Sunday, 27 March 2011

Random Recipe - chocolate ginger brownies from Martha Stewart's Cookies

Last month I missed out on taking part in the Random Recipe challenge run by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, and this month I was determined I'd manage it. However illness and general beingtoobusyness meant that today being the last day to get your entries in, and me being off to London at about 10am, I had to get up disgustingly early to make my recipe. I'm so dedicated!

So the rules were that you had to count along your bookshelf till you reached the eighteenth book and that's what you had to use. Number 18 for me was Martha Stewart Cookies, a gorgeous book that sits criminally ignored on my shelf because I despise using cups to measure out ingredients. Seriously - what's wrong with a good old weighing scale? I also have her Cupcakes book, a lovely book called Swedish Cakes and Cookies and Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home To Yours, all of which use cups which really puts me off using them. I really must get over myself.

Anyway I opened the book at a random page, which had a recipe for chocolate ginger brownies. Lovely, I love anything ginger, and while I know I've done a brownie recipe on the blog before, that was a low fat one. This definitely isn't. And it's also a nice quick and easy one.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Cookies, adapted very slightly.


3oz plain chocolate, chopped
4 oz butter
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (I used a jar of minced ginger)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 clove, ground up in a pestle & mortar
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt

Line an 8" square tin with baking parchment, letting the ends overhang the tin. Preheat the oven to 160ºC.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave - take care not to burn the chocolate. Stir in everything else. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until set. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then lift out using the parchment and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into squares.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what everyone else has come up with! I got an easy recipe but I know other people won't have, so it'll be very interesting.

The few things I have cooked from this particular book have all turned out very well. The lemon squares in particular were gooey and gorgeous and definitely worth making again. And these brownies are fantastic. So I'm determined to stop hating cups and make more of Martha's lovely goodies.

Oh and by the way, I have had a very, very unsuccessful week of baking. I made some Viennese biscuits that went a bit wrong, some Cornish fairings (little spicy biscuits) that I overcooked and consequently went absolutely rock hard and inedible, and yesterday I made a ginger cake that stuck horribly to the (really well greased and floured) tin. Luckily all the disasters happened at home and not at work (although last week I did forget to put the eggs in a carrot cake, the staff ate the resulting disaster with spoons) but it's a bit disheartening. I hadn't had a baking disaster in years and then three happened within the space of a couple of days. It almost made me go out and buy a cake from the supermarket...

The disastrous ginger cake, with the offending tin

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Sometimes a cupcake is the only answer

For the last two weeks, I have been ill (hence the lack of blog posts). Stinking cold/cough/bad throat/painful chest. I have been going to work, coming home, having something to eat and going to bed at 8pm, too exhausted to do anything else. Yesterday I got sent home from work, having such a banging headache that I could barely see (and it was not a fun drive home, I can tell you).

Anyway I slept off the headache and woke up feeling a bit better but very fed up. I want this bloody cold and cough and permanent state of being stuffed up to go away and leave me alone.

The only thing that was going to cheer me up was a big vanilla cupcake, and since I live in the middle of nowhere the only way I was getting a cupcake was if I made it myself. Luckily cupcakes take very little time or effort to make. An hour after deciding I wanted a cupcake, I had already polished one off and was thinking about having a second.

I used the vanilla cupcake recipe from the first Hummingbird Bakery cookbook - one of my all time favourite cookbooks. The frosting is the vanilla buttercream from the same book - obviously it had to be dyed pink and sprinkled with chocolate bits. And do you like my animal print cases? They're from Morrisons, I thought they were fabulous! You'll see from the photos that I didn't do a very good job of making the frosting look pretty... I was in too much of a hurry to eat them to spend much time fiddling with a spatula.

I still feel really yucky this morning but I'm definitely on the mend. I like to think the medicinal cupcakes helped.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

101 uses for a breadmaker - Chelsea buns

I've been in my new job for a week now, and I really like it, but it doesn't leave me much time for baking bread. - at least so I'm not taking it out of the oven at 11pm. So I have dug out my old neglected breadmaker and discovered that it has a timer. This means that I can throw ingredients into the pan in the morning before I leave, set the timer, and have the dough mixed and proved ready to take out, knock back, play around with and bake in a proper oven.

The first thing I did, just to try it out and see if the timer worked, was a malted grain loaf that turned out very well and we had the remains of it today for a much-needed sausage sandwich (to ease our alcohol-induced headaches). I'll post that recipe in a day or two; it's very simple and makes use of lovely malted grain flour. But today I'm sharing a slightly more interesting recipe: one for Chelsea buns. If you've never heard of them, and if you're not from the UK you probably haven't, this is what the blurb on Wikipedia says: The Chelsea bun is a type of currant bun that was first created in the 18th century at the Bun House in Chelsea, an establishment favoured by Hanoverian royalty and demolished in 1839.

