The BEST Brownie I have ever tasted. Ever.

Yes ok, thats a little bit of a boastful title, but I take no credit for the creation of this beautiful batch of brownies, apart from the fact that I made them… I discovered the recipe originally on http://www.browneyedbaker.com, who in turn got it from ‘Baked: New Frontiers in Baking’ by Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis.

Now, I’ve been having a bit of an issue in my search for the perfect brownie, in that I just couldn’t get any right. Pretty much every single one I tried, ended up being a bit of a nightmare. I knew what I was looking for; in Swansea theres a place called the One Shoe Cafe, and the brownies they sell there are spectacular. As I no longer live in Swansea I knew I had to find something that could match the greatness of those brownies. And so, when I saw this particular recipe, I knew it had to go on the list to try. I bookmarked it and then forgot about it. For months. Then, last Wednesday I stumbled upon it again and knew I couldn’t forget about it again. As soon as I had obtained the 310g (!) of chocolate needed to go into it, they were being made.

I think its fair to say that these are some pretty sexy brownies – extremely rich, moist, crackly on top, chocolatey squares of yumminess, ideal when eaten warm out of the oven, but just as perfect when cold. Yes, yes, they aren’t on the list of my healthiest baking options, so you may want to have somewhere convenient to send them straight away; I packed them off to work with David and apparently I’m quite popular in his office now. My search for the perfect brownie is finally over!

The Baked Brownie

http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2010/10/08/the-baked-brownie/

My recipe is pretty faithful to the original, with only one or two changes – the original calls for a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to go in with the melted chocolate, but I didn’t have any so left it out.

You will need:

  • 1¼ cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I had to use some milk chocolate, about a 5th, as I ran out of dark!)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and prepare your pan. Grease a 9×13 dish/baking pan and line the bottom with baking paper.

2. Whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together and put to one side.

3. Put the chocolate and butter into a large bowl and set it over a pan of simmering water until it has melted and combined together. Take off the heat, but keep over the water and add the sugars. Whisk together and leave until room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mix and whisk until combined. Add the other 2 eggs and whisk together. Add the vanilla and stir in. Be careful not to whisk too much at this stage or it may become a bit cakey.

5. Fold in the flour mixture using a spatula, until all but a small amount of flour has been mixed in.

6. Pour the batter into your prepared dish and smooth the top. Place in the oven and bake for around 30 mins. I was really nervous that I would overdo the brownies so from 25 mins I was checking them every few mins, but I found they weren’t done until about 35 mins. The brownies should be ready when the mix no longer wobbles and a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs still sticking to it.

7. Let cool completely and cut into squares and serve. Or if you’re like me, let cool for 10 minutes and then dive right in and eat a large, still very warm piece with a great big dollop of ice cream. Nom.

Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding

I realised a while ago that I hadn’t posted in some time, but for some reason I was waiting for a really good recipe to spur me on. Yesterday I discovered the most perfect Brownie recipe and I knew I had to post it. Unfortunately for you, I haven’t taken a decent picture of them yet, so for now I shall reveal my gluten free adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s Sticky Toffee Pudding.

My brother, Christian, came back from his GRSP year in Georgia last week and I asked him what he wanted me to make him for dessert on his first night back. I was shocked and appalled to hear that he’d had enough junk food and didn’t fancy anything. Wha?! Didn’t he even fancy something traditionally british, like sticky toffee pudding?! Well it turned out that yes, yes he did fancy sticky toffee pudding. So then I had to go and find a recipe to attempt, as I’d never actually made it before…whoops!

As I was at my parents house, I decided to go for a gluten free option, as my Mum is allergic to wheat, and my sister tries to avoid it too. I decided to adapt Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his website and it was pretty good! Its more cakey than pudding-y, but with plenty of toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream, it is pretty damn tasty.

