Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Chocolate-induced stress

Perhaps you have suffered from it too? Chocolate anxiety; that feeling I get when I want to make the perfect creation of chocolatey goodness can’t find the right thing to make. The dreaded feeling happens most just before birthdays or parties. It helps to know that I am not the only one; according to Julia Moskin’s article on brownies in the New York Times, she suffers from the same thing. The quest for chocolate perfection.

I agree with Moskin on many points. I think it’s true that we have become too chocolate obsessed. No dessert menu is complete without death-by-chocolate this or that, or at least one of those omnipresent melt-in-the-middle warm cakes. I like them, don’t get me wrong, but enough is enough. And I am not the first person to feel this way – one-time chocoholic friends have said to me they are now happy to turn away an oozing cake for a fruit tart or crème caramel.

But some occasions still call for cocoa and brownies, as Julia points out, are the ideal fix for the home baker. They are reliable, as long as you get the cooking time right, and they almost always satisfy the desire for a rich, dense, dark chocolate treat. How could you go wrong? Julia takes offense to any additions other than walnuts and pecans. Though I agree that peanut butter, marshmallows and other flavourings are generally over the top, I must say that I often like nuts in my brownies. The bakery at St. John, in London, does a very fudgy version packed with brazils, almonds and hazelnuts (or at least from what I can identify) and it never fails to amaze me how well the flavours and textures meld together. At once dense, smooth, crunchy and soft, the nuts retain some of their natural character since they aren’t crisp and toasted.

My absolute favourite brownie, the one that I recommend to people the most, in fact the one that I make people try when walking past the store no matter what protests they throw at me, is the Boston brownie at London’s Konditor and Cook. This bakery has never failed me – everything I have ever bought there has been scrumptious - but their brownies are more than delicious; they are original and superlative at the same time. They are the best brownies I have ever had and at the same time different to any others I have tried. The key is the Bostonian element: the cranberries. Their occasional tanginess cuts through the richness of the chocolate and brings out the dark flavour at the same time. The cranberries are not overdone, in fact there are only a few in each brownie, but they make all the difference. Unfortunately I have not been able to get my hands on the Konditor and Cook recipe, but I will try. And if I don’t succeed, I will try my hand at recreating them next time the chocolate anxiety comes around. They could be just the thing for it.

5 comments:

emma said...

mmmmm Montezuma's Chilli Dark Chocolate - no baking necessary..........

Sue said...

I recently sampled a brownie from Konditor and Cook and I have to agree with you - it was fabulous!

Anonymous said...

well put...now i miss them though :(

J said...

I know how you feel. I recently thought I would fix the chocolate craving with a recipe for Banana Fudge Cookies, found in the Guardian weekend. What a disaster. I feel so cheated, I might switch to the Independent (kidding, kidding).

***Joanna*** said...

Sue - So glad to hear that others love Konditor and Cook brownies as much as I do. More about them soon!