One of my favourite food bloggers and creative people around is Heidi Swanson, the brains behind 101 Cookbooks and founder of Quitokeeto. I have been following Heidi for a long time and I just love the minimalist look of both the blog and her photos. They are both examples of the saying that simple is best, which I totally am a fan of. As it happens, she together with a handful of other excellent bloggers, gave me that much needed nudge to start my own blog. I don’t know them but I still consider them to be my mentors. They truly show us how it’s done.
After much deliberation I’ve decided that the last recipe for 2014 will be one of the best I’ve tried this year. When I say the best I mean it in every sense of the word, including the easiest. I make this recipe again and again and it turns out good every time without fail. I also like to make it when I’m in a rush, or before I head off to someone’s house for lunch or dinner. Or when celebrating 4 years of C&T!
Time flies, but I’m stating the obvious there.
Today is Market day in Guildford. I’m not feeling too well so I decided to stay in, but that means I can show you what I brought home with me last month, which in turn inspired something I baked a few weeks ago. By coincidence, or call it what you want, I was thrown in a very entertaining Twitter conversation involving lots of people, including the lovely Signe, a.k.a. Scandilicious. Topic: Brownies. As you may know, Signe is one of my very favourite food writers. What I didn’t know is how seriously she takes brownies. Seriousness/passion scale 1 to 10 = 20. I say this in the most affectionate way, mind you. Why? Because she’s on to something. Brownies have the tendency to be way too sweet, too fudgy, too bitter, too chewy, not too chewy, too bland and too everything. To be honest brownies aren’t one of my first picks when choosing something from the coffee shop or bakery. I prefer a good muffin, though homemade ones are the best. Somehow the ones found in shops, tend to be really dry. The ones you can get in coffee shop chains I mean. But I digress.
Having said that I love making brownies at home – they are foolproof, easy, quick to assemble and therefore there’s no fuss. These are qualities that appeal to me in the kitchen. I cannot count the times I decided against baking something because of all the faff. I tend to be lazy in that way, yes, but when I’m tired the last thing I want to bake is a croquembouche. Let’s leave that to the pros, shall we?
This recipe is Signe’s, from Scandilicious Baking of course. They are seriously
ooppss rich. And just for kicks I added dried chilli on top. The taste of these will take some time to develop so don’t expect to taste the full-blown effect instantly. But you will get the chilli hit by day 3. If you keep them in a cool place tightly sealed in a container, and wrapped in their own parchment paper, they will stay fresh. Mine kept for a whole week, and here I must say thankfully! Take your time with them.
- 125g unsalted butter
- 75g cocoa powder
- 175g chocolate hazelnut spread (in other words, Nutella!)
- 3 eggs
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 50g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 shot of espresso
- pinch salt
- ¼ teaspoon or whereabouts of dried chilli flakes, for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven to 150ºC/130ºC convection/Gas mark 2. Grease and line with parchment paper a 20 x 20 cm square tin. Cut the parchment bigger that needed so that you have a steady hold at the sides when lifting the finished brownies. It takes a bit of extra work but well worth it I promise you.
Put the butter in a small pan and melt. Add the cocoa powder and hazelnut spread and give everything a proper mix. Set the mixture aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, break the eggs, give them a light whisk, then add the caster sugar and whisk again. Take the cooled chocolate-butter mixture and pour it in the bowl. Now add the plain flour, vanilla extract and salt. Mix everything until the all the ingredients are combined. You will now have a dark, gooey brownie mixture.
Tip the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle the dried chilli flakes on top. Bake for around 22 minutes. Around the 20 minute mark, insert a skewer in the middle. If you see some uncooked mixture on it, then take the brownies out of the oven. They will continue cooking in the tin, so please don’t overbake them. If the skewer comes out clean, you probably left them in the oven for too long.
Cool the brownies before cutting them into squares.
I told Signe they reminded me of American brownies. They are so different from the ones you get in the UK, which unfortunately tend to lack character. So I have to say this recipe wins hands down. So thanks Sig! And I look forward to seeing what you come up with next. Enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen, Saltyard Books, 2012.)
