Brownies au Naturel

If you’re looking for a sweet fudge brownie, this probably isn’t for you. IF, however, you are a lover of dark chocolate and rich intense flavours this definitely is. 2014-09-22 19.05.01

I’ve tried my hand at various brownies and have dabbled in the healthy variety once or twice. I follow lots of healthy foodie types and I’ve often seen avocado substituted for butter in recipes. I could see how it might work and they have a fairly mellow flavour I assumed chocolate would easily overpower, but I’d never tried baking with them. 2014-09-22 15.52.50

Why stop at avocado? I decided to take the trial to a whole new level, using only natural ingredients and no refined sugar.

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I was initially sceptical but I love all of the ingredients in these dark delights and you can never really have too much of a good thing(s) can you? See for yourselves – don’t knock ’em til you try ’em!

  • 115g avocado
  • 150g date paste
  • 50g honey
  • 220g dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 black beans
  • 10g cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate and allow to cool slightly

Blend the avocado and date paste, add the chocolate and whisk to combine

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This didn’t look too appealing to start but as I blended the avocado, dates and chocolate I was pleasantly surprised at the thick glossy mousse forming before my eyes. Looks were not deceiving, I discovered, spooning a generous mouthful into my greedy gob. The avocado made the batter more luxuriously creamy than anything I’ve ever done with butter.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking well after each addition

Blend the black beans and cocoa powder – This is the only stage where I ran into a little bit of trouble, as the paste is really thick. To solve the problem I added some of the avocado chocolate mix, in order to smooth things up a little bit, and then folded it back in once it was at the desired consistency

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Fold the blended black beans into the remaining avocado mix and then transfer to a prepared baking tray

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Bake for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. As with most brownies they’ll probably be slightly underdone and really soft so let them chill overnight before slicing and serving.

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Bake for 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean.

 

Flourless Chocolate Cake

There are some people you always associate with certain foods. My mother makes a mean lasagne, my auntie’s strawberry mousse is better than birthday cake and Dad’s beef stroganoff is the best in the business.

For one of my oldest chums the recipe most associated with me (and one she constantly nags me to bake) is a richer than rich chocolate cake. It’s not what I’d call a signature bake – I made it once and she fell in love, but after years of begging (literally) and considering she’d cooked me some delicious dinners I owed her one. 2014-08-26 19.13.25-1There’s no flour in the recipe and the ground almonds set off the rich chocolate flavour without being overpoweringly nutty. It doesn’t need a ganache but my friend did say it added an extra bit of luxury, admitting she missed it this time around. Lesson learned – sometimes, more is more!2014-08-26 22.38.19

  • 160g dark chocolate (70 – 80%)
  • 160g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 160g ground almonds
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated

Grease and line a 23cm cake tin

Preheat the oven to 180C

  1. Break up the chocolate and place it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water
  2. Allow it to melt slowly, once smooth turn off the heat (but leave the pan there) and drop in the cold butter – let it melt a little bit before you stir then leave to sit until it melts completely before stirring again.2014-08-26 15.59.51
  3. Meanwhile, separate the eggs and whisk the whites until they form soft peaks, add caster sugar and stir until the peaks begin to stiffen.2014-08-26 15.56.20
  4. Stir the butter into the chocolate until smooth and glossy.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted chocolate and butter one at a time.
  6. Fold the whisked egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mix, very gently until just incorporated.
  7. Finally fold in the almonds light-handedly, keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.2014-08-26 16.15.49

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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To make a simple chocolate ganache use equal parts chocolate and cream. Chop the chocolate finely, heat the cream until nearly boiling but not quite then pour over the chopped chocolate whisking until smooth. Leave to thicken slightly before using.

2014-08-26 22.38.24Alternatively you could just drown it in cream….2014-08-26 22.42.18

Back with Brownies

Hello and apologies for the dry spell! I’ve spent the past few weeks teaching teenagers, an experience to say the least and one that didn’t give me much time for baking. In true Blue Peter style I had prepared a couple of ‘here’s one I made earlier’ posts, however I couldn’t access this blog AT ALL on the school Wi-Fi so my efforts were futile. Some tech-savvy child probably could have helped me but I never actually thought to ask. I’m sure you’ve not been going hungry and life has hardly been devoid of treats but wait ‘til you see what I’ve got in store. They’re decadent, delicious, delightful. Rich chewy brownies combined with a fruity raspberry cream cheese and dotted with gorgeous little bursts of fresh raspberry. Naughty and nice in every bite.

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I present to you, Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies and here’s the how:

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Brownies:

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate
  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 95g all-purpose flour

Raspberry Cheesecake swirl:

  • 225g cream cheese
  • 50g sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 80g raspberry jam
  • 100g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180C and line your baking tray ready to go.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmer water, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature (15-20 mins)

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Once cool, stir in the sugar and then add the eggs one at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition.

Whisk in the vanilla and then gently fold in the flour.

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Set that aside while you crack on with the cheesecake layer, it’ll take you all of two minutes.

