Easter’s just past, and Cadbury’s Creme Eggs are cheap. I’m a sucker for cheap things, so I couldn’t help buying some. The problem is that a whole Creme Egg is rather intense, especially when there’s not the excuse of Easter to egg me on (ha-ha, egg me on. I crack me up…).
Recently, we’ve been watching “Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory” on TV. In the programme, Wille Harcourt-Cooze evangelises his “100% cacao” (grown on his own small plantation in Venezuela) chocolate bars for cookery (I think that Creme Eggs are probably about as far as you can get from his Venezuelan Black while still technically staying in the realm of “chocolate product”). One thing always niggles me when he cooks with them though - butter and sugar are almost invariably added to the 100% cacao. ‘Normal’ chocolate bars are only not 100% cacao because they have fat and sugar added already.
With Willie’s escapades fresh in my mind, a surplus of Creme Eggs in the flat, and my instincts, which usually lead me to use up things I don’t want by making other things that I do (maybe some day I’ll write about my Three-Way Monkey Gang Hand Cake), I hit upon an idea: maybe I could use science to convert an existing recipe for something delicious to use Creme Eggs as an ingredient.
What to make? Em had been poking fun at me recently for trying to make such an American staple as brownies from a British recipe, so I decided to make sure she would have nothing to complain about this time. It would be brownies again, but this time I turned to the American food ‘bible’, amongst our circle of friends at least, The New Best Recipe. It would not fail me! (The tagline on the book, by the way, reads “Would you make 38 versions of crème caramel to find the absolute best version? We did.”) I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything from that book, apart maybe from bread that was just undercooked, fail to produce something great.
The obvious problem with the plan so far is that, yes, even in such a comprehensive book as The New Best Recipe, there is no recipe for Creme Egg Brownies. It does though have a (“the new best”) recipe for regular brownies (note to the British - it’s redundant to call them “chocolate brownies”; brownies are made of chocolate), made with unsweetened chocolate and plenty of fat and sugar (and eggs and flour and stuff, but not to worry about that now). Time for the Science! If you just want brownies, and don’t want to do know about maths, skip to the next section.
Presuming that chocolate is just cocoa, fat and sugar, I figured that it must be possible to replace the unsweetened chocolate with some other type of chocolate as long as I reduced the butter and sugar by appropriate amounts. But how to figure those amounts? The nutrition information of course! It gives you the fat and sugar percentages. Unsweetened chocolate naturally contains some fat and sugar, along what what I decided to call other cocoa stuff. Using unsweetened chocolate nutrition information, I re-wrote the ingredients for the recipe by weight, then added the unsweetened chocolate’s fat weight to the butter weight, and its sugar weight to the recipe’s sugar weight, leaving the other cocoa stuff weight.
Next, the plan was to work out how much of the fat, sugar and other cocoa stuff six Creme Eggs would contribute the recipe. At first, that looked like a bit of a problem - Creme Eggs are not just fat, sugar and other cocoa stuff like chocolate is. They contain that fondant filling, which is part egg white. Even in 2008, nutrition information labels still don’t tell you egg-white-percentage. Luckily, the Creme Egg wrappers reveal that they are 46% fondant. Armed with that nugget of information, the rest of the nutrition data, and the nutrition data for Cadbury Dairy Milk, it was possible to reverse-engineer the fat, sugar, other cocoa stuff and presumably egg white because nothing else is left percentages of Creme Eggs (not so surprising fact: the other cocoa stuff percentage of Creme Eggs is not very high at all). It was then easy to work out how much more fat, sugar, and eggs the recipe still required. The answer was a lot (especially of other cocoa stuff). How would I supply that? I could use unsweetened chocolate like the recipe called for, but by this time I was getting carried away. Bournville was what I would use! (Nothing but the highest quality cacao for me! Mr Harcourt-Cooze would be proud). More reverse-engineering, and the recipe was ready. 170g unsweetened chocolate, 175g butter and 447g sugar is replaced with 6 Creme Eggs, 430g Bournville (that’s two-and-a-bit big bars), 115g butter and 44g sugar (that should tell you something about the cocoa percentage of Creme Eggs and Bournville…).
Making the Brownies
Cooking the brownies was then mainly just a matter of following the New Best [brownie] Recipe. Writing about that could get tedious, for you and me both, so here’s some pictures of the whole process. Here’s the recipe, if you want to follow along at home.
One thing was rather worrying when I was making them: the Bournville/Creme Egg/butter mixture didn’t really melt, but went to a completely fondant-type consistency (you can see this in the pictures). I don’t think the chocolate had ‘broken’ - I’ve done that a lot before when attempting to make truffles, and it was a whole lot more disastrous looking than this - but something weird was definitely going on. I’m not sure if this was caused by my incompetent chocolate melting technique, or if it was the fondant in the mixture, or perhaps the hugely high sugar content of the Bournville. After what seemed like an age in this seemingly verge-of-melting state, I gave up and went on to the next stage in the recipe. This turned out to be a good idea. After adding the eggs, the mixture “went good” again, and turned into what looked like perfect brownie batter. Phew.
After the mixing came the cooking. 30 minutes of waiting. Then testing. Then waiting some more because they were not done yet. Then the brownies came of of the oven! They looked (and smelled) glorious! Surely I could declare the experiment a success?
Well, no. Not yet. After making brownies you have to wait until they cool before you can eat them. How long? The New Best Recipe recommends two hours. Yes, that’s right, two hours. We needed to wait two hours before we could eat these brownies. Two hours.
Mmmm-mmmm! Science triumphs again! The brownies are indeed delicious. Rich and chocolatey, with maybe just a hint of Bournvillyness, certainly a hint (but just a hint, nothing overpowering) of Creme Egg, and just the right consistency - soft and melty, just a little cakey, not too mushy, and with chewy, almost-but-not-quite crisp edges, and a thin shiny top. This picture gives the brownies a much redder hue than they really have, but I couldn’t get it to look any better by editing it. The stuff about letting them wait before eating them is also true - they taste even better on the second (and third!) day than they do on the first.
I think this proves that high school maths really can help you with real-world problems. If you have any leftover Creme Eggs, you should definitely make them into brownies. If you’re interested in creating your own brownie recipe with other chocolates, it’s easy! I put the prototype ingredients list at the end of the recipe. If you have other potential ingredients, bust out your pencil and the nutrition information, treat the recipe ingredients like variables, and use Science (and Maths) to work out what to do with them, and let me know how it goes!