Brownies

Brownies

There are many cakes that I will probably, through lack of knowledge of their existence, never bake.  But a brownie is not one of them.  Although to be fair, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have even considered making them at home and not just buying them to eat when meeting friends at the coffee shop.

Brownies have recently become synonymous with morning coffee, perhaps in part due to their American origins, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more likely because they compliment a hot drink wonderfully, so they, like so many other cakes, have naturally veered towards the morning or afternoon ‘nibble’ slot.   Although according to thenibble.com brownies are actually a bar cookie as opposed to a cake because,

“…brownies are finger food, like cookies, and cake is eaten with a fork”

I don’t know about you, but I can eat cake very nicely without a fork, thank-you. Moreover, I always presumed the classification process was more about how the item was baked and it’s consistency.  But who am I to argue?  Although there is another issue, on our little island, regarding whether it should be taxed or not, based on the classification of whether the food is a biscuit or cake.  And for those of you who are the slightest bit interested, may I guide you to the ‘Jaffa Cake Fiasco’ for more, vitally important and gripping details.   *Ahem*

Meanwhile, the brownie recipe I follow is a gloriously simple one, promoted by the one and only Nigella Lawson, who, for any of you that didn’t see it, read out with wonderful precision, the Eurovision results for our little island this year.  A show dedicated to all things gloriously ironic and ever so slightly camp.  Perfect for our sense of humour.

And now let me shimmy, seamlessly, to the ingredients.  You will need 375g butter, 375g good dark chocolate.  Melt together, leave to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, mix together 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 300g chopped nuts (usually walnuts, but yesterday I did a mixture of walnuts, pecans and almonds simply because I didn’t have enough walnuts) into a bowl.   Then add six large eggs, 500g castor sugar and 1 tablespoonful of vanilla extract into another bowl and whisk together.

When the melted chocolate mix has cooled slightly, add the whisked egg mixture and then the flour nut combo.  Pour into a greased and lined rectangular dish, depending on the size of brownie you would like.

Cook at gas mark 4 for around 25 minutes.  As soon as the mixture stops wobbling, and the top has cracked and turned a lighter brown, whip them out of the oven and leave to cool before cutting.

Make a coffee (or tea) and sit down, brownie in one hand, drink in the other, for five minutes – or 30 seconds in my case –  of absolute pleasure.

Courgette Cake

Courgette Cake

Having sampled this cake a coupe of years ago, made by one of my many talented and lovely friends, the memory of how wonderful it tasted has stayed with me, although I have never, until now, managed to rustle one up.

Turns out it is the simplest thing to make, and although I am still not eating sugar so therefore won’t be able to sample my goods, it will be going to the wee boy’s Kindergarten Spring Fayre, which is happening on Saturday so hopefully will all be eaten.  Actually, there is enough mixture to make two of then which, in my book, is a result.

This is what you will need:

3 eggs, 275ml sunflower oil – I used vegetable oil as I didn’t have any sunflower oil and I figured there can’t be that much difference – 350g caster sugar, 350g courgettes grated, 165g plain flour, 165g buckwheat flour – once again, I didn’t have any so I used wholemeal plain flour – 1tsp baking powder, 2 tspns bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp cinnamon, 175g raisins – I used sultanas, see previous excuse – 150g walnuts chopped.

Now then, here’s a thing with putting nuts into a cake.  I absolutely love them but the wee boy and his friends are going through a phase of ‘being allergic’ to things, which roughly translates as not liking them, so I have left the nuts out of this recipe as it has the ‘I’m allergic to nuts’ foray written all over it.  Instead I replaced them with a handful of chia seeds, for texture.

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4. Then, either grease and line the base of two 900g/2lb loaf tins or, if you’re like me, you will have purchased, for absolutely no other reason than the thought that they might come in handy one day, a packet of paper loaf tin liners.  I was beginning to think they may have to be used for something to paint onto, but now I am completely absolved from buying ‘just in case stuff’, as they fit the tins perfectly.

Put all the ingredients together and mix to make a thick batter.  Pour into the cake tins.  Bake in the pre heated over for about an hour until the loaves are firm and a skewer comes out clean.  Sadly, I couldn’t remember what time I put the cakes in as I was ‘multi-tasking’.  However, I went by the smell of the oven and actually, although when I first tested them they weren’t quite done, I left them in a little longer, turning up the heat ever so slightly, and there was no dip at all.  Which has given me a completely disproportionate belief that I know what I’m doing.