Gluten Free Sticky Toffee Pudding

Adapted from: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/other-recipes/sticky-toffee-pudding

• 225g dried dates (fresh are used in the original recipe)
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• 85g unsalted softened butter
• 170g caster sugar
• 3 large free-range eggs
• 170g gluten free self-raising flour (I used Doves)
• ¼ teaspoon ground mixed spice
• ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

for the toffee sauce
• 115g unsalted butter
• 115g light brown sugar
• 140ml double cream

1.Preheat oven to 180ºC. Soak dates in 200ml boiling water with bicarbonate of soda. Stand for a few minutes and then drain. Put the dates into a food processor and blend to a paste.

2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl, then add the eggs, flour, mixed spice, and cinnamon. Mix well and then fold in the yoghurt and pureed dates.

3. You can use a 9×13 baking dish/pan here, but I went for two loaf pans as that was what I had on hand. Cut some baking paper to shape, place at the bottom of your chosen tin and butter up the sides. You don’t need to use baking paper but I find it makes getting things out of pans much, much easier. Put the mixture into your prepared pans and bake for 30-35 mins. The pudding will be ready when a toothpick inserted still has sticky crumbs on it when pulled out.

At this point I let the cakes cool down and and put them in the fridge overnight. I was making dinner and dessert the next day and knew I’d be limited on time. You can do this if making ahead, if not just move right onto the next step! If you decide to make it the day before, then make sure you reheat it in the oven for 5-10 mins.

4. Next, make the toffee sauce. Put the butter, brown sugar and double cream into a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and it has a thicker texture and darker colour. I found the best way to judge this was to take it off the heat every minute or so while stirring to see how it was coming along (I was using what seemed to be a nuclear hob though, so you might not need to take this advice!)

5. Remove your cake/pudding from its tin/pan/dish, peel off the baking paper and flip it back over. Use a toothpick to make lots of holes across it for the sauce to sink into. Pour the toffee sauce across the top and leave for a minute or so – the sauce will start to cool and get really sticky at this point.

6. Serve up however you like, but I do suggest eating with copious amounts of vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

A mixing dilemma

I’ve been dreaming about buying a stand mixer for a long time now, but have finally started considering buying one. Cue much confusion about whats good and what is the right one for me. I tried to find some sort of comparison on the internet and couldn’t find any unbiased reviews, let alone a fair comparison. So I decided to put my own comparison together using all the information I could find on the internet (including trawling though Amazons sketchy review system). For each item I have  put what it includes, the technical specs, prices, reviews and pros and cons. The pros and cons are quite general but remember that some of them are specific to me i.e. a heavy mixer will be difficult for little old me to move, I quite fancy a pretty mixer, so I’ll comment on that too etc. Here we go.

Kenwood Chef Classic (White)


Includes: K Beater, Balloon Whisk, Dough Hook, 1.5L Liquidiser, Splashguard, Spatula

Technical Specs:

  • 800W Motor
  • 4.6L Bowl Capacity
  • Capacity – Cake : 2.72kg
  • Capacity – Dough : 2.18kg
  • Capacity – Egg Whites: 12 Maximum
  • Size: 39.0L x 23.5W x 29.0H
  • Weight: 6.49kg
  • Guarantee: 1 Year

Prices:

  • Amazon £171.41 (Free Shipping) (151 5* reviews, 35 4* and 10 <3*)
  • John Lewis £229

Pros:

  • Cheapest Kenwood Chef
  • 800w motor (only premier is more powerful)
  • Comes with splashguard and liquidiser
  • Basic colour, will go with everything
  • 1kg lighter than the premier (easy to move)
  • A LOT of 5* reviews on amazon

Cons:

  • Doesn’t have a flexi beater
  • Have to calibrate beater so it scrapes the sides
  • Slightly less powerful than the premier
  • 1kg lighter than the premier (not as sturdy)
  • Design is not as good as some other mixers, bit boring.