Anyway here's the recipe I tried, and a very nice recipe it is too.

For the dough:
225ml milk

1 egg

500g strong white flour

1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar

50g softened butter

1 tsp easy blend dried yeast (the sort that comes in a sachet and probably says "suitable for breadmakers" on the packaging)

Put the milk and egg into the bread machine pan. Add the flour, then the salt, sugar and butter (keep the last three ingredients separate, in different corners). Make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast. Set the machine on the dough setting and press start.
(Of course, there's absolutely no reason you couldn't do make the dough by hand if you prefer, and leave it to prove in a covered bowl till doubled in size.)

Meanwhile make the filling:

25g melted butter
115g sultanas
25g mixed peel

25g currants or raisins
25g soft brown sugar

1 good tsp mixed spice

Mix all of the above together. Lightly grease a square or rectangular tin, I used a small roasting tin around 7" x 12".

When the dough is ready, knock it back and use a rolling pin to roll it out on a floured surface to about 30cm/12 inch square. Sprinkle the filling evenly all over the dough and roll it up like a Swiss roll (do you have those outside of the UK??). Cut into 12 slices and place them in the tin, cut side up. Cover and leave to rise again for 30-45 minutes. They should look nice and puffy. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.

Bake the buns. Now the book (see link below) says 15-20 minutes. In my oven, which is new and pretty accurate, it took about half an hour, so you'll want to keep an eye on them. The most accurate way to check if your dough is cooked in the middle is with a temperature probe/meat thermometer if you have one, and you're looking for 94ºC. Anything around 90º should be fine. If you don't have one, they should be evenly browned and should just look cooked! If they're starting to brown at the edges too much before the middle is done, cover it in some foil, this will allow it to continue cooking without it getting too dark.

When they're done, take them out, let them sit in the tin for a few minutes before turning them out, and get on with making the glaze:

50g caster sugar

50ml water

5ml orange flower water (optional; rosewater would be nice too, if you like it)

Melt the above together in a small saucepan till the sugar has dissolved, then boil for a couple of minutes until it's turned syrupy. Brush all over the tops of the buns.

Try and wait until they've cooled down enough that they won't burn your mouth before ripping them apart and tucking in. I lasted about ten minutes. So far I've eaten four! They're fantastic with coffee. And it goes to show that a breadmaker is good for a lot more than just making a white loaf with a big hole in the bottom :)

Apologies for the poor photos, it was very dark and I was on my way out so snapped them very quickly.

Recipe taken from
The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook by Jennie Shapter - a jumble sale bargain at 50p!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

We Should Cocoa - lime and coconut madeleines with white chocolate

A blog I've been reading for ages called Chocolate Teapot runs a monthly blog event called We Should Cocoa, where you have to make something involving chocolate (well, duh) but also another ingredient that changes every month. Previous months have been caramel (wish I'd had my blog in time to enter that one!) and raspberries, among other things, and this month's ingredient is limes.

Well, I love limes. Love them. And even more so when they're paired with coconut, and even more than that when there's some white chocolate involved. So this was a no-brainer. I would make some white chocolate madeleines. Because madeleines are so pretty, they make just having a cup of coffee seem like a party!

My madeleine tins are from Lakeland, and they don't seem to give a very defined shape. I also have a silicone one from House of Fraser which is a much nicer shape, but the silicone just doesn't seem to give the cakes the nice colour that a metal baking tin does, so they come out looking a bit pale. I've used the Lakeland tins for these, next time I make madeleines I'll use the silicone tin to show you the difference.


60g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
60g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g butter (I use salted; if you're using unsalted then add a pinch of salt in with the flour)
20g dessicated coconut (or 30g if you'd like them a bit more coconutty)
zest of 2 limes
About 25g white chocolate

Melt the butter and leave to cool a bit. Whisk the sugar, eggs and lime zest together, preferably with an electric hand whisk or mixer, until they have increased in volume, are very pale and thick and the mixture leaves a ribbon-like trail.

Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold it in gently. Then drizzle over the butter and fold that in gently too, and finally the coconut. Really try to be gentle so as not to knock the air out of the mixture. Stick the mixture in the fridge for an hour or two.

