense, just how I like them. Thank you for the recipe. I also made your banana, chocolate and nut bread a picture of which is on my blog.

I love the elegant, understated look of your blog, thank you for sharing.

jules February 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm

hi lousie
sorry I can’t recommend a good cocoa powder brand – I actually sourced my dark cocoa from my old job – a perk I’m going to miss ;). best to look out for cocoa that says it is ‘dutch process’ or alkalised.

hey erin
good philosophy. I’ve eyed off the BSB brownies – they do look lovely but haven’t yet been that organised to plan ahead 3 days. the cocoa brownies are going to be hard to go past

hi sue
so glad you enjoyed the brownies – and good to know that they taste ok with a little less cocoa powder. you’re right – they are a lot more economical than using a heap of chocolate. good luck with your blog

Suzanne February 18, 2010 at 2:48 pm

oh my, those brownies look amazing! Brownies are my absolute favorite dessert!

jennifer February 18, 2010 at 6:44 pm

I baked these for too long, but they were still delicious. Served them as a weeknight dessert with some mixed berries and Maggie Beer icecream on the side. They were so simple to make, but looked like i’d gone to far more trouble than was the case. Thanks!

Johanna GGG February 18, 2010 at 9:38 pm

I saw these brownies on smitten kitten and was interested – I think I would enjoy them more with dutch process cocoa but haven’t found any for a while – every now I find a tub of it and all my chocolate baking suddenly is so much more dark and intense – like your addition of nuts and I agree that I don’t bother with double boiler malarky!

good luck with the full time blogging – interesting to hear how you are approaching it – will be glad to see if it can be done without adverts – I tend to avoid these on my blog as I can find them annoying

Allie February 19, 2010 at 6:49 am

Hello,

First I want to tell you how much I am enjoying your site – your recipes look
fantastic! I can’t wait to give them all a try.

My husband is dying for me to make the brownies for him (they look delicious!)
but first, I have a question.

When you refer to a measurement of 1T is the “T” a tablespoon or a teaspoon
measurement?

Thank you so much!
Allie

jules February 19, 2010 at 8:44 am

couldn’t agree with you more suzanne – especially with vanilla icecream

jennifer. glad to hear they were still delicious with a little over baking. don’t you love things that look like you’ve put in heaps of effort but are actually really simple.

thanks johanna – yeah you’re right blog ads are really annoying

hi allie
thanks for dropping by. ‘T’ is for Tablespoon and I use ‘t’ for teaspoon – just me being lazy. hope your husband enjoys the brownies.

Under_Exposed February 19, 2010 at 2:03 pm

FYI – the Margaret River Chocolate Company’s cocoa powder is dutched

laura February 25, 2010 at 1:18 am

After seeing these brownies on smitten kitchen and the wednesday chef as well, I knew I had to make them.. and they turned out really good, especially with the mixed nuts.

I just wanted to let you know that I appreciated your simplification of the method – to make everything in one saucepan was such a great idea!

best wishes, laura

jules February 25, 2010 at 7:10 am

thx under_exposed

glad they worked out well laura.
simplification is what stonesoup is all about ;)

joana March 8, 2010 at 10:12 pm

i tried the brownies yesterday! i think i should have taken it of the oven a bit sooner (i like them moist too).
but when i ate them today, after a night in the refrigerator, and it really taste delicious!!!
i did them with almonds, and i loved it!

i´ll try again so i can try some super moist…

betty March 10, 2010 at 1:24 pm

THESE ARE THE DARKEST BROWNIES I’V EVER SEEN- ALMOST BLACK IN COLOUR COMPARED TO SOME LIGHTER COLOURED BROWNIES THAT I’VE SEEN, AND IM THE SAME I PREFER A SLIGHTLY FUDGIER BROWNIE BUT THESE BABIES WOULD STILL BE GOOD ZAPPED IN THE MICROWAVED AND SERVED WITH ICECREAM YUM! :O)

Corey March 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm

I love your site. I found it today at work (don’t tell my boss).

I’m not sure that’ll I’ll be able to try your brownie recipe as my partner is allergic to caffeine (is the caffeine retained in the powder?) but I did have an idea for you.

My partner is the editor for a poetry magazine which is published through lulu.com. I’ve seen their design engine and looked at their offerings, and it’s a lovely service. (I am not getting paid to say this.) When you create a publication through them, you can, among many other things, release an ebook version and a print version (printed and shipped on-demand) which can be sold through an estore. It’s very easy to set up.

Best wishes on your new employment!

margie March 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

Your cocoa brownies are superb and so easy to make!! I have thrown out all of my other brownie recipes – yours is the best one ever. I just saw your recipe for puddle cookies so I am racing home after work today to make a batch (or two or three) tonight!! Fantastic.

