"Brownies are like socks," says Nat Paull. "Stay with me here… They are mostly functional, but when you get a really, really good one, you really, really know it and you become deeply loyal to those socks/that brownie."

Makes 10 brownie bars or 9 large squares.

Takes 30 minutes to mix, 30–35 to bake from fresh, 10-plus more minutes to bake from chilled. Cool down is personal. Very personal.

Keeps Chill the baked brownie up to 2 weeks and allow to soften to room temperature or zap to re-soften before eating.

cooking oil spray
200g egg (approx 4 eggs)
300g raw caster (superfine) sugar
110g good bittersweet chocolate (around 50–60 per cent cocoa)
240g unsalted butter
90g plain (all-purpose) flour
60g Dutch (unsweetened) cocoa powder
5g sea salt flakes
180g good extra dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa)
110g full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature

Heat the oven to 150°C. Lightly spray a 23cm square, 5cm deep cake tin with cooking oil and line the base and sides with baking paper. Ensure any flappy paper edges are trimmed flush with the tin.

Combine the egg and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat on speed 4 (below medium) for 8 minutes until you have a thick and pale foam.

While the mix beats, weigh the bittersweet chocolate into a small heatproof bowl. Heat the butter to bubbly hot (stovetop or microwave) and pour it over. Stir until the chocolate has melted and is smooth.

Don’t worry about a small lump of chocolate or two, but any more and you should set up a double boiler and continue to heat the chocolate/butter a little further until properly melted.

Scrape the warm chocolate/butter mix into the egg mix and beat for 5 minutes on speed 5 (medium) – it will look like a fluffy and flowy chocolate mousse. While it mixes, weigh the flour and cocoa together and sift into a small bowl. Weigh the salt flakes on top. Chop the extra-dark chocolate into fine shards and add 130g to a separate bowl. Tear up the cream cheese into small hazelnut-sized chunks to sit on top of the chocolate. Set aside.

Stop the mixer and tip in the sieved dry ingredients. Beat on speed 2 (above low) for 1 minute until the flour is absorbed. Take the bowl off the mixer and stir in the chocolate and cream cheese. Some cream cheese lumps will remain and some will smear through, lightening the batter slightly – all of this is good. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Scatter the remaining extra-dark chocolate on top.

If you find a few too-large nuggets of cream cheese when scraping and smoothing, massage them into the ideal size with the tip of your offset spatula.

Bake for 25–30 minutes until the top of the brownie is slightly puffed, has a noticeably cracked border about 2cm from the edge and fine fissures further across the surface. My PST (Perfect Squidge Temperature) hits at 95°C (205°F), with sticky clumps of mottled paste (not liquid chocolate).

Bake for 5–10 minutes longer if you want a more cakey brownie (internal temperature 100°C). If you want super-gooey filling, cook it for 5–10 minutes less, but you will definitely have to chill before cutting.

Internal temperature taking is genius for brownies – no matter the batter, recipe or oven, you can always get the squidge right.

Cool at room temperature for around 30 minutes before cutting with a hot, damp knife, or chill it for a creamy fudge texture.

Cut the square in half and then cut each half into five equal rectangles (get the ruler out for portioning precision). The first warm bar, with still-molten chocolate chunks, is one of the greatest kitchen gifts bestowed upon a home baker.


It’s a bit nutty
Add 120g roughly chopped (to about the size of your pinky fingertip) lightly toasted nuts, keeping a smattering to sprinkle on top. Pecans and walnuts are faves for the mellifluous texture. Avoid almonds, as they are too jarring against the soft brownie texture. Hazelnuts get a hall pass if chopped to a medium coarseness (half pinky fingertip) – heads up, they are very, very good with the Mocha Adaptrix.

It’s a bit fruity
If you are Team Fruit With Chocolate, press frozen raspberries (fresh ones will scorch) into the top after smoothing the batter. During a test bake, I topped a batch with some syrupy preserved cumquats (use the ones from the Walnut la marjolaine with cumquats, page 193) and it was mind-bendingly GOOD! Don’t swirl the fruit through, as it will release its moisture and can form unpleasantly squelchy internal pockets.

Coffee, more than salt or vanilla, will elevate the chocolate flavour – I add this for adults. Add 6g of instant coffee powder to dissolve with the hot butter.

The big chill
Score maximum brownie points and make the batter, then delay the bake. After smoothing the batter into the tin, chill overnight – uncovered is fine. Bake as above – just increase the time by 10-plus minutes to allow for the cold start. Some baking boffins swear this melds the ingredients to make a better brownie. I just like that I can mix, rest and bake for easy warm brownie joy.