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Last year, I thought I’d found the perfect brownie recipe. Oh, I was so damn sure of it, I was quite the smug little madam at the time.
Well, budge over French Brownies, there’s a new contender for the throne with this recipe from the NY bakery… Baked. And, unless someone tells me the place completely sucks (please don’t!), I’m going to make a beeline for it if I’m ever lucky enough to go back to NY (looking increasingly unlikely, given the current economic climate).
Whereas my old favourites have a quite fudgy texture and sort of dissolve on the tongue, the Baked recipe turns out dense slabs of chocolate which demand a large mug of something hot and caffeinated to help wash down all that sugar.
Time to put on the kettle then…
The ‘Baked’ Brownie, from Baked by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Makes 24 brownies
1 and 1/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 oz dark chocolate, coarsley chopped
220g unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
5 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13 inch baking tin.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.
3. Put the chocolate, butter and espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.
4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not a whisk), fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 mins, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut them into squares and serve.
Tightly covered with plastic wrap, the brownies keep at room temperature for up to 3 days.
*Coughs quietly* So, er, anyone still out there?
Turns out, I just needed three straight weeks of sleep. Amazing what a few early nights can do. In the meantime, this place has started to look a bit neglected, a little sad and cobwebby in the corners, so it’s probably time to set that right.
With chocolate cupcakes.
These babies definitely come from the no-frills school of cupcake baking but are none the worse for that. One day, I will dust off that piping kit I bought when I was full of good intentions about doing some schmancy-pants decorating – but this recipe from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook will somehow get me through in the meantime.
Ottolenghi is the kind of deli/bakery/food nirvarna I would give my right eye, firstborn child and, well, anything really, to have at the bottom of my street or preferably next door. But I live in deepest, darkest
commuters-ville, and the only thing at the end of my street is… another housing estate. So Ottolenghi is allowing me to indulge a little daydream about tripping down the bustling city street to my new favourite place and lingering over the mouthwatering selection of salads, mains and baked goods. Cucumber and poppyseed salad, cauliflower and cumin fritters, sweet potato galettes, plum-marzipan muffins, two-textured chocolate cake…
Oops – did I wander off there for a minute? Now, clearly I’m a sucker for a bit of good photography and a great concept. I have been sold a little slice of the urban living fantasy with this book and I know it. But no recipe feels too complicated for a school night and the friendly voices of Sami and Yotam, the owners, flow off every page like they’re old friends just hanging around in your kitchen, talking about what they’d like to make next.
Hmmmmmmm…. what to make next…
Chocolate cupcakes from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook
2 free-range eggs
115ml soured cream
80ml sunflower oil
20ml black treacle
20g unsalted butter, melted
60g caster sugar
60g light muscovado sugar
120g plain flour
35g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
40g ground almonds
200g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
For the icing:
165g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
135ml whipping cream
35g unsalted butter, diced
1tbsp Amaretto liqueur
1. Heat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. Line a muffin tray or bun sheet with 12 paper cases.
2. Whisk together the first seven ingredients in a large mixing bowl until they are just combined – don’t overmix. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb. Add them to the wet mix along with the salt and almonds, and gently fold together. Fold in the chocolate pieces.
3. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases, filling them up completely. Bake for about 20-25 mins – if you insert a skewer in one, it should come out with quite a bit of crumb attached. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, then take the cupcakes out of their tins.
4. While the cupcakes are in the oven, start making the icing. It will take time to set and become spreadable. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat almost to boiling point, then pour it over the chocolate. Use a rubber spatula to stir until all the chocolate has melted. Add the butter and the Amaretto and beat until smooth.
5. Transfer the icing to a clean bowl and cover the surface with clingflim. Leave at room temperature until the cupcakes have fully cooled and the icing has started to set. You want to catch it at the point when it spreads easily but isn’t hard. Do not rush it by refridgerating!