May I add some pics of those bought at the Market? Here they are…
Some months ago I was going through my pantry and noticed that I had a whole packet of unopened hazelnuts. That’s very me unfortunately. It’s no news that sometimes I tend to buy food stuffs without really planning ahead. I’m improving though…Honest! Solution: Twitter and the lovely James Tanner. James kindly sent me a link to his recipe for Chocolate Nut Brownies. I changed it slightly because I had to work with what I had in the pantry at the time but the result was fantastic all the same. I’m no expert when it comes to alcohol so I just put my hand in the drinks cabinet and grabbed the first thing that was in there. That turned out to be a bottle of Islay, which was a good choice. Also I used 300g of hazelnuts instead of the selection which James uses because that’s all I had. Anything you use will be great anyhow: one of the beauties of these rich chocolate babies. You will love them. James, thanks again for this recipe. It was a hit.
- 560g dark chocolate, cut into small chunks
- 330g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 shots Islay whiskey (or water)
- 1 tablespoon of coffee granules/or a shot of espresso
- 5 large eggs
- 330g golden caster sugar
- 175g plain flour, sifted
- 300g toasted hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas mark 4, and line a 2 inch deep, 12 inch square baking tin with parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water, and make sure that the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Stir occasionally.
In another heavy-based pan, gently heat the whiskey (or water) together with the coffee granules until these dissolve.
With an electric whisk, beat the eggs and the sugar in a medium bowl, also over a pan of simmering water, until the double in volume. This is called a Sabayon or Zabaglione. It should turn light and pale. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Slowly fold in the melted chocolate mixture into the Sabayon. Be gentle so you retain all that lovely airy texture. Now mix in the hazelnuts.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Leave to cool slightly and cut into squares.
Note: If you don’t have an electric hand whisk you can still make these brownies but it will take *a lot* of whisking. But it’s not impossible. Take it from me – I tried and tested it!
I don’t know if I mentioned this earlier on in another post but I’ve got another confession to make: I’m a chocoholic. I love chocolate in everything sweet and given the opportunity, I’d love to try that with something savoury too. Until that happens it’s so easy to get your chocolate fix once in a while. (Should I say “without overdoing it” next?) So here’s one of my favourite recipes. Once again it’s taken from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy, with some slight changes here and there. I made this very recently and it was approval all around. Oh….and if you love Oreos then this one’s for you! If you’d rather use something else instead of Oreos you could substitute them either with toasted walnuts or pecans.
For these brownies Lorraine uses a mixer, but if you don’t have one (or if it’s way at the back of your kitchen cupboard and feel to lazy to reach for it) then it’s not a problem to mix everything by hand. This recipe makes approximately 16 brownies. Enjoy.
- 165g butter
- 200g dark chocolate, chopped
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 165g soft light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- pinch of salt (optional)
- 154g pack Oreo cookies, broken into quarters
- icing sugar for dusting
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 6. Grease a square baking tin and line with baking paper with the sides overlapping. (Don’t leave out the paper as it will make it easier to take the brownies out of the tin when cooled.)
- Melt the butter over medium heat and add the chocolate. Lightly stir the mixture and leave this to stand for a few minutes.
- In a large bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla essence until they start to become light and fluffy. Add half of the sugar and whisk, then add the rest and whisk again with the egg mixture. Then pour the buttery chocolate into it slowly around the sides (to keep as much of the fluffiness as possible in the batter).
- Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt if you’re using that and approximately half of the Oreos. Stir until well combined and pour the batter into the prepared baking tin. Scatter the rest of the Oreo cookies over the top, pressing them in slightly but not too much. Bake the brownie mixture for around 30 minutes. At this point check it with a skewer or a knife: it should not come out totally clean. You want that squidgy-ness around the middle.
- Leave the brownies to cool in the tin. The top should sink and crack a little so don’t be alarmed. Slowly pull the brownies out using the overlap of the baking paper, dust with some icing sugar (a little less than my photo please!) and cut into squares.