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.

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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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Soda Bread

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I’m not a bread kind of girl. I know people that live for toast but not me.  That is, unless it’s soda bread. I could eat soda bread all day, everyday. Preferably spread thick with salty butter and honey or heaped with smoked salmon and a drizzle of lemon juice.  My Irish family are all great cooks, whether it’s a roast, apple pie, lasagna or strawberry mousse (my favourite ever dessert, I don’t think I’ve had a birthday without it) food is always delicious and my aunties in particular knock up a mean soda bread. I’ll never bake one half as good but when the craving struck I decided to have a go. My mini loaf was neither a raging success nor a huge disappointment and it did the trick!

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*Because making the bread is quick and I wasn’t sure I’d blog it I didn’t take any ‘process’ pictures. Instead you’ve got a breakfast overload. Enjoy!

Preheat the oven to 190C

  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • 50g oats
  • 230ml buttermilk
  • 15g butter
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

**Double for a normal sized loaf**

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in the butter.

Pour in the buttermilk and mix it up quickly, you’ll have a really sticky dough.

Shape the dough into a round and place on a lightly oiled piece of baking paper.

Score with a deep cross (this helps the bread to cook better inside but you may still find it slightly doughy, I did)

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I had to bake my loaf for about 40 minutes and it was a small one so I’d recommend up to an hour if you’re making a larger one.

The bread should be a nice golden brown when done and should sound hollow if you knock on the bottom.

Leave it to cool a while on a wire rack before slicing.

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I went for a different choice of topping to normal, a poached egg and avocado to sort me out after an early morning sweat session. It didn’t disappoint but a slice of bacon or salmon certainly wouldn’t have gone amiss.

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I can never just have one slice…

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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Creme Egg Brownies

 

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I love eggs. Growing up the yolk of a normal egg never fussed me, I’d happily eat the white and leave the runny yolk. Not with a creme egg. I could take or leave the chocolate but that gooey centre was my kryptonite. I know Easter is over and the likelihood there’s a couple of crème eggs lying around is pretty low. However, if you’ve got some unbelievable self-restraint, or like me you’d rather eat your own bodyweight in hot cross buns, here’s a little something to make your crème egg taste even sweeter. Image

Crème Egg Brownies:

  • 3 eggs
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 170g butter
  • 1 tbsp. treacle
  • 80g plain flour
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 2 packets of mini crème eggs
  • 6 crème eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare your brownie pan

Melt the butter, treacle and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

* These were a spur of the moment bake and I didn’t have enough dark chocolate, I’d have liked to use 175g but I added treacle instead to give add a rich flavour and subdue of the sugariness – they’re still pretty sweet. Image

Once melted set it aside and allow it to cool.

Whisk the sugar together with the eggs until the mix is frothy and has about doubled in volume, about 5 – 10 minutes. If in doubt, keep mixing

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*This might take slightly longer and not happen so much with brown sugar as it does with caster but I prefer the flavour of brown sugar. Image

Once your eggs and sugar are smooth, glossy and full of volume fold in the melted chocolate.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the mix and fold once again until just combined, don’t over mix. Image

Pour half the mix into a prepared tin and press in your mini crème eggs, pour over the rest making sure the eggs are covered.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes at 180C, cut your 6 creme eggs in half ready to place on top.

As you can see my Creme Egg cutting skills leave a lot to be desired. Image

Take the brownies out and place the creme eggs into the top, pressing down gently. I didn’t evenly distribute mine but for you perfectionists out there feel free to arrange them in neat rows.

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Bake for a further ten minutes until the creme eggs start to look a little bit more fried than hard boiled.Image

 

 

I lined my tin with tinfoil as I’d run out of baking paper. I don’t recommend this, particularly not for these brownies where the crème eggs stick to the tinfoil. Also worth noting here is that you must let the brownies cool, preferably in the fridge until stone cold. I was far too keen to start slicing and ended up making a mess of them.

They were still gorgeously fudgy and didn’t last very long in my house.

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The brownies are quite sweet, just as treats should be. If you’ve got a favourite brownie recipe you’d like to use then by all means go for it and just stick a couple of creme eggs in the top. I’m sure the results will be the just the same. You can’t really go wrong with brownies and creme eggs.

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Cinnamon & Black Forest Berry Sponge

Lovely, light and airy this cake would be perfect for summertime picnics especially if you’re tiring of your go-to Victoria sponge. I brought it to a friends’ for dinner and it was a nice light finish to the meal, which was just as well because I’d had a rather generous helping of seconds. It freezes really well and doesn’t lose any moisture or fluffiness, it’s the perfect balance in fact. I made it one day when I had the urge to bake cake and then to save myself from a cake baby belly, froze it for a more appropriate time.

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As you can tell, I hurriedly snapped a couple of pictures before we ate, hence the poor lighting.

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For the sponge:

  • 4 medium eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 150g wholemeal flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 100ml cold milk

Prepare a deep 20cm tin and preheat the oven to 180C

Beat the eggs, sugar and syrup until pale and thick, almost meringue like, if in doubt just keep whisking it took me a little while to achieve the right texture.

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Add the milk to the mixture and beat again.

Sift the dry ingredients together and whisk until smooth.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes.

If your cake begins to look to brown cover the top with foil for the final ten minutes of baking.

The cake is ready when you stick a toothpick in and a it comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Allow to cool completely on a before doing anything with it, my sponge was quite fragile.

If you’re not a cinnamon fan you could use nutmeg instead or even a teaspoon of each. I think the flavours could easily be played with and changed to compliment whatever fruit you decide to fill it with.

To decorate:

  •  Fresh or frozen fruit and/ or jam

* The original recipe uses blackberries as the fruit but seeing as they are expensive and not in season I went with a frozen black forest mix. I’d recommend fresh if you do intend to bring it do a picnic or event. I think raspberries would add a nice tartness as the sponge is quite sweet.

  • 184ml double cream (one tub)

Whip the cream lightly so it just holds its shape.

Slice the cake in half and fill with the cream and fruit/jam. ImageImage

I also placed some cream and fruit on the top of my cake, alternatively you could dust with icing sugar.

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Enjoy!