Cool the cakes a little before turning out on a wire rack.

I have left one of the cakes without anything on top but the other now has a glaze made up of lime juice and granulated sugar. Of course I am unable to tell you what that will taste like but I reckon it should compliment the cake well.  I will be able to tell though, because when you sell cake at a Fayre, people never come back for a second slice if it’s not palatable.

I’ll let you know what happens.

Coffee and Walnut Cake

coffee and walnut cake

It has reached the time of year in our household that, for 10 months prior to November, always sounds very romantic.  Until it starts to get closer.  And then the reality sets in.   Not only that, every year, without fail, we are not prepared for the shock.

‘What on earth is she talking about?’  Whispered the voice at the back.

Well, for us, we are just about to hit celebration season.  And this is how it goes:

Me, him, the little ray of sunshine, the day we met, youngest brother-in-law, wedding anniversary, mini him, another brother-in-law, Christmas.

I know.  How lovely all to be born within a month of each other…

As a direct result of this birthday montage, there is also an onslaught of cake to be made to compliment said birthday celebrations, and this year, for me, it’s coffee and walnut cake.

My favourite bit of this cake, as a child, was the icing.  I enjoyed the cake out of politeness, but honestly it was really just seen as the bit to endure, to get to the bit I loved.  So much so, I used to sneak into the kitchen when I thought no-one was looking, dip my finger in the tin holding the cake, and swipe a good dollopful of icing, before quickly closing the lid.

On reflection, this technique was not the cleverest really, as when my mum next opened the tin, there would often be a large crevice where icing once was.  Like every good thief, I would completely deny any knowledge of the incident, although it was obviously one of us.

Back to the cake.

So, I mix 225g of butter and 225g of castor sugar together, although sometimes I half and half the castor sugar with soft light brown.  I then add 50g of walnuts and whizz them altogether in my trusty Kenwood.  Add 3 eggs, one by one, 3 dessertspoonfuls of espresso coffee, 225g of self raising flour and a teaspoon of baking powder.

Divide between two prepared cake tins and bake, gas mark 4, for around 25 minutes depending on your oven.  As mine is a little contrary I tend to open the oven way too early on, and spend the next 10 minutes hoping that, as I’ve turned up the heat a little, this will counterbalance the cake dip.  It’s not the most successful technique, but you can’t blame me for trying.

That is a down side to being an eternal optimist.

Once cooked, let the cakes cool on a rack for around 10 minutes before turning out and peeling the greaseproof paper off.  Once again, my over eagerness often catches me unawares and I take the cakes out of their tins way too early, so they stick to the cooling rack.  But hey, I figure it will have icing on it to cover any glitches and life is way too short to get in a tizzy about such things.

The icing is a combination of 300g icing sugar, 175 butter and a dessertspoonful or 2 of espresso coffee.

Here’s a little tip for icing sugar.  Sieve or give it a whizz round in the trusty Kenwood before adding the butter, otherwise it is an absolutely devil to get smooth.

Dollop half in between the cooled cake sponges, and half on top.  If you’re feeling particularly fancy, you could create a lovely pattern on top and sprinkle on some walnuts.

Either way, this is an absolutely delicious cake for any time of year, so cut yourself a good slab, make a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy.

 

 

 

Date and Walnut Loaf

Date and Wlanut Loaf

The wonderful thing about the nights drawing in and having less daylight, is that it allows you to indulge in more carbohydrate based food stuffs.  Not that you need to or anything, it’s just a comforting thing to do.

This date and walnut bread is absolutely delicious on it’s own, with butter, cheese, honey or toasted and most definitely makes you feel satiated.

And guess what?  I use exactly the same recipe for this as I do for the other bread (see previous post) but just add a handful or so of chopped dates and a handful or so of chopped walnuts when the bread maker goes beep beep beep.

Remember to put it on a dough setting though, as otherwise the whole thing will be cooked, and, quite frankly, I don’t think bread maker cooked bread is as satisfying as bread dough molded into the shape you require and risen again before baking.

One more thing to watch out for.  When baking the bread, make sure it’s completely cooked through.  I know I’m probably teaching my grandmother to suck eggs here (where on earth did that bonkers phrase come from?), but bread with stuff in it does take a little longer in my oven, so I’m guessing that’s true of most people’s ovens.

Final tip of the day, if you have some dates hanging out in a cupboard that have been there for quite a while, pop them in a bowl and pour over just boiled water. Leave to soak for around 20 minutes or so and they will be as plump as a cushion.

You’re welcome.