Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Ultimate Chocolate Brownies

When it comes to cakes in this house, nothing is as popular as gooey, fudgy, chocolate contained in a bite (or two) sized piece of heaven. These chocolate brownies are a firm favourite with the boys and have even been known to make an appearance at my employer's annual coffee morning in aid of MacMillan. They are the perfect treat with a creamy cappuccino.

185g unsalted butter
185g 70% dark chocolate (I used Green and Black's Cook's Chocolate)
85g plain (all purpose) flour
40g cocoa powder (I used Waitrose - I'm not sure if this is dutch processed but I suspect so)
50g plain chocolate (I used Cadbury's Bourneville)
50g milk chocolate (I used Cadbury's Dairy Milk)
3 large eggs
275g golden caster sugar

First, preheat the oven to 160 fan / 180 conventional / gas 4.
Prepare a 20cm square cake tin - I use a Silverwood loose bottomed tin, and I find I only need to line the base (which I do using Lakeland reusable baking liner). I don't find I need to grease this, so as I keep the liner in the tin, it's always ready to use.

Then chop the plain and milk chocolate into bite sized chunks and set aside.

Chop the butter and 70% chocloate into chunks and place in a small bowl. Gently melt over simmering water until combined and silky. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, place the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and whisk using a hand held mixer until pale and creamy - the mixture should leave a trail on the surface for a couple of seconds when you lift the beaters out.

The egg and sugar mixture should leave a trail for a couple of seconds
Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the sugar and eggs, and gently fold in.

Sift the flour and cocoa into the mixture, and again, gently fold in

Pour the mixture into the tin
Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 25 minutes. They may need a few more minutes than this if the centre is still wobbly. You're looking for the top to be shiny and papery, and the sides slightly coming away from the tin.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Cut into 16 squares. I've read tips that suggest that before cutting brownies, you should place them in the freezer for 10 minutes. I've never tried this, and on this occasion, they cut beautifully without doing so. That said, other times they can be slightly gooeyer than others, so just see how they are.

You should now have a deliciously moist, intense chocolatey brownie that's not too sweet.
You can ring the changes if that's more to your taste by using different types of chocolate for the chunks - I've made them using Green and Black's Maya Gold, which made brownies to die for - but you could try any of the flavours out there.
They are based on a recipe from BBC Good Food magazine some years ago.
 I hope you like them.


Monday, 26 December 2011

Mary Berry's Christmas Cake Mix

I've never made a Christmas cake before.

It's one of those things that has always seemed easier to buy ready made, rather than have to buy lots of separate ingredients, and then invest time in the preparation and cooking, with leftover packets lurking on the shelves for months to come. Given that although I love fruitcake, I am the only one in the house to do so, it's always been a faff too far.

This year though, I was tempted by the Mary Berry cake kit in Tesco. Particularly as it was then half price at £5 (since reduced even further - I've now seen it at £1!).
Today I finally got to the baking stage.

Now the first thing to say is that I have since found a number of posts on the web that refer to this cake - with mixed reactions. One particular discussion on netmums became pretty heated! Anyway, I thought it might be helpful to record my experience.

 The kit comes with most of the ingredients included, and you just have to supplement it with some fresh ingredients: eggs, butter, an orange and lemon. Easy enough.

The mix needs a 20cm, deep tin, which is greased well and then double lined.

Then it's a case of creaming the butter and sugar together, adding in the rest of the ingredients and mixing well. I thought I'd made a mistake at one point, as I used a hand mixer on the butter and sugar, and then when mixing in the eggs. The mixture began to look curdled, but adding the remaining items brought it together again.

Once the mix is in the tin, you need to cover it with a double layer of grease proof paper (with a small hole to vent steam).
Then into the oven for 4 - 4 1/2 hours (with no peeking allowed for the first three hours!). In my case, the cake was in the oven for four hours, then the oven was turned off with the cake taken out a little while later (I was out at the time and the instructions to my son were clearly lost in translation).

This is the cake having been left to cool and then removed from the tin. I'm not sure why the cake is a slightly lighter colour where the vent was but presume it's because the middle takes longer to cook.

Anyway, the kit also includes apricot jam, marzipan and icing sugar to decorate, but the instructions recommend you do each further stage 24 hours apart. For the moment, though, the house now smells suitably festive.

When I got around to the marzipan and icing stage, I was pressed for time so did both together. It was easy enough, and mixing the icing brought back memories of icing the cake with my mum when I was little.

Finally, today, I got around to finally trying the cake.

I used a piece of festive ribbon to wrap around for picture purposes, and it showed up where I had left gaps in the icing. Note to self: make sure I ice to the edge!

Anyway, the cake cut beautifully, and although I feared might have been dry, is actually quite moist.

It was very flavourful, not too boozy or sweet, although the marzipan seemed a little overpowering. I would also have changed the decoration to ensure that you get marzipan and icing on the sides as well, as I prefer a bit of each in each mouthful.
Overall, it's OK, although nothing spectacular.

All in all, I'm not sure I would repeat it, and even though I was left with minimal washing up for a baking expeience, I suspect I will be back to buying a completed cake in future. It did seem a good shortcut way of making your own.

Merry Christmas,


Thursday, 22 December 2011


Who doesn't like cake? No one I know, that's for sure!

Starting a blog is a bit of a daunting prospect. But as I've had so much enjoyment reading other baking blogs, and have discovered so many new recipes and tips, I thought I'd give it a go.

I've always loved cooking and although I've always baked the odd cake / batch of cookies, it's really only in the last year that I've become really passionate about it. There is something about the preparation, mixing and the smell of home baking coming from your oven. The important bit though, is the sharing with family and friends something that is hopefully pleasurable and brings enjoyment. It's often said by others, too, but it really does take me back to my childhood, in the kitchen with my mum and nan, and some very fond memories. At this time of year we'd often do traditional festive baking. It's now me in thefamily who is the primary baker. So as I started planning some of my own this year, I thought why not blog about it? It's a way of recording it for my family, and if someone else is interested, then that'd be great, too!

The next post will cover my experience trying out Tesco's Mary Berry Christmas Cake mix - I wasn't quite sure of this but thought it was worth a go when I saw it for half price! I know it's not 'real' baking, but these kits are becoming increasingly common. Anyway, the cake is now baking in the oven, so I will do a full post once it is finished.

Hope you enjoy it,