I made brownies for the first time a couple of weeks ago and they came out perfectly. The top was glossy and cracked and looked just like the picture. But I have made them twice since and done exactly the same thing but they just look lumpy. They taste lovely but don't look very nice. What am I doing wrong?
It is slightly difficult to pinpoint the problem of lumpy brownies without knowing the exact recipe but most brownie batters conatin melted chocolate and we suspect this may be the potentail problem. Chocolate needs to be treated carefully when it is being melted, it can easily overheat and can a also "sieze" if it comes into contact with liquids. In both cases the chocolate can become grainy, possibly stiff and slightly lumpy, and difficult to cook with.
To help stabilize the chocolate try to melt it very gently and melt it with the butter from the recipe as the two can melt together and the butter will mix more easily with the chocolate if they are mixed together. Both butter and chocolate melt at just above body temperature so do this in a bowl set over a pan of hot water and make sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water and also check that no steam or water can get into mixture as it melts. You will then stir in eggs and sugar and it helps to have the eggs at room temperature. Finally flour, raising agent and possibly cocoa should be sifted into the melted mixture and folded in but try not to overmix.
Nigella's Everyday Brownies in Kitchen (p217) don't use melted chocolate so you could always try this recipe as an easy alternative.