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That perfect brownie

18 Feb Perfect chocolate brownies with ice cream and chocolate sauce

After a few failed attempts, I’ve finally, finally found that perfect brownie recipe.  It isn’t just me that keeps making massive mistakes (I hope not anyway) but rather I just needed to find a recipe that suited my taste.  And I’ve found it.

Perfect chocolate brownies with ice cream and chocolate sauceI’ve been posting regularly on my Food Wonders blog, and the successful brownie recipe has been proudly uploaded.  It’s so easy, only 5 ingredients: dark chocolate, unsalted butter, sugar, plain flour and eggs.

A good friend of mine pointed me in the right direction.  There is an amazing bakery here in London called the Hummingbird bakery.  They focus on American style baking and their red velvet cupcakes are to die for.  I actually never had their chocolate brownies before until now.

My husband’s absolutely favourite dessert is a warm fudgy chocolate brownie with hot chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.  He doesn’t really care much for cakes and in general baked goods, as I’ve mentioned before.  However, if a chocolate brownie is on the menu then he simply cannot resist!

As it was Valentine’s day last week, I decided that I must make this dessert and try, yet another brownie recipe.  I think I was just as excited about these brownies tasting so amazing as my husband.  Finally, no more searching is required!

Please check out this recipe on my Food wonders blog and sign up for the monthly newsletter!  Cheers.

 

Sweet shortcrust pastry

16 Jul

After last weeks successful pastry, I thought I would make another one, just to test that last week wasn’t a fluke!  I had a few friends coming over for dinner and decided to make a chocolate and raspberry tart for dessert.

Thankfully, I managed to create another successful pastry – same process, but slightly different ingredients to make the pastry suitable for a sweet dessert.  As berries are in season, this worked a treat!

If I were to make this again, I would probably mix some milk chocolate into the ganache, as the dark chocolate was incredibly rich.

Pastry:
250 gr plain flour
100 gr cold unsalted butter, cubed
100 gr icing / confectioners sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
 
250 gr raspberries
10 gr mint leaves, finely chopped
 
Ganache:
250 ml whipping cream
200 gr dark chocolate (perhaps 50 gr could be milk instead)
25 gr liquid glucose
50 gr unsalted butter, cubed
 

Serves 8

In a food processor, pulse the flour and butter until mixture looks like breadcrumbs.  Pour on a work surface and mix in the salt and icing sugar.

Make a well in the middle and mix in the eggs until you have a dough.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Bring the pastry back to room temperature and roll out to fit a 20cm flan ring.  Refrigerate again for 20 minutes in the tin.  Preheat the oven to 190 C / 375 F.

Blind bake the pastry for 20 minutes, remove the beans / rice, reduce the temperature to 180 C / 350 F and bake for another 5 minutes or until the base is dry.  Cool the pastry on a wire rack.

Set aside 3 raspberries per person (24 if you’re serving 8) and halve the rest.  Mix in the mint.  Spread this evenly on the bottom of the cold pastry case.

For the ganache, heat the cream until just before it boils, take off the heat and add the glucose and chocolate and whisk until the chocolate has melted.  Slowly add the butter, whisking continually.

Pour this mixture over the raspberries.  Allow to cool and then refrigerate until very cold, approximately 2 hours.

Serve with the reserved raspberries.  Enjoy!

 

How to make Macarons

3 May

Colourful, French macarons.  It’s one of those treats that look oh so amazingly good but way too difficult to make.  I came to this conclusion long before I even attempted them (as I do with baking) so with a friend, I signed up to a macaroon making course.

Thankfully, we had an uber friendly teacher who had the most amazing patience and thought that everything looked wonderful and we were unbelievable fast-learning students; even though you knew that your green macaron colour you had created looked similar to a toxic waste dump then pistachio, which is what you were going for.

Nevertheless, the box of goodies that we left with at the end of the day looked something special and we did feel quite proud of ourselves.  A day later, I was also quite proud of how many I was able to consume in one day without getting sick – quite an accomplishment…

I thought I would share the chocolate macaron recipe as these were my favourite.

180 gr ground almonds
20 gr cocoa powder
200 gr icing / confectioners sugar
80 gr egg whites (you can buy whites in a carton in good supermarkets, which are much easier to measure)
 
For the Meringue:
200 gr caster / fine sugar
75 ml water
80 gr egg whites
 
For the Ganache:
180 gr dark chocolate, chopped
90 gr double cream
Mint essence, optional

Preheat oven to 150 C / 300 F and line oven trays with parchment paper.

For the macaron shells, mix together the almonds, icing sugar, cocoa until well mixed in a large bowl.  Fold in the unbeaten egg whites.  Fold quite gently as you don’t want the mixture to go runny, as thick as possible.  Put this aside.

