Chocolate, Toffee and Hazelnut Brownies

As a man with a limited sweet tooth, I’m not the most prolific baker. Sat at home on a Wednesday afternoon before I start my new job, thought I’d get a bit of practice in!
This recipe is taken from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s book – Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, although I’ve put my own slight twist on it by adding some toasted hazelnuts and using a vanilla pod instead of vanilla essence as instructed. I didn’t have any essence in, but did have a pod. Middle class?!?!
It also says to add 140g of a jam of your choice, but I wanted the pure unadulterated chocolates sweetness, without any fruit.
These brownies are seriously sweet so be warned! But they’re perfect for gorging yourself on a rainy midweek June day…..

Makes 8-10

200g unsalted butter, plus melted butter for greasing
280g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
300g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 free-range eggs
220g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
50g Hazelnuts, toasted
Toffee:
25g of unsalted butter, plus melted butter for greasing
75g caster sugar

1. Start with the toffee. Lightly brush an oven tray (not the one you plan on making the brownies in!!!) with melted butter. Place the sugar and butter in a heavy based saucepan and put on a medium flame. It will look crystallised and it will split, but do not stop stirring until it is silky smooth and that deep caramel colour. Pour onto the buttered tray and leave to one side to harden and cool. Remember to place this on a mat or on top of a cooling rack, the bottom will get very very hot!

2. Brush a 22cm square baking tin with melted butter and line with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and place in the oven, checking regularly until they are a golden colour and should smell wonderful. Once cool, chop these roughly. Sift together the flour and salt.

3. Put the butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of boiling water. The water below should not touch the base of the bowl above. Leave to melt. Once this has melted, remove from the heat. If it is very hot, leave to one side to cool down a touch, as it should not be very hot when added to the mix.

4. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and the seeds from the vanilla pod. Only briefly as you do not want to incorporate any air into the mix. Fold in the melted chocolate and then the flour. Break the toffee into small pieces and add along with the toasted nuts.

5. Spoon the mix into the lined tin, smoothing it out either with a knife or lightly knocking the tin.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes on the middle shelf. The middle should still be very soft in the middle, as it is going to continue to cook whilst cooling.

7. Allow to cool fully before turning out, chopping up and devouring.

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