Brownies are easy to make, but tricky to get just right. They need to be gooey in the centre, but firm enough to slice. This recipe solves that dilemma by allowing you to bake the mixture in a shallow, ovenproof flan dish which is then served warm at the table. The poached pears and ginger elevate these brownies from a snack to a decadent dessert. Poaching pears is easier than you might think, but if it feels like a step too far, just use good-quality tinned ones.
For the poached pears
120g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
½ whole lemon
2 just-ripe pears, peeled, quartered and cored
For the brownies
150g unsalted butter, plus 5g extra, softened, for greasing the baking dish
3 large eggs
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
140g caster sugar
100g light brown sugar
1½ tsp cinnamon powder
120g plain flour
120g dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate
80g crystallised or glacé ginger (optional), roughly chopped
vanilla ice-cream or cream, to serve
1. To poach the pears, combine sugar, cloves and cinnamon in a medium saucepan and add 750ml of cold tap water. Squeeze the lemon to add the juice, then drop the lemon in as well. Place over medium-high heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. When it begins to simmer, add the pears and reduce heat to low. Cover the surface of the syrup with a circle of baking paper, then place a small plate on top of that to keep the pears submerged. Cook for 12-15 minutes, depending on their ripeness. Use a thin skewer to check the pears' readiness: it should penetrate the flesh with minimal resistance. Remove the pears from the syrup using a slotted spoon and set aside to cool (or refrigerate for up to 2 days in the syrup). Save the liquid: topped with ice and mineral water, it makes a refreshing drink.
2. Preheat oven to 160C fan- forced (180C conventional) and grease a 22cm round, shallow baking dish – a ceramic or glass quiche/flan dish works really well – with the extra 5g butter.
3. Combine eggs, cocoa powder, vanilla, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth and shiny. Set aside for the time being.
4. Place the 150g butter in a small pan over medium-low heat and when melted, add the sugars and cinnamon. Stir for one minute until combined, then carefully whisk this mixture (while still hot) into the egg and cocoa mixture. Sift the flour into the mixture, then add the chocolate chips and ginger (if using). Stir to combine, then scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Place the pear quarters on top – the easiest way to do this is to imagine the face of a clock; place a pear segment at 12, three, six and nine o'clock, then fill in the gaps with another quarter.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are firm but the centre is still a little soft when you tap it gently.
6. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes before serving at the table, with vanilla ice-cream or cream.