In a small pan, cook the water and sugar for the meringue without stirring.  At the same time, in an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until full of white bubbles but no peaks.  When the syrup on the stove reaches 110 C / 230 F, turn the mixer with the egg whites on it s highest speed.  Take the syrup off the stove as soon as it reaches 114 C / 237 F and add it very slowly to the egg whites while the mixer is on.  Continue mixing for a further 5 minutes until completely cooled.  This step is obviously a lot easier with a stand alone mixer, however if you don’t have one of these this step may be easier with two people.

Very gently, fold 1/3 of the meringue into the almond paste.  Once fully combined, fold in gently the remaining meringue.

Fill a piping bag with a 1A nozzle and pipe out round mounds onto parchment paper.  Try to make each macaron a similar shape.  Tap the tray on the bench lightly so the macaron shells are smooth.  Let the macarons set at room temperature for 30 minutes or until the tops are set.

Bake in the preheated oven for 14 minutes.  Immediately slide the paper off the oven tray onto a cool bench top.  This helps the macarons release off the paper.  Cool.

Meanwhile, make the ganache by heating the cream to just below boiling point in a saucepan.  Immediately pour this hot cream over the small pieces of chocolate.  While stirring the chocolate should melt.  Leave this to cool as well.

Fill a piping bag with a smaller nozzle and the cooled ganache.  Pipe a good amount on one macaron and then with a similar size make a “sandwich”.  These can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.  They also taste better the next day.  Enjoy!

Searching for that perfect brownie

12 Apr

I’m into month 4 of my baking attempts and I have only attempted recipes which I thought were straight forward and I would be able to achieve.  I also thought that after a few months of experience, I would have learnt a thing or two and my baking skills would have improved.  Mmmm.

Brownies were on my list as an “easy recipe”.  I have just completed my second attempt which tasted amazing, but looked horrendous.  I haven’t taken a photo of them as they don’t look great at all.

But back to my first batch of brownies  that I tried on the weekend.  I used Nigella’s recipe.  Unfortunately, I forgot everything I learnt so far this year and with my cocky attempt, substituted ingredients and didn’t follow the measurements correctly.  Surely I’ve made this mistake often enough!  Apparently not.  They turned out to be very thin and quite dry.

So, I tried Anne Thornton’s recipe today, as I saw her bake them on the TV.  Unfortunately the first step, creating fudge, isn’t as easy as it looks on TV.  After 20 minutes of stirring, I didn’t get a ball of dough and just carried on.  Looking at other online comments, this isn’t an unusual problem.  These do taste absolutely amazing and really are quite fudgy.  Only issue is that they dried quite hard on top and the bottom stuck to the greaseproof paper, so they fell apart or broke in two.

So I will continue my search for the perfect brownie recipe, or rather, I have already found the perfect brownie recipe and just need to have another go at it.  And I thought making brownies would be very easy….

Easy Chocolate Cake

16 Feb

After the failed attempt at baking pastry, I decided to go back to basics for my next recipe.

 As I have mentioned previously, my bookcase is bulging with cookbooks and much to my partner’s disgust, I chose a recipe from the BBC food website instead.  Problem is that most cookbooks don’t have a basic chocolate cake recipe.  They all have fancy frosting or 4 layers or some other difficult technique and I wanted something very basic to start with.  So this simple chocolate cake is what I went for.

 And simple it was.  Just everything in a bowl, mix and bake.  This is the kind of baking I can do!  For the actual cake, I was really proud, as I didn’t change one single ingredient and I measured everything – which is a first for me!  Probably why it worked…..

It was really moist as well.  A fantastic cake recipe.

 225 gr plain flour
350 gr caster sugar
85 gr cocoa powder
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda / baking soda
2 eggs
250 ml milk
125 ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
250 ml boiling water
 
For the chocolate ganache (icing / frosting)
200 gr chocolate (I used a mixture of dark & milk)
200 ml double cream

Turn oven on to 180 C / 350 F.  Grease & line two 20cm / 8 inch sandwich tins.  I just used butter and greaseproof paper.

Mix all cake ingredients, except the boiling water.  Whisk together and then slowly add in the boiling water.  The mixture will be very liquid.

Divide the mixture into the two tins and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.  Allow to cool.

For the ganache melt both the cream and chocolate together in a pot over a very low heat until the chocolate is melted.  Ensure it is mixed well and glossy.  Allow this to cool for a couple of hours until it’s become a spreadable consistency.  Once it had cooled somewhat, I actually put it into the refrigerator for a while.

Spread a good amount of the ganache over the top of both the cakes.  Place one on top of the other on a serving plate and cover the rest of the ganache over the entire cake using a palette knife.  Enjoy!