6. Spoon a generous amount of icing on top of each cupcake and shape with a paleete knife.
I may have had the oven turned up too hot, as these were done and a little dark around the edges at bang-on 20 mins. Icing, however, covers a multitude of sins.
I left the icing to set for too long – easily distracted, see – so my efforts don’t look as luscious as they do in the book.
OK, it took me until 10 days until after my birthday to make it, but I’m a firm believer that any treat in the month running up to and after your birthday is fully justified for celebratory purposes.
I halved the recipe – otherwise we really would keel over – and used a 7-inch tin, which worked out pretty well.
The only tricky bit was slicing the cake into three layers (tongue stuck out of the corner of my mouth in deep concentration) and then brushing each one with melted white chocolate. I should have used the trick of freezing the layers for a short while, then brushing off the crumbs to make it easier to apply the melted chocolate and stop those pesky crumbs mixing into it.
But that’s just me needing to sharpen up my cake assembly/decoration skills and has nothing to do with how delicious this is. Nom, nom, nom!
And, since it’s my birthday cake, it’s only right to play nicely and share. Anyone want some?
I made Molly’s chocolate granola last week as a present for my mum. Unlike me, she’s a hard-wired early bird and actively enjoys breakfast. So I thought I’d make something that was a little bit luxurious but would still work well for every day.
After packing a Kilner jar to the brim, there was plently left over. So now it has become my morning treat too 🙂
How do you like to start the day? Are you a coffee-and-cigarette kind of person (Mr B.) or do you dig into something more substantial? What’s your favourite breakfast of all time?
Three words: Giant. Chocolate. Raisin.
How about two more? Chocolate. Ganache. (OK, I know I’ve already said ‘chocolate’ but I’m highly excited and prone to repeating things.)
Oh boy, oh boy.
That description – minus the ‘oh boys’ – is how Julie Le Clerc grabbed my attention. Chocolate raisins were one of my favourite sweets when I was a young ‘un and I’m a sucker for a good line of copy. (Julie’s exact words being, ‘Believe it or not, these little cakes actually taste exactly like a giant chocolate raisin!’. Come on – that’s someone throwing down the gauntlet if ever I heard it.)
The result is tooth-achingly sweet, more like a giant squishy brownie or a chocolate fondant that’s been allowed to cool down and slathered with more chocolately wonderful-ness. Stuffed with raisins.
Just don’t do what I did and get so excited by the prospect of all your raisin-chocolate dreams coming true that you forget to line the muffin pan and then find that you can only prise two of the little buggers out in one piece.
How many times have I said ‘chocolate’ and ‘raisin’ in this post? That’ll be all the sugar then…
Little chocolate raisin cakes from Simple Café Food by Julie Le Clerc
For the cakes:
125g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 cup caster sugar
½ cup raisins, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1½ tablespoons plain flour
½ cup chocolate raisins (optional but fun)
For the ganache:
½ cup dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup cream
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 6 extra large muffin tins with circles of non-stick baking paper and grease well.
2. In a saucepan, gently melt the butter and chocolate, add the sugar and stir to dissolve, then add the raisins. Take off the heat, allow to cool a little and then carefully add the beaten eggs and finally the flour.
3. Pour into the prepared tins and bake for 20 minutes. The cakes should still be slightly soft in the middle.
4. Cool slightly before carefully removing from the tins. Serve topped with chocolate ganache…
5. Gently melt the chocolate and cream in a double boiler. Stir to form a thick sauce. Allow to cool and thicken then spoon mounds onto each little cake.
Advance planning – clearly not my strong point!
Here are my ever-so-slightly-late results for April’s Daring Bakers challenge – cheesecake pops no less (or popsicles, as I keep calling them). Set by Deborah of Taste and Tell and Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms, this task saw DBers around the world roll up their sleeves to get busy with gallons of cream cheese and melted chocolate to whip up this recipe from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. Check out the Daring Bakers blogroll for many rather more elegant versions than mine. There are some very talented people out there 🙂
So yes, advance planning and/or a practice run would definitely have come in handy. Not because the recipe was tricky but because the whole shaping side of things went a little wonky and the results lack a little finesse on my part.
