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.

 

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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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Brownie Batter Caramel Sauce

I’m slowly beginning to learn that less is more, particularly in a kitchen. This total experiment didn’t quite work out according to plan mainly due to my enthusiasm to try EVERYTHING. I always get a bit too excited about creating new things and try incorporating too much or mixing different methods. What I’d intended to make was a chocolate caramel sauce and I’d hoped for a more silky texture. I think the condensed milk makes it more like banoffee caramel.

Regardless, it’s not all bad news. What I managed to create tastes exactly like brownie batter. I kid you not. Exactly. The combination of condensed milk and the chocolate make it deliciously thick and fudgy.

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I can imagine this being absolutely delicious dolloped (it doesn’t really drizzle) over ice cream… maybe ice cream and brownies if you’re really going for it.

This needs tweaking here and there but it goes something like this:

  • 100 g sugar
  • 30 ml water
  • 150 ml cream
  • ¾ tin condensed milk
  • 100g dark chocolate (chopped)
  • 100g butter

Heat the sugar and water until it starts to bubble, add the butter and bring to the boil.

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Add the cream and condensed milk, and let it bubble over a while stirring gently as it thickens slightly.

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Finally add the chopped chocolate, this will really thicken the sauce so if you want something runnier try using less.

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Stir it to combine and then pour into jars to use as and when you please.

 

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Can you tell I’ve been on a peanut butter kick recently? I always eat it too quick to bake anything with it!

Simples.

Yes that spoonful in the picture above went straight in my greedy gob. I’m trying really hard not to do it again but I’m fighting a losing battle which means I’ll have to put it to use soon. Any further experiments will of course be appearing on the blog.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

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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Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

If you suffer from Arachibutyrophobia  (the phobia of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth) I’d steer clear of this cake. I didn’t leave it long enough to cool so it was a bit like a brownie when we tried it. It was a chocolate peanut butter goo mess and quite a (delicious) mouthful. Once the cake cooled and the icing set it was less of a fudgy goo monster and was actually even more delicious. More cake, less brownie.

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I myself was not a big fan of the peanut butter icing.  It was experimental and I ended up using a whole jar of peanut butter…this cake is most definitely not going to make friends with your waistline. That aside, it went down a treat with everyone who tried it even though I’d been a little bit unsure.

 For the cake:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 125 ml cold water
  • 85g self-raising flour
  • 85g plain flour
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 75ml buttermilk (5 tbsp)**

**I had no buttermilk and made my own by adding 150ml of normal milk to 1tbsp of lemon juice. Let it sit and thicken for 5 minutes fore using.

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Preheat the oven to 140C (160C gas)

Break the chocolate into a saucepan, add the butter and begin to melt over a low heat.

Mix 1tbsp of coffee granules into the 125ml of cold water and add to the butter and chocolate. Stir occasionally.

While that melts weigh out all your dry ingredients and place them in a bowl.

Using your hands, or a fork, go through the mix to make sure there are no lumps. Muscovodao sugar is notoriously lumpy especially if it’s old so be thorough.

In a separate bowl beat your eggs

Add the buttermilk to the eggs and beat until combined.

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Pour the chocolate mixture, and the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.

Stir the cake mix until it turns from lumpy into smooth and silky.Image

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1hr 25  – 1hr 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into it comes out clean.

Don’t worry if the cake cracks or sinks a bit – you’ll most likely be covering it in icing or a ganache anyway.

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

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 For the peanut butter icing:

Peanut butter lovers will love this.  I was concerned about it being too sweet which is why I didn’t add as much sugar as you normally do to buttercream, so it’s quite dense too but it goes well with the dark chocolaty-ness and fudgy texture of the cake.

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  •  1 jar peanut butter
  • 3-4 tbsp cream cheese
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • Milk enough to smooth things out (to your liking)
  • A pinch of salt

Blend the peanut butter, butter and cream cheese until very smooth and creamy Add a little bit of milk and mix again before adding the icing sugar.

Again, mix until nice and creamy adding enough milk to get things looking nice and smooth.

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Essentially this is peanut butter made even unhealthier. I don’t buy that peanut butter is a healthy option, sorry to offend all you health food PB lovers but it’s just not.Image

Learn from my mistake and leave your cake to cool plenty before attempting to cut it if you want to ice the middle too! You’ll also be able to spread the icing better over the top without it falling into the middle when you cut it.

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Original recipe for the cake comes from the BBC Good Food website, which I use almost daily: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/3092/ultimate-chocolate-cake

Selection Boxes

As much as I love Christmas, the food and presents in particular, I’m not the best buyer. I never know what people are going to want or need and I know I’ve been on the awkward receiving end of a dodgy gift or two.  On the subject of buying presents the other day someone mentioned ‘selection boxes’ and I realised I don’t think I’ve ever had a Christmas without one? Pressed for time, on a budget and with loads of ingredients to use up in the cupboard I had a moment of genius. Baked Selection Boxes! Image

So easy and gives you a great excuse to spend a day or two baking.  Cookies and brownies are crowd pleasers and it wouldn’t be a Christmas selection box without a mince pie, so I went with those three.

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I stuck them in takeaway boxes (budget friendly, you could get nice ones or wrap them) tied a Christmassy ribbon around them and gave them to friends.Image

Instead of doing individual boxes for my housemates I left them a Roses tin full of baked goods to keep them going while I’m away. They’ll only last a couple of days but I take that as a compliment! Image

So there’s an idea for you if you’re struggling with gifts this Christmas! They might not be perfect for under the tree but they’re a nice gesture and a great way to get rid of all those leftover mince pies you’d never eat yourself.

Better Than Before Brownies

Also known as ‘best ever chocolate brownies’ these are quite literally, the best brownies ever. I’ve made them once before and had rave reviews. Having tried the vegan recipe I was  keen to see Imagehow the two compared. The verdict’s in the title. I’d be lying if I said the vegan ones were best. These have a softer texture and are less dense than their vegan cousin. They’re gooey and fudgy to die for, without sticking to the roof of your mouth a bit. I (and you) have fellow baking blogger Alice Melly to thank for this one, check out her blog www.averymellybake.tumblr.com for more!

For the brownies: 

  • 185g Unsalted Butter
  • 150g Dark Chocolate
  • 100g Milk chocolate
  • 85g Plain Flour
  • 40g Cocoa Powder
  • 3 Eggs
  • 275g Caster Sugar

Alice’s recipe includes chunks of both 50g of milk and white chocolate chunks, and slightly more dark chocolate but I adapted it to use up what I had left in my baking cupboard.

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
  3. While the chocolate and butter cool, weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder and sift them together.
  4. Whisk your eggs together with the sugar until they’ve about doubled in volume and have a consistency like a milkshake – a nice thick one
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  6. Fold the cooled chocolate mix gently into your ‘milkshake’ eggs and sugar until evenly incorporated and there are no streaks.
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  8. Finally, sift the dry ingredients into the wet mix and fold gently until you have a thick chocolatey mixture.Image
  9. Pour the brownie batter into your prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes or until the top is shiny and starting to pull away from the edges of the tin. A skewer should definitely NOT come out clean. Straight out of the oven these will slip through your fingers like a mini mudslide, I let them cool and firm up before cutting them.Image

I didn’t take any pictures of the cut up brownies as I was rushing around buying Christmas presents but they’re not that photogenic really. It’s all about the way they melt in your mouth rather than how your mouth melts when you look at them.