Chocolate brownies are always a treat aren’t they? So rich, squidgy, chocolately, and, if you get them just right, the crackle of that lovely crisp top. I think they are great for a Christmas party – they’re so easy to make, keep well, you can add all kinds of extras and, cut them into smaller pieces, call them brownie bites, and you suddenly have a lot more dessert than you thought you did. They also make great gifts, of course.
I’ve come up with this recipe (based on one by the awesome David Lebovitz) using my Speculaas spice mix to give an extra Christmassy hit. And, as far as I’m concerned, Christmas isn’t Christmas without dried fruit and nuts, so I’ve added a handful of those too. These can be omitted or substituted as your fancy takes you. The other great bonus is that this recipe is gluten-free – hooray!
This is the spice mix. You only need one heaped teaspoon for this recipe – but it keeps well, so just pop it in a jar and save it for other things. You can use it to make Speculaas biscuits (surprise!), to spice up apple pies (delicious!), baked apples, granola, muffins (I have a recipe for Speculaas-spiced muffins which I will be sharing soon), fruit cakes and chocolate cakes…
Speculaas Spice Mix
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg (if you are grating whole nutmeg, then that’s about 1/3 nutmeg)
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel
- 1/2 tsp ground mace
Speculaas-spiced brownies with hazelnuts and cranberries
- 40g whole hazelnuts
- 40g dried cranberries (I like the ones made with apple juice)
- 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into very small pieces
- 85g salted butter
- 130g granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 10g cocoa powder
- 30g cornflour (I know – it doesn’t seem much, but that really says thirty)
- 1 heaped tsp of speculaas spice mix
- 1-2 tbsp milk, if needed
- Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 9in square baking tin (you could use an 8in tin, but you will probably need about 5 minutes more cooking time) with baking parchment.
- Toast the hazelnuts in a hot frying pan – keep stirring them to make sure they don’t get too toasty, and when they smell all lovely and nutty, and are browned in places, remove from the heat. If you bought unskinned hazelnuts pop them into a clean dry teatowel and rub them hard with the towel to remove the skins. You won’t get rid of all the skin but that’s fine. Leave to cool, then halve.
- Chop the cranberries into small pieces, about the same size as the hazelnut pieces. Set aside the fruit and nuts for later.
- Measure the dark chocolate and butter into a medium-sized saucepan. Put on the lowest possible heat, and melt, stirring gently all the time. If it is hard for you to get a low heat on your stove, then use a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Take off the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth.
- Leave the melted chocolate mixture for a moment or two to cool.
- Stir the sugar into the melted chocolate mixture. Then stir in the eggs, one at a time.
- Add the cornflour/cocoa/spice mix. I just sieve it directly into the saucepan – saves on washing up! Stir gently at first, then beat vigorously for at least one minute until the mixture is very smooth.
- Brownie batter needs to be thick like treacle or a thick milkshake, but not so thick that it is difficult to beat at this stage. Feel free to add a tablespoon or 2 of milk if the mixture feels a bit too thick.
- Stir in the prepared cranberries and nuts, then pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin.
- Pop into the oven to bake, and set a timer to check after 20 minutes. Brownies should be just barely set in the middle of the baking tin when they are ready to come out of the oven. If the mix is still wet in the centre, bake for another couple of mins then check again. And remember – it’s always better to undercook rather than overcook a brownie, so if in doubt, take it out!
- Leave to cool in the tin for half an hour or so, and then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
- You can give them a dusting with cocoa or icing sugar, depending on the look you are going for, or maybe some lovely gold lustre or Christmas snowflakes are more your thing…!
Hope you enjoy making these… and I hope you are enjoying Christmas baking as much as I am. 🙂