Kenwood Chef Premier KMC510

Includes: K beater, flexi beater, balloon whisk, dough hook, splashguard, spatula, 1.5l liquidiser,

Technical Specs:

  • 1000W Motor
  • Bowl Capacity : 4.6 Litres
  • Capacity – Cake : 2.72kg
  • Capacity – Dough : 2.18kg
  • Capacity – Egg Whites 12 Max
  • Size: 39.0L x 23.0W x 28.5H
  • Weight: 7.7kg
  • 1 year guarantee

Prices:

Amazon: £279.99 (25 5* reviews, 3 4*)

John Lewis: £339

Pros:

  • Flexi beater included and liquidiser
  • Heavier than basic kenwood
  • Still much cheaper than kitchenaid

Cons:

  • More expensive than the basic kenwood and only main differences are the flexi beater, wattage and weight
  • Not as pretty as kitchenaid

Kenwood kMix KMX54 Stand Mixer (Black, Cream or Red)

Includes: K Beater, Balloon Whisk, Dough Hook, Splashguard with hinge, Spatula

Technical Specs:

  • 500W Motor
  • Capacity – Cake : 2.72kg
  • Capacity – Dough : 1.3kg
  • Capacity – Egg Whites: 12
  • Cord Storage
  • Size: 22.3L x 36.1W x 34.9H
  • Weight: 8.05kg

Price:

Amazon: £249.70 (11 5* reviews, 2 <4*)

John Lewis: £270.90

Pros:

  • Good design
  • Cheaper than kitchenaid
  • More powerful than kitchenaid
  • Sturdy – 8kg
  • Hinged flap on splashguard

Cons:

  • £80 more than basic Kenwood Chef
  • Doesn’t have a liquidiser, or a place to put one on
  • No flexi beater

KitchenAid K45SS Classic Stand Mixer (White)

Includes: Beater, Dough Hook, Whisk

Technical Specs:

  • 250W Motor
  • 4L Bowl
  • 28 x 41 x 41 cm
  • 13 Kg

Prices:

Amazon: £293 (45 5* reviews, 10 4*, 6 <3*)

Pros:

  • Good design – prettier than Kenwood
  • Cheaper than Artisan KitchenAid

Cons:

  • Expensive in comparison to Kenwood, get a lot less for your money
  • Very heavy, hard to move if not enough counter space

KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer (Various model numbers)

Includes: Dough Hook, beater, wire whisk, splashguard

Technical Specs:

  • 300W Motor
  • 4.75L Bowl
  • 28.1x41x41cm
  • 13kg

Prices:

Amazon: £409 (18 5* reviews, 4 <3*) There are more reviews, but are spread over all of the different models)

John Lewis: £389

Pros:

  • Very pretty, can choose from lots of different colours
  • Very sturdy
  • Comes with splashguard
  • Handle on bowl

Cons:

  • Very expensive, don’t get as much for your money
  • Heavy, hard to move if not enough counter space

Having gone through all of these mixers, I’ve pretty much talked myself out of even considering a KitchenAid. Don’t get me wrong, I want one. I reeeally want one. But I just can’t get past that price, especially when you look at how much more you can get for £150 less. I think the design is still quite an important factor for me, so I’m eyeing up the kmix the most at the moment. If I don’t get that one then I think it will be the premier.

I think.

Jaffa Cake Cupcakes

Yes, this was my idea I had at 3am Saturday morning. And even though it is the weekend and I had all the time in the world, I STILL didn’t make them in time to take photos in natural light. I’m beginning to think I shouldn’t be trusted with a camera! At least we’re on our way into Summer now though, so it can only get lighter from here!

I’ve always been a Jaffa Cake lover and so when the idea for these cakes popped into my head there was no way I wasn’t going to make them. My only problem then was deciding exactly how I would do them, should I do an orange sponge, or a chocolate orange sponge? Should I put orange jelly in them? Should I do orange buttercream or chocolate orange buttercream? Should I melt chocolate on top?

So after much dithering I finally got on with it and was filling our house with the smell of oranges. Lovely.

Jaffa Cake Cupcakes

I didn’t have an actual recipe so started off with the vanilla cupcake recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery and changed it a bit!

