The search for a perfect brownie

stops here.

And this is not it. Not that this isn’t a damn fine brownie – if you like your brownies intensely fudgy, that is. Amazingly fudgy, actually. More fudgy than any brownie I’ve had before, and by now I’ve had a lot thanks to this obsessive quest for the perfect brownie recipe which has had me baking brownies like a madwoman for the last few years (and eating them faster than I can swim them off). This recipe comes from Ottolenghi – who appears to be my new obsession, what with all the publicity his pork belly has had on these pages – and it’s unlike any brownie recipe I’ve tried because it uses a LOT of flour (280g for 2 eggs?). I was sceptical, but I forged ahead, and judging from the after-dinner oohs and aahs (on two separate occasions), I believe they came out perfectly.

They also helped me to realise that my whole quest has been misguided from the start. I now understand that all I’ve really been trying to figure out is what kind of brownie I like, and this is not it. (No disrespect, Mr. O). I like them chewy, not fudgy. Mr. Keller’s come close, but as others have discovered, there are ways of getting chewy goodness that don’t involve almost half a kilo of butter and a barrel of sugar. And I like them dark and bittersweet (a bit of spice from cinnamon or ginger never hurts either). In other words, I don’t really like brownies. Which is why I have a recipe called “F**k the rest, these are the best (aka Signe’s brownies)” which are the kind of brownie you can eat two of without feeling nauseous, and also the kind Betty Crocker would probably consign to her fictional dustbin.

It’s been hard work, but it’s time to move on.

Speaking of which, I can also delete the recipe for 7-Up cake that I’ve had bookmarked for yonks. I finally got to make it for the occasion of my birthday, and since it was being preceded by a bit of a soul-food feast of ribs and brisket, I figured doing something which is apparently a southern tradition (using “soda” in cakes) would fit right in. I also liked the fact that it was suppose to improve with age, which meant I could make it a couple of days ahead.

Aware that it was supposed to be “dense”, I sliced it open so I could drizzle the two layers with a good shot of grappa (because I have a reputation for boozy desserts to uphold), then filled it with creme fraiche and berries, and finished off with a good smear of dark chocolate.

When those snaking candles were ablaze, the cake looked pretty impressive (less impressive was my attempt at blowing them out at once. The Philosophe, in particular, was not charmed – until I assured him that the 10 still-burning candles did not represent him plus 9 boyfriends in my life, but the fact that he has the amazing presence of ten men combined. I think he bought it).

Anyway, the cake was fine, but not great (too dense), so we can leave that one in the south where it belongs.

I believe that I, on the other hand, do improve with age. That’s hopefully thanks to some personal maturing on my part, but I’m pretty sure it has as much to do with the people I surround myself with. I’ve never been one to aspire to having 500 friends – either in real life or on Facebook. And I’m glad about that, because it means that on a day like yesterday, with just ten other people to share ribs and cake with, I was surrounded by most of my nearest and dearest. I’m thankful to them (that’s YOU, to some of my readers – you know who you are) for making it still cool to blow up balloons when you turn 25 35.

And for those who should have been there but couldn’t, I can only invoke an old and wise expletive from my mother (who was also missing): FLD = F**k Long Distance. Get here next time. The cake will be better.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new Ottolenghi book to perve over.