Beat all the ingredients EXCEPT the whole raspberries with a handheld mixture until nice and smooth. I added a couple of extra drops of red food colouring to give a more intense colour but that isn’t necessary – the aesthetics are all up to you.

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Now, pour ¾ of the brownie mixture into the pan, leaving the last ¼ in the bowl. Drop dollops of cheesecake mixture alternatively on top of the brownie, spoon the remaining brownie batter on top and then swirl with a knife. Try not to over-swirl or you just end up with a mess

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Finally press some fresh raspberries into the top of the mixture and stick it in the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick comes out not quite clean. You want them fudgy but not too undercooked

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As with any brownies, and particularly ones with swirls or extra jazzy bits, leave them to cool COMPLETELY before even attempting to lift them out of the tin and refrigerate before slicing. I know, I know, the temptation… it’s a test of willpower worth the wait.

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Bye-Bye Brownies

…a.k.a Peanut Butterscotch Cheesecake Brownies 

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My housemates are packing their bags and heading off to join the circus. Well, not quite. They’re packing them to go explore Asia & Australasia and I am incredibly jealous. So jealous I’ve attempted to make them put on a stone before they embark on their adventures. If you can’t beat ‘em and you can’t join ’em… fatten ‘em up! I joke girls. You’ve probably guessed now why I’ve called them ‘bye-bye brownies’, I’m going to assume you have anyway. These girls have been fantastic guinea pigs and have spent hours tirelessly taste testing even my most interesting creations. They have never once complained, nor faulted my baking skills, regardless of temperamental ovens or experimental mishaps. They’ve praised me far too much and far too kindly so thanks gals and I hope you enjoyed these!

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So what do we have here? All the good stuff. Chocolate brownies filled with butterscotch chips, marbled with a creamy peanut putter cheesecake mix. Quite a mouthful, literally. They’re deliciously indulgent, sinfully calorie laden and worth every bead of sweat you might have dripped not to feel guilty about eating them. If you don’t feel an ounce of guilt then good for you, get on and enjoy. You’ll probably burn them off with the excitement of eating them anyway.

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Brownies:

  • 230g dark chocolate
  • 115g butter
  • 125g brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs + 1 yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 80g flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 150g butterscotch chips

Grease a 9×9 pan and line with baking paper

Heat the oven to 180C

Melt the butter and chocolate

Set aside and leave to cool while you weigh out the rest of the ingredients

Whisk in the sugars then add the eggs one at a time beating until smooth after each addition.

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Add the yolk and vanilla then whisk again

Fold in the cocoa powder, flour and salt followed by the butterscotch chips.

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Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl

  • 120g cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 50g sugar
  • 125g peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

Whisk the cream cheese, egg and sugar together until smooth.

Add the peanut butter, salt and vanilla essence and whisk again, it’ll be quite thick, just add milk a little bit at a time until it’s slightly smoother and creamy – you don’t want it runny at all.

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Easy as that.

Use about 2/3 of the brownie mix to fill the bottom of the pan.

Dollop spoonfulls of peanut butter mix on top followed by spoonfuls of the remaining brownie batter.

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Use a knife or toothpick to swirl the two together creating a marbled effect.

It’s really tempting to overswirl but try your best not to. Just drag the knife in straight lines from one edge to the other until you’ve got the desired effect.

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Stick in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes.

Allow the brownies to come to room temperature before placing them the fridge where you should let them cool until completely firm and ready to slice without making a runny mess.

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When they’re ready to be cut use wet cloth to clean the knife between each slice.

Enjoy!

 

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Birthday Banoffee

A quick re-blog of an old favourite.

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It was somebody’s birthday recently, somebody who’s told me a number of times now that my Banoffee pie is the best thing I bake. I’ve made a slight change to the banana layer in this one, adding an extra banana and replacing 50ml of the double cream with condensed milk.

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Other than that, it’s all the same. It’s a recipe I won’t be messing around with much as it always seems to always hit the spot!

 

 

Sweet Potato Brownies.

I apologise for the lack of treats being posted the last couple of weeks. Life has been getting in the way of baking.

Between being busy doing general life things I’ve also got a confession to make. Now, I know a baking blog is hardly the place to preach about eating too much sugar, but I do. Obviously I enjoy indulgence but I also enjoy eating healthily and try to strike a balance between the two. It’s not so much that I can’t control myself around a tray of brownies and more that I enjoy taste testing far too much. I’d probably rather eat a bowl of cake batter than the actual cake. So, to get back to the point I’ve been doing less baking and more cooking. Cooking is also far more forgiving of impromptu add-ins than baking and I find it dents my ego less as I’m generally successful. It was on one of my trips around the Internet in search of lunch-spirtation that I stumbled upon Deliciously Ella. I cannot fault her hummus, sweet potato dip, warm salads, anything I’ve tried for that matter. More importantly, the girl does dessert. Winner. Which leads me to the whole point of this blog post…

The sweet potato brownie

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I’ve never, ever, attempted a ‘healthy’ brownie before. I’ve always thought I’d much rather have the real deal but brownies everyday just doesn’t make me feel great. These sweet little squares mean you can quite literally have your cake and eat it too. They’re soft, fudgy, sweet and chocolatey – totally different to anything I’ve ever tried before. I couldn’t lie to you and tell you these are the perfect replacement for brownies, they don’t taste like the real deal but they are guilt free and pretty delicious!