You will need:

  • 240g Plain Flour
  • 180g Caster Sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 80g butter or marg
  • 240ml milk (THB says to use whole milk, but I never have that around and semi skimmed has always worked fine!)
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of a large orange
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

I got about 12 cupcakes out of these ingredients, but you could probably get more if you’re looking for a smaller cupcake.

You will also need:

  • Jaffa cakes (the same number as the amount of cupcakes you have)

And for the icing:

  • 250g Icing Sugar
  • 125g butter
  • 30g Plain Chocolate (I think I used a bit more than this as my scales haven’t arrived yet but I liked it like that. More chocolate is never bad)
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

1. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a bowl and mix together until it is all combined and has a sandy texture. Pour in half the milk until just incorporated.

2. Whisk the egg, orange juice and orange zest with the remaining milk and then pour into the flour mixture. Mix this all together until it is smooth. Then you should have something that looks like this: (including the mess by the way, if you manage to keep your kitchen clean whilst baking then I applaud you.)

I’d also like to point out that the rolling pin has no place in this recipe, but David was trying out the cinnamon whirls last night and left it out.

3. This is quite a runny batter so I always pour it into a jug and pour from that straight into the ready paper cases. If you don’t have a jug then just spoon the batter into the cases, but be aware you will probably make a mess. I still made a mess when using a jug, see:

Just a side note – I use muffin paper cases and a muffin pan to make my cupcakes. British cupcake cases tend to be what I like to call fairy cake cases, are much smaller and are normally baked in bun pans. I like my cupcakes BIG.

4. Stick the pan into the oven at 170°C for 20-25 mins. Mine were done in about 23 mins, but be careful if your oven cooks unevenly, I had to give mine as spin as its a lot hotter in the back compared to the front.

5. Let the cupcakes cool completely, icing has no place on a warm cupcake (unless its going straight into your mouth) as it melts and goes funny. Grab your jaffa cakes and remove the orange jelly from the middles. You could painstakingly remove the chocolate from them as well but a little bit more chocolate never hurt anyone so I left it on. Place them on top of your cupcakes and you should have something like this:

Edit (Feb 2012): As I mentioned down in the comments, I did figure out the making of the jelly which you can do if you have a bit more time. Make up some orange jelly, using only half the amount of water stated on the packet. I also replaced some of the water for fresh orange juice. Pour the jelly mixture into a long shallow dish and place in the fridge. When set, using a circular cookie cutter the same size as your cupcakes, cut out orange jelly circles and place them on your cupcake. Be aware, the jelly is really slidy, so I would advise piping your icing on.

6. Next up, buttercream. Soften the butter and slowly add the icing sugar. I found the butter started getting quite stiff so after I had added about half of the sugar I melted the chocolate and added it to the buttercream. At the same time add in the zest and orange juice. Mix it all together and continue adding the icing sugar. Use an electric whisk to get it all light and fluffy.

7. It would be a lot easier to pipe the icing on at this point, but I’ve only got small nozzles at the moment so decided just to smear it on. Not the most attractive and I did have a few issues with the jelly circles moving, but all in all it worked ok. I did debate drizzling some melted plain chocolate over the top but ended up just decorating with orange jelly tots.

I was trying to save one of these until after my dinner, but I succumbed and gave it a try. I can quite firmly say that these were a success. The buttercream is reminiscent of terrys chocolate orange and the jelly circle gives it a nice bit of tangyness. The main improvement I would look at would be possibly putting more orange zest into the sponge, but other than that, this is a lovely, not overly rich, chocolatey orangey cake. Nom.

And so that marks the end of my weekend, and probably the end of baking until the next one!

Lemon, Lemon, Lemon Cake

And so it is Saturday once again, however this Saturday is different. This Saturday I knew exactly what to bake when I woke up instead of spending all morning dithering about what I wanted to make. Just a shame that this decision had been made at about 3am this morning when I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited about what I was going to make that I went straight to town to buy the necessities, without realising that I was more than a bit knackered. To cut a long story short I spent the afternoon on the sofa, drinking tea and chatting with Woody and Cush, rather than baking – whoops! Sunday morning baking it is!

