Boozy Brownies

Happy St Patrick’s Day!!! If there was ever an excuse for beer filled brownies today is it. If you’re not a Guinness lover like me this is a sneaky way to get your token St Patrick’s Day pint in. These are really, really fudgy. They’re as dark and rich as the Guinness itself and while you can’t quite taste the stout it gives them a more mature depth of flavour, I like to think. Image

  • Guinness (1 can or bottle, whatever you like approx. 450ml – reduced to 250ml)
  •  Chocolate 350g
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 80g all purpose flour
  • 200g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g sugar
  • ½ tsp salt (or a pinch)

Preheat the oven to 180C

Simmer the Guinness gently over a low heat until it’s reduced, this is what gives the brownies their flavour.

Set aside 50 ml for the glaze.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water.

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Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until frothy.

Slowly add the melted butter and chocolate to the frothy mix, whisking gently.

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Add 200ml of Guinness and stir to combine.

Sift the flour, salt and cocoa powder into the wet mix and fold gently.

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Pour into the pan and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, a skewer inserted in the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs.

Don’t be tempted to eat them warm, these are much better allowed to cool and even refrigerated. I can’t quite convey how rich, dense and fudgy they are.

Glaze

  •  120g chocolate
  • 50ml Guinness
  • 50 ml cream
  • ½ tbsp. butter

Melt the chocolate in pan over water.

Stir in the cream, butter and stout then pour over the brownies.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. I’d recommend sticking them in the fridge to cool so that they slice nice and neatly, and because they do seem to taste better in all their firm fudginess.

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Mince Pies

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I love mince pies. It’s only really acceptable to eat them around Christmastime and the fact they aren’t a year round treat makes them all the more delicious. I made Nigella’s cranberry mincemeat last year, it was alright for a change but I prefer darker more traditional mincemeat. I used two types of pastry; some leftover from a bakewell tart and some that was specifically for mince pies. The mince pie pastry was much richer and shorter and the soft almond flavour really complimented the fruitiness of the mincemeat.

For the mincemeat:

  •  275g currants
  • 100g tart dried cherries
  • 250g raisins
  • 100g dried fruit
  • 1 bramley apple
  • 2 dessert apples (bog standard eating apples)
  • 1 lemon – Zest and juice
  • 50g butter
  • 250ml stout
  • 3 tbsp rum or brandy (or to your own taste)
  • 300g brown sugar
  • 1 tsp each of ground mace, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves  (you can change the spices up as you like but I really liked this combination in my Christmas cake so used it here too.)

Tip: Don’t use a normal apple in place of bramley apple as it won’t fall apart and make that lovely thick sauce.

Peel, core and grate your bramley apple

Heat the apple in a pan along with the brown sugar and stout.

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Bring to the boil then simmer gently until the apple has started to dissolve making a lovely thick sauce.

While that’s simmering peel, core and finely dice your dessert apples (cox, braeburn, royal gala whatever you fancy).

Add your chopped apples, fruit, spices and finally butter to the saucepan.

Continue to gently heat until you have a thick mincemeat.

Allow the mincemeat to cool until just warm before adding your brandy or rum, stir well and let it cool completely before making the pies.

You can use this mincemeat immediately or store it for a while. I left mine for a couple of days before making mince pies but that’s because I didn’t have time on the day.

 For the pastry:

  • 75 caster sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g butter
  • 75 – 100g cream cheese
  • 50g almonds

Just as you would with normal pastry start by rubbing together the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder.

Once that’s well rubbed in and you have fine crumbs, add the cream cheese and almonds and repeat until you have a smooth dough.

Chill your dough for at least 30 minutes before using.

Once chilled roll the dough out between two sheets of baking paper, I find this easiest because it doesn’t stick – I lightly dust the sheets with icing sugar as well.

Roll it out to be about ½ cm thick.
I made 8 mince pies from this pastry but could have easily made 10 even with the holly decoration.

Using a circular cutter (or the bottom of an appropriate sized cup if you haven’t got one) cut out circles of pastry big enough to line your muffin/bun tin– approximately 8 – 10 cm depending on what kind of tin you use.

Use a slightly smaller cutter, or cup, to cut the same number of tops for your pies.

