For the longest time, the printed version of Celia's recipe for chestnut fudge brownies has been at the top of the stack in my 'must cook' folder. I've simply been waiting to get my hands on some chestnut flour.
Over a period of several months, I had rung around several businesses in my home town, and even gently badgered the owners of the health foods store five minutes from home (pleading with them to add chestnut flour to their stock), all to no avail. Then I saw Australian-grown products by Cheznuts showcased by Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella. Lorraine was kind enough to put me in touch with the producers (thank you ﭢ ).
Cheznuts owners, Jane and Brian Casey, are indulging their lifelong passion for chestnuts on a farm near Bright in the north east of Victoria. When they originally bought the property in 1986 it had 60 neglected chestnut trees, and they have turned this into a flourishing plantation of some 2,000 trees. The cold wet winters and warm dry summers, together with rich soil means the Alpine Valley region offers the perfect growing conditions. Cheznuts a.k.a. Australian Gourmet Chestnuts supplies fresh chestnuts direct from the farm, together with sweetened chestnut puree (watch this space!), chestnut flour and whole sweetened chestnuts in syrup. A full internet mail order service is available from Cheznuts, so no more searching for chestnut flour. Happy dance time.
So now, over to these fudgy chestnut flour brownies. The clever cook that she is, Celia adapted her all time favourite chocolate brownie recipe specifically so that she could bake 'a really good brownie' for a coeliac friend. After 15 years of trying, she substituted chestnut flour for plain flour, and hit on a winner. That's what I call dedication. ❤❤❤
The first time I tried my hand at these brownies was just prior to Christmas and I'm happy to admit I ended up with an oily slab of chocolatey goo. Initially, I wasn't quite sure what went wrong, but now I know that I hadn't given enough time to beating the brownie mixture. Absolute piglets that we are, Peter and I still ate some of the failure. I was determined to get it right, so after a delicious consultation with Doctor Celia, I was ready to start again. This time, success!
I baked this batch of brownies for some dear girlfriends who were joining us for lunch. There's simply no time to fiddle faddle and style food perfectly in those circumstances. Hence my photographs on this occasion are probably not the best. Friends are my priority, I'm sure you understand. ﭢ
The verdict? As we 'girls' chatted over a glass of wine after lunch, Peter stealthily demolished several slices of brownie, evidenced by a large mass of cocoa powder down the front of his T-shirt (I wish I had managed to grab a photo of that!). Do I need to say anything more? These brownies are rich, delectable and moreish, and the recipe is a keeper. Enjoy.
FUDGY CHESTNUT BROWNIES A LA CELIA
90g unsalted butter
225g semi sweet chocolate - 50–60% cacao (NB: this is the 'first batch')
150g (¾ cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large free range eggs, at room temperature
40g (¼ cup) chestnut flour (sifted)
1/3 cup lightly roasted hazelnuts*, chopped
135g semi sweet chocolate callets, extra (*NB: this is the 'second batch')
Dutch cocoa powder, for dusting
Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced. Grease a 20cm square pan and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the first batch of chocolate. Stir this over a low heat until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the saucepan from the stove top and turn off the heat. Now add the sugar and vanilla extract, and stir until combined.
Next, stir in the eggs one at a time. Then add the chestnut flour all at once. At this stage, I went from using a good solid spatula to a hand held electric mixer. Continue to beat the brownie batter until you feel a change in the consistency. Celia describes this stage of the process as follows:
So now you have a brownie mixture that is rich and thick, and coming away from the sides of the pan. This is where you stir in the hazelnuts and the second batch of chocolate callets. Use a wooden spoon or spatula and stir until smooth.
Transfer the brownie batter into the lined tin and smooth over the top using a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the brownie slab is just firm. Allow to cool completely before lifting the slab out of the pan and handle it with care, as it is very delicate. Dust with cocoa powder and serve sliced. Store in an airtight container.
I used Callebaut 54.5% dark callets 811NV for the first batch, and Callebaut 33.6% milk callets 823NV for the second batch. If you prefer an all-chocolate version of these brownies, leave out the hazelnuts and use 150g for the second batch of chocolate.
'The batter starts out grainy and fairly loose. As you beat it by hand, it will initially feel like nothing is happening, and then it will suddenly feel a bit stiffer – that’s when you’ll know a state change has occurred. This might take one minute, or it might take several. Stop occasionally to check how it’s going. Unlike true fudge, it’s not a huge “snap”, but the texture will definitely change noticeably – it will feel stiffer, look smoother, and pull away from the sides and bottom of the pan.'
Tell me my dear friends and fellow cooks, do you enjoy a good chocolate brownie? And will you go to extraordinary lengths for your friends? Thank you for taking the time to pop in and leave a comment. I do love your feedback.
Hello. I'm Liz, a writer, cook and traveller based in Canberra, Australia.
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.