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I’ve altered the recipe here and there because no one in my family has any kind of food intolerance. We tolerate all foods in equal measure. We love food.

  •  16 dates (I used kurma which are smaller than medjool)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (600g approx.)
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ cup wholewheat flour (65g)
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup

Peel and then boil or steam your sweet potatoes until they’re really really soft Image

De-stone the dates and blend them with the cooked sweet potato in a food processor – you’ll end up with the most gorgeous orange paste which I may have enjoyed more than the brownies themselves. ImageImage

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together

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Spoon into a brownie tray lined with baking paper

Bake at 180C for 25 – 30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean

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Leave to cool before slicing.

I let mine come to room temperature before transferring to the fridge and then slicing just like I do with other brownies.

 

Poached Pear Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart.

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This is a recipe I’ve been dying to try for ages and it took a couple of attempts to get it right. Pastry hasn’t posed me too much of a problem before (bar the soggy bottom Bakewell) but chocolate pasty was a new challenge. I’m not sure if it’s the cocoa powder but it just seems so much more dry and crumbly than normal sweet shortcrust, even this recipe that uses three egg yolks. In attempt number one the pastry bubbled and in the second it cracked when I lifted it out of the tin. It was third time lucky and about time too! The pastry is rich but not very sweet, which is just as well because the hazelnut cream and poached pears really are, the cocoa adds a depth of flavour which offsets that sweetness.

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Start with your pears, doing these the day before will allow the medley of spices to infuse.

Poached pears:

  • 8 pears
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • Vanilla pod
  • Star anise
  • Cloves
  • 50g caster sugar (or honey)
  • 500ml water

 As I’ve said before, I love spices. I used bits of whatever was in the cupboard but to keep it simple just use a vanilla pod – sometimes less is more and the pear flavour won’t be overpowered by just using vanilla.Image

Peel, core and chop the pears in half.

Bring the sugar, water and spices to the boil and simmer for a minute or two before adding the pears. Image

Allow to simmer over a low heat until the pears are soft. Test this by poking them with a sharp knife, they should feel soft like tinned ones.

Take them out and allow to cool, put them in the fridge for a day to let the flavours come together. Image

 

Chocolate Pastry:

  •  175g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 150g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Just as with normal shortcrust, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub together with the butter.

Once you have a breadcrumb like consistency add the three egg yolks and mix into a smooth doughImage

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Wrap it up in clingfilm and let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Grease a tart tin ready for when the pastry is rolled and preheat the oven to 180C.

Dust a surface lightly with flour and roll the pastry out to fit the tart tin.

Drape it over and press gently into the sides, overhang is good because the pastry will shrink as it cooks.

Finally, line the pastry case with some baking paper and fill with baking beads

I know I normally use rice or lentils when baking pastry to keep it’s shape, however I have discovered that baking beads are much more effective.

Bake for 15 minutes before removing the beads and baking for a further 5.

Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin.

 

Hazelnut cream:

  • 300ml milk
  • 50g cornflour
  • 60g golden caster sugar (I used a mix of brown and caster)
  • 3 tsp vanilla sugar (or a drop of vanilla essence)
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g ground hazelnuts

I roasted and ground my own hazelnuts using Mum’s fabulous food processor which, as much as I love it, puts my little hand blender to shame. The perks of being at home.

Turn the oven up to 160C

Place the nuts on a tray and stick them in for 10 minutes.

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Take them out and remove the skins, they should come off easily but if not you can put them in a bowl of water and sort of squeeze them out. Into the food processor they go and whizz until they’re finely ground.

You can make your own vanilla sugar too; just stick a couple of vanilla pods in a jar of caster sugar, leave for a week or two and bob’s your uncle. Well, he might not be but you’ve got vanilla flavoured sugar anyway. I didn’t bother and just added a drop of vanilla essence.

Finally, for the cream!

Weigh out the sugar and cornflour and sieve into a bowl

Crack the eggs into the bowl.

Bring the milk to the boil and once it’s nice and bubbly pour over the sugar, cornflour and eggs – whisking all the time.

Return the mix to the saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer for two minutes stirring constantly.

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Remove from the heat, add the hazelnuts, mix and set aside to cool. Image

Once cool pour into the pastry case and arrange the pears on top.

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Decoration:

Dark chocolate

Chopped roast hazelnuts

Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the tart with a spoon (I ended up with a couple of dollops but who doesn’t like a good blob of chocolate…)

Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts over the top et voila!

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I brought this to a friend’s for dinner and it went down well with a scoop of ice cream, and even better with a Ferrero Rocher to follow. Indulgence at it’s best.

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*adapted from this recipe: Pear Hazelnut Chocolate Tart