At this point the pastry has been quite worked and is a bit soft so I chilled mine in the fridge for 5 minutes before pressing it into the tins.

Spoon in your mincemeat, most bakers say ¾ full but my pies were quite shallow so I did them right to the brim. I ‘ve said it before about fruity pies, there’s nothing worse than a lack of fruit! I don’t want a mince pie with barely there mincemeat.

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Dip your finger in cold water and run it along the edges of the pastry before pressing the tops of the pies on and pinching to seal.

Make a couple of little slits in the tops of the pies a knife to allow steam come out of the pies as they cook (you might end up with soggy tops if you don’t).

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I decorated mine with bits of leftover pastry, but you could just as easily leave them undecorated and dust with icing sugar once cooked.

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Cook for 20 – 25 minutes at 200C

Pastry is very temperamental in my oven so I stuck to the minimum cooking time and checked them a lot. Luckily they were a success, there wasn’t a soggy bottom in sight.

Christmas Cake(s)

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I love fruitcakes, maybe because they always remind me of Christmas cake but definitely because they always go well with a cup of tea. With a month to go until Christmas now it seemed like an appropriate time to post this. So, If you’ve not got yours done yet then now you’ve no excuse.  I thought it was strange not to soak the fruit in alcohol before using it but it saved me buying a bottle of brandy and in fact I’d say this cake doesn’t really need it. It’s called a ‘black’ Christmas cake which is quite accurate. The spiciness of the cloves and richness of the prunes really come through, especially when it’s wrapped up and left a while. Even though it wasn’t fed with alcohol the cake was still really moist, even more so after being left for a few weeks.

Black Christmas cake:

  •  500ml stout (I used Guinness)  Image
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp groung mace
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 375g dried mixed fruit
  • 150g prunes, chopped
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 200g chopped glace ginger
  • 200g muscovado sugar
  • 175g black treacle
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g wholemeal flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder

Line a 20cm cake tin with non stick baking paper – I’d suggest double lining it and make sure it goes up higher than the baking tin.

Preheat the oven to 170C.

It might be worth having a look at Delia Smith’s ‘how to make a Christmas cake’ if you want to make sure your cake is really protected. I wish I had! 

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Heat the Guinness in a saucepan, bring it to the boil and then allow it to simmer until you’re left with just 100ml of liquid.

While that’s reducing get all your fruit ready and place it in a bowl with the orange extract.

Add the butter to the reduced Guinness and allow it to melt.

Stir in the spices.

Beat in the sugar and treacle then pour the mix over the dried fruit.

Beat the eggs separately then stir them into the fruity mix.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and then beat this into the rest of the mix.

Bake for 2 – 2 ½ hours until a skewer inserted comes out with just the odd crumb.

If you’ve not gone for Delia’s protective method then cover the top with tinfoil if the cake starts looking too dark.

Now, I’ve had a rant before about my dodgy oven and this is why my mini cakes came about.  The cake is a ‘black’ Christmas cake so obviously it was going to be dark, but my black Christmas cake was a just a burnt Christmas cake. Well, it wasn’t that bad but it was slightly overdone and chewy. I was absolutely gutted thinking the whole cake would be dry but when I cut it in half to check the inside was beautifully moist. So, I set to work mutiliating a morning’s hard work. I cut off the slightly burned chewier bits and then made what was left into squares which I wrapped in cling film and left for a couple of days before decorating.

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 Deocoration:

  • 500g Marzipan
  • 500g fondant icing
  • Apricot jam
  • Icing sugar

Depending on the size of the cakes roll out enough marzipan to cover each one with a little excess. Image

Brush the squares with melted apricot jam just as you would a normal Christmas cake, and wrap them with marzipan.

Press the marzipan firmly down around the corner and trim the excess off at the base.

Wrap in cling film and leave for a day.

Repeat the process, without the jam, using your fondant icing.

Tips:

Use a bit of icing sugar when rolling your marzipan or icing to make sure it doesn’t stick, I’d also recommend chilling them a bit beforehand so they don’t get sticky and pull apart easily.

Decorate them as you like! I had loads of random fondant icing colours in my cupboard I thought I’d best use up but you could do all sorts.

The cakes were a hit and even my hardest to please housemate absolutely loved them. I certainly wouldn’t complain if I was served a nice big slice of this on Christmas day.