Partly that’s because I have the artistic abilities of a two-year old. But I think I also tripped up by not chilling the cheesecake for long enough before scooping it into the rather lumpy shapes you see above. Less haste and more speed… Nevermind – it was still a lot of fun rolling the pops into shape and dunking them into the melted chocolate, before making judicious use of my sprinkles (that’s the second time in one week those babies have come out of the cupboard).
I halved the recipe as we’ve got limited room in the freezer just now and that went just fine, which I was pleased with. Sometimes it’s not just a matter of chopping the ingredients in half to achieve the same result for a smaller batch. But after cooking it in the bain marie for about 45 minutes, the cheesecake had gone a beautiful golden-brown on top and had set quite nicely too. Seemed a bit of a shame to break it all up with the icecream scoop!
The slightly lumpy results didn’t affect the taste at all – they’re scrumptious! Many thanks to Deborah and Elle for setting this challenge not just for the kitchen fun but also because they solved my dilemma about what to make first from this book. I picked up a copy when I was in London a few weeks ago and have been drooling over the contents so much ever since I’ve been unable to decide where to start! Perhaps this recipe has set the sticky, chewy, messy gooey ball rolling. If a ball like that could roll, that is.
Cheesecake pops from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor
Makes 30 to 40 pops
Five 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs (When I halved the recipe, I just used two eggs rather than messily trying to get a ‘half’ too)
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cream
boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound semisweet flavoured, milk chocolate flavoured, or brightly-coloured confectionery coating
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 170C/325F
2. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer set on a low speed, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour and salt until smooth. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (still on a low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
3. Lightly grease a 10-inch cake tin (not a springform pan). Pour the cheesecake batter into the cake pan and place in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top – 35 to 45 minutes.
4. Remove the cheesecake from the waterbath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refridgerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
5. When cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the pops, uncovered, until very hard – at least 1 to 2 hours.
6. When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate coating. Place the chocolate wafers in a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove and stir. If the chocolate is not completely melted, microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring until smooth. (Or just melt some chocolate in a bowl over some boiling water.)
7. Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop into the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completly. Hold the pop over the melted chocolate and shake off any excess. Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined tray to set. Repeat with the remaining pops, melting more chocolate if needed.
Oooh – would you look at that. This site is one year old.
In blogging years (which are a bit like dog years, I think) that’s practically ancient.
Wow – well, let’s check the stats (the not-so-secret dirty pleasure of every blogger) and see what’s been happening around Bird Towers over the past 12 months:
Number of posts thus far:
114 – including this one.
The posts you liked best:
A little bit of what you fancy (banana bread)
Things that make you go mmmmmmm (gingerbread)
Daring Bakers Challenge for January – lemon meringue pie (I’ve been a bit remiss with my challenges lately but I’m back on the case with the next one, I promise!)
Interesting searches that got you here:
– What eats a bird
– A bird which eats stones in 5 minutes
– Fruit hurts my teeth
– Like tea birds sexy sites
– Recipes to blow up birds
I hope you all found what you were looking for. Except that last one. I mean, really? Seriously?
On another note, I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who has dropped by for a gander or said hello in the comments. It’s been a pleasure to meet you all. Long may the happy cooking and blogging continue 🙂
Right, on to the important stuff – cake. Let’s face it, a first birthday deserves a kids’ cake if we’re going to celebrate the whole thing properly.
This recipe comes from the aptly-named Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell. There are so many fabulous-looking confections in this book, my ‘to make asap’ list has grown several pages longer – banoffee cupcakes, red velvet bonfire cake, raspberry-mascarpone layer cake, chocolate prune cake, pistachio choc-chip meringues, fig streusel… then there’s all the cheesecakes… And Caroline made a mouth-watering lemon traybake from this book the other week, so that’s another one tagged to try.