When you're ready to bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 210ºC. Lightly grease a 12 hole madeleine tin. I use a low fat cooking spray. Fill each hole about two thirds full (I got 14 madeleines out of this mixture, so you might have to bake in two batches unless you've got two tins).

Bake for about ten minutes, or until they are golden and springy when you press lightly on them. They should easily fall out of the tin. Cool on a wire rack.

When cool, melt the white chocolate. BE CAREFUL, especially if you're using a microwave, because white chocolate burns really easily and burnt white chocolate is disgusting. Pour the melted chocolate into a plastic freezer bag and snip off the corner, or make a piping bag from baking parchment if you prefer, and drizzle the chocolate all over the madeleines.

Perfect with a cup of coffee! These are really best eaten on the day they're made.

I'm starting my new job tomorrow, and I can't wait! Wish me luck :)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Brilliant brownies

It just so happens that out of all the brownie recipes I've tried over the years (and there have been a LOT), one of my very favourites happens to be a low fat offering from my Weightwatchers baking book. It couldn't be called healthy, no way, it's absolutely full of sugar, but I think the thing that makes it so nice and gooey is the applesauce it uses instead of fat!

In some of my foodie magazines this month, I've seen a Hellmans ad that gives a brownie recipe using mayonnaise! I have to say, that just sounds icky. But applesauce is different. I think it's genius. Please give this a try, it's so worth it. They are rich and dark and gorgeous. It's also super easy, you can have it in the oven in ten minutes.

75g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb

50g cocoa powder (I like Bourneville)

nice big pinch of salt

1 egg

2 egg whites (use the yolks for something else)

175g caster sugar
6 tablespoons apple sauce

2 tablespoons sunflower/vegetable/rapeseed oil

2 tsp vanilla extract
15g chopped nuts (I used walnuts, but use whatever you like)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Spray an 8"/20cm square tin with low fat cooking spray, or grease it lightly with butter.

Put the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and bicarb in a bowl and whisk it all together (saves having to bother sifting it).
In another bowl, whisk the egg, egg whites, sugar, apple sauce, oil and vanilla. Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff and fold it all together gently. Don't overmix it. A few lumps are fine.

Add the mixture to the cake tin, sprinkle the nuts on top, and bake until just set - there should still be a bit of a wobble. It'll take about 25 minutes but check after 20. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes and cut into pieces however big you like them - I got 8 pieces, but mine were quite big.

If you like, you could add the zest of two oranges and leave out the nuts, for chocolate orange brownies. Or you could add more nuts into the actual mixture itself, or add some white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate... whatever you like really. Brownies are endlessly adaptable :)

Oh, I almost forgot, I have some good news! I have a new job and I start on Monday! I'll be working as a chef in a lovely tea room/cafe, which means that someone is actually going to pay me to bake cakes all day long. Even better, I don't have to work any evenings and I get every Sunday off! I can't wait to start!


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Chocolate chip & oat cookies

When I first met my husband, he used to go on about cookies called "oat crunchies" that his mother used to make. I got the recipe from her and tried it a few times but it was always "they're not quite right". It took me a long time to realise where I was going wrong. I was using butter, but his mum (like everyone else, back in the 1980s) used to use a baking margarine. It seems that people who were raised on margarine tend to prefer the taste of it. Weirdos...

(the shame)

Another time I'll share the recipe for oat crunchies, which are actually very nice even if you do break with tradition and use butter, but today I've got a recipe for the oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies I made yesterday. They should be made with butter, but since they were intended for my husband's junk food drawer at work I made them with horrible cheap baking margarine instead and he loved them. There is just no accounting for taste, is there?

110g butter, softened (or margarine if you have a 1980s Yorkshire husband like mine)

110g caster sugar

110g soft brown sugar

1 egg

2 tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla extract (not essence! margarine is one thing, horrible cheap vanilla essence is quite another)

250g porridge oats

110g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

100g plain chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
Cream the butter and sugars together with a wooden spoon or in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment. Add the egg, milk and vanilla while still beating. Don't worry if the mixture looks a bit curdled.

Reduce the speed if you're using an electric mixer, and add the flour, baking powder, oats and chocolate.
Roll the dough into balls the size of walnuts and place on two baking trays, well spaced out as they'll spread a bit. No need to grease the tray. You should get about 30 balls (I got 29).

Bake for 15-20 minutes till they've started to colour - they will still be soft when they come out of the oven but will quickly firm up so they are crispy round the edges but still a bit soft and chewy in the middle. Let them sit on the trays for a minute before removing and cooling on a wire rack.
Recipe adapted a bit from Rachel Allen's Bake, which is a gorgeous book and one I use a lot.

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