Jessica May 9, 2010 at 1:05 pm

mine are in the oven now! :)
I added 1/2 cup of pistachios. woot woot!
i’m really enjoying your website and hope for much success for you!

Blair June 15, 2010 at 6:12 am

Very rich. Perfection.

Noel December 22, 2010 at 5:35 pm

These are amazing! I used your recipe last night….I love how simple and quick the process was. I’m currently baking my second batch for Christmas! Thanks for sharing. =)

jules December 22, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Yay Noel
So glad you enjoyed.
Have a lovely Christmas!

Amelia Tang May 2, 2011 at 7:25 pm

hey Noel (cool name by the way), i think this’ the most beautiful blog i’ve ever seen. So clean, yet brilliantly taken photos. I agree with your approach, of no advertisement. Others sell up so easily, I hope you get through this very successfully, really do. It seems finally someone with strong principles, & not selling up, doing business. May all good fortune go your way!

Amelia Tang May 2, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Most importantly, beautiful, beautiful blog, especially this post!

Ah I’m sorry, was following Jules post above, the post’s to Jules my bad (:

jules May 3, 2011 at 12:15 am

thanks amelia
appreciate your feedback!

Jo Smith August 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

Best cocoa is raw chocolate powder. Available online from Santos Healthfoods. It’s pricey (about $20/kilo) but soo good!

Love your blog.

Lulu October 12, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Hi Jules, I love the recipes I’ve tried of yours, but as the 1st dessert recipe I went for, I found this much much too sweet.. either I was accidentally heavy handed with the sugar bag, or it’s the infamous difference in sweetness palette between America and Europe!
I will try one more of your desserts before I give up though ;) perhaps the paleo brownies..

jules November 5, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Sorry you didn’t like it Lulu
I’m in Australia so no sure if that’s the problem :)

emery klaus December 3, 2012 at 12:58 pm

wow! This is a really good brownie, nice and rich! Tastes great hot with a cup of milk! Mine turned out smoother than the one in the picture but it was still delicious. Also I use a greased pan instead of a loaf with parchment paper and it worked just as well only it was a bit thinner which was ok cause it was so rich and even a small piece was filling…Delicious, thank you!

jules December 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

So glad you liked it Emery!

Indi May 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm

These look amazing! I’m going to make them to take to a friend’s house for dinner and give them to her in her biscuit tin which I’ve accidentally not returned for years. Just a quick question – do know how much in metric 1C of chopped nuts will be?

Thanks! Love your work Jules!

Indi May 3, 2013 at 8:38 am

Update – not only did I make the brownies tonight, I also made the puddle cookies and because there were leftover egg yolks from the puddle cookies, I decided to use up those egg yolks in an adaptation of your ultimate cheese toastie!

So, in order of making them – the cheese toastie: I had some seeded pittas and did not use any butter as the cheese mix was so rich. The mix had 2 egg yolks, about 6-8 quartered baby plum tomatoes, half a small courgette grated coursely (added the veggies because I felt guilty about eating such a decadent meal and having so many foods that are naughty), three little marmite cheddars (I don’t know if you have those there, they’re fairly new here in the UK – marmite incorporated into cheddar and made a similar size as babybels and sold in multipacks the way they are, really tasty), pepper (no salt as the marmite cheese is salty) and a about 1.5-2 T wild garlic pesto. There was loads of cheese mix and I had to heap it onto the pittas. I was also a little impatient and probably should have baked for longer but it was fantastic nonetheless.

Next, the puddle cookies – I used roasted chopped hazelnuts for cookies and brownies but had slightly too little for both recipes so added just a little bit of ground cocoa nibs to each to make up the rest of it. I also solved my question above about the metric amount of a cup of chopped nuts because you have it I the puddle cookies recipe and I adjusted from that. My box of eggs was of mixed size so perhaps the whites were from smaller eggs as the mix looked really dry and rather than worry about what to do with the extra egg yolk, I just added an extra whole egg to the mix. I also nearly doubled the vanilla for the cookies and the brownies. I think they worked well with the addition of the extra egg but the cookies were super fudgey and sticky, not a bad thing apart from when trying to lift them from the greaseproof paper, perhaps they should have been baked for longer? They tasted great anyway and weren’t overly sweet and cloying. I’m taking some of these into work tomorrow for a group picnic lunch.

And the brownies only had the change of the addition of cocoa nibs, they’ve been cut and are now cooling whilst I get myself to bed having achieved a successful evening of baking. My housemates and I tried little bites of it when just out of the oven and they are truly amazing! These I’ll be taking to the friend I mentioned in my previous comment.

A big success, think the brownies will taste even better tomorrow. Next time, I’m going to try adding some spices to the brownies too. Thanks!

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