But for my first bloggie birthday, I’m going to have to plump for the kiddies’ dream traybake. It’s got what every small (or grown-up) child would want to honour this kind of occasion: chocolate sponge, chocolate icing, and a liberal application of Smarties and sprinkles. Bring on the sugar rush…
Plus there’s a fun ‘magic/science’ bit when you add the bicarb of soda to the cocoa mix and it expands rapidly. It’s entertaining and edible. How many cakes manage that?
Kiddies’ dream traybake from Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell
Makes approx 20 squares (Hmmmmm – not in this house. We like big wodges of cake, so it makes about 12 slices.)
For the cake:
75g cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 medium eggs
370g light muscovado sugar
180ml vegetable oil
200g self-raising flour, sifted
For the icing:
150g dark chocolate (about 50% cocoa solids)
3 tablespoons milk
Smarties (2 tubes) and sprinkles to decorate
1. Whisk the cocoa with 200ml of boiling water. Whisk in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to cool for about 20 minutes. (If you do this in a pint-sized measuring jug, the liquid will expand up to about the pint level.)
2. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan)/180C/gas mark 4 and grease a 23 x 30 x 4cm traybake tin. (There’s no need to line it unless you’re planning on turning the cake out whole.)
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil. Then stir in the flour, then the cocoa solution. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 mins or until risen and firm, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and leave to cool.
4. To make the icing, gently melt the chocolate with the milk in a bowl set over a pan with a little simmering water in it, stirring until smooth. Using the back of a spoon or a palette knife, coat the surface of the cake. Scatter over some Smarties and sprinkles, and leave for a couple of hours to set. Cut into squares to serve.
If you think the big kids at work will like this, just leave it in the tray – makes it a lot easier to transport.
You could play around with this recipe a bit and add orange peel or maybe some peppermint essence for variety.
… but I defy anyone to have any patience whatsoever when putting this dessert together.
There was supposed to be grated orange zest scattered over the top. There was supposed to be vanilla scenting the whipped cream and roasted, chopped hazlenuts dotted throughout the mix. The chocolate sauce was supposed to be artfully drizzled, not dolloped on in an excited hurry of -oh-my-god-I-need-to-eat-this-NOW!
Clearly none of those things happened. In fact, I was in such an excited, giddy rush to eat this that when I transferred a slice to my plate, the meringue collapsed under the weight of that luscious chocolate-pear-cream combination and ended up looking like this:
I’m happy to report that this didn’t affect the taste in any way, shape or form. But I did have a second slice, just to be sure 🙂
Tray-baked meringue with pears, cream, toasted hazlenuts and chocolate sauce from Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 to 8 people
4 large egg whites
200g unrefined golden caster sugar
a pinch of sea salt
100g hazlenuts, skins removed
2 x 400g tins of halved pears, in syrup
optional: 2 pieces of stem ginger, thinly sliced
200g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
400ml double cream
50g icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out
zest of 1 orange
1. Preheat your oven to 150C/300F/gas mark 2 and line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper.
2. Put your egg whites into a clean bowl, making sure there are absolutely no little pieces of egg shell or yolk in them. Whisk on a medium speed until the whites form firm peaks.
3. With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and the pinch of salt. Turn the mixer to the highest setting and whisk for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the meringue mixture is thick and glossy. To test whether it’s done, you can pinch some between your fingers – if it feels completely smooth, it’s ready; if it’s slightly granular then it needs a little more whisking.
4. Dot each corner of the greaseproof paper with a blob of meringue, then turn it over and stick it to the baking tray. Spoon the meringue out on to the paper. Using the back of the spoon, shape and swirl it into an A4-sized rectangle. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until crisp on the outside and a little soft and sticky inside. At the same time, bake the hazlenuts on a separate tray until golden brown (watch out – they burn easily).