So in the meantime I shall bring you one of my many back up recipes (along with its dreadful photography). Apologies!

Lemon, Lemon, Lemon Cake

Now this is an old one! Made for David’s birthday last year, I decided to make it as lemony as possible as he is a fan of lemon. It’s made up of lemon sponge, lemon buttercream in the middle and lemon glace icing on top. Nom. You’ll have to forgive me with the elements of this recipe, I got some of this recipe from an american website, using cups and some from a british one using grams. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I’m very annoying and that to follow this you need scales and cups. Or the internet can also convert things, I’ve had to convert everything from grams to cups this week as (shock horror!) my scales broke! New ones will be here on Monday so all is not lost!

Enough of my yabbering! Here’s what you need:

Lemon Sponge

  • 3 cups self raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C and grease two 9 inch sandwich pans.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and whisk briefly.

3. In a separate bowl mix lemon juice, vanilla and sour cream and set aside.

4. Beat the butter in another bowl until light and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, a few minutes if you’re using an electric whisk, fewer if you’ve got a posh standing mixer. Make sure you scrape down the bowl and beat in the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each one.

5. Add in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream mixture in 2 additions. Whisk together until just combined.

6. Split the batter evenly between the sandwich pans and spread so its smooth.

7. Bake for 35-40 mins until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool for 20 mins until turning on to a cooling rack.

Lemon Buttercream

  • 100 g/4 oz butter, softened
  • 225 g/ 8 oz icing (confectioners’) sugar, sifted
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon

Beat the butter until light and creamy. Add in lemon juice and lemon rind while gradually adding in icing sugar. Whisk for a few minutes until its good and fluffy!

Lemon Glace Icing

  • 150g Icing Sugar
  • A few tbsp lemon juice

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Add lemon juice until you get the consistency runny enough to spread on top of the cake.

Mini Cinnamon Whirls

I’ve been waiting ages to put together a food blog (read: baking blog) because of one particular reason. This reason is that my food photography skills are shocking. This reason is down to a few other reasons, like only ever taking photos with my iPhone camera (Baaaaad), nighttime baking with very poor light (Also baaaad) and eating baking results before they made it onto any camera (Yummmm). I’ve been waiting for my pictures to improve before starting to blog but I’m afraid that I’m bored of waiting now. The good news is that I got bought a lovely new camera for Christmas. Its nothing too fancy but is a huge step up from an iPhone camera! Unfortunately with work, I’ve got little option but to bake in the evenings when its dark, but we’ll just have to cope with that!

Easy Peasy Cinnamon Whirls

So lets start off with something easy. As I have called them, ‘Easy Peasy Cinnamon Whirls’. I actually feel a bit embarrassed about putting these as the first recipe due to exactly how easy they are! I fancied something sweet last week and wasn’t quite sure what we had in the cupboard. I knew that I had some ready made puff pastry in the fridge that I had intended to use at new years. I had completely messed up that recipe so it was lying unused. I’ve wanted to try danish pastry or something along those lines for a while but had previously felt a bit daunted by the butter square concept. I’m sure I’ll try it at some point but for the moment these are a bit of an ingenious cheat, if I say so myself. So! Here’s what you need:

500g All butter Puff Pastry (I used Jus Rol)

75g softened unsalted butter

75g Caster sugar

3 tsp cinnamon (I am prone to overuse of cinnamon, feel free to reduce the amount)

1 beaten egg mixed with 2 tbsp milk

Roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle, about 30cmx40cm. Mix together the softened butter, caster sugar and cinnamon and spread over the pastry. Roll up the dough into a long sausage shape. Slice the dough into about 1 inch slices. Put the slices onto a baking sheet with baking paper. Flatten the slices by using a piece of baking paper and pushing down gently on the top of each slice.

Cover each slice with the egg mixture using a brush, the back of a spoon or your fingers! Bake in the oven at 200°C/180°C(fan assissted) for 18-20 mins until golden.

Makes around 18 and will last approximately 30 seconds, less if there are other people around!