5. Drain the tin of pears, reserving the syrup from one tin. Cut each pear half into three slices. Pour the pear syrup into a saucepan with the ginger and warm gently over a medium hear until it starts to simmer. Take off the heat and snap the chocolate into the saucepan, stirring with a spoon until it’s all melted.
6. Take the meringue and the hazlenuts out of the oven and leave to cool. Place the meringue on a nice rustic board or platter.
7. Whip the cream with the sifted icing sugar and the vanilla seeds until it forms smooth, soft peaks. Smash the toasted hazlenuts in a tea towel and sprinkle half of them over the top of the meringue.
8. Spoon half of the whipped cream over the top and drizzle with some of the chocolate sauce. (If the sauce has firmed up, melt it slightly by holding the saucepan over a large pan of boiling water.).
9. Divide most of the pear pieces evenly over the top. Pile over the rest of the whipped cream and pears. Drizzle with some more chocolate sauce, then sprinkle over the remaining toasted hazlenuts with some grated orange zest.
10. Serve straight away. Or eat leftovers for dinner the next day and don’t look at the bathroom scales. Ahem.
I didn’t have any tinned pears. So I poached some rock-hard little numbers that were just sitting and laughing at me from the fruit bowl – taunting me with the fact that one day soon they would just turn to mush without ever passing through a ‘ripe’ phase. Eddie Izzard has a joke about that somewhere…
Now, who wants to lick the bowl?
Sooooooo…. Delia – misunderstood genius of our times or completely barking bonkers? Somewhere in between? When is a shortcut a step too far? Latest pointless obsession of the chattering classes? Don’t know and don’t care?
I throw it open to the floor 🙂
In the midst of all this palaver, I thought I’d go for a bit of old-skool Delia with this chocolate bread and butter pudding, and try to remember why we all loved her in the first place. Personally, I miss that version of the lady. Maybe we could perform an intervention and get her exorcised of whatever evil spirit is possessing her right now. (Don’t anyone make a crack about that spirit being gin – I got there first.)
Unfortunately, there are no pics of the cooked product as we had the in-laws round for tea and I got a little camera shy when they were here. So here’s the bread soaking up all that chocolatey, custardy, cinnamon-scented gorgeousness…
Chocolate bread and butter pudding from Delia’s Winter Collection by Delia Smith
9 slices, each 1/4 thick, good-quality, 1-day-old taken from a large loaf.
150g dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids), chopped into smallish pieces
425ml whipping cream
4 tablespoons dark rum
110g caster sugar
1/8th teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
Double cream/icecream to serve
1. Butter an ovenproof dish 18 x 23cm and 5cm deep.
2. Remove the crusts from the slices of bread which should leave you with approx. 10cm squares. Cut each slice into four triangles.
3. Place the chocolate, cream, rum, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have dissolved into the mixture. Remove from the heat and give it another really good stir.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and then pour the chocolate mixture over them. Whisk again very thoroughly to blend them together.
5. Spoon about a 1cm layer of the chocolate mix into the base of the dish and arrange about half of the bread triangles over the chocolate in overlapping rows. Now pour half the remaining chocolate mixture over the bread as evenly as possible then arrange the rest of the triangles over that, finishing off with a layer of chocolate. Use a fork to press the bread gently down so that it get covered very evenly with the liquid as it cools.
6. Cover the dish with clingfilm and allow it to stand at room temperature for 2 hours before transferring it to the fridge for a minimum of 24 (but preferably 48) hours before cooking.
7. When you’re ready to cook the pudding, pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and bake on a high shelf for 30 to 35 minutes, by which time the top will be crunchy and the inside soft and squidgy.
8. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before serving with icecream/chilled double cream.
Now I come to think of it, this is sort-of convenience food. OK, You have to make it a bit ahead of time (I only managed 24 hours) but that bit of planning comes in handy because, come the day and the hour, all you have to do is shove it in the oven and forget about it for half an hour.