Monday 28 May 2012

Secret Recipe Club: Dark Chocolate Espresso Chocolate Chip Brownies

I was assigned Food Babbles as my Secret Recipe Club blog this month. One of the great things about Secret Recipe Club is discovering new blogs in detail. The idea is simple - each month you are assigned a blog and you have to make something from that blog. Everyone posts on the same day at the same time. 

If you've never visited Food Babbles, I highly recommend a visit and be prepared to spend hours on her blog. It has lots of interesting recipes with beautiful photography. I'll let her tell you about herself in her own words:  "So… I’m just a girl with a passion for good food. I am a mostly stay-at-home-mom, part-time paramedic, baker, and amateur fotog. This blog combines three things I truly love… food, photography and writing. I love to cook and create. I especially love baking! I want to share my love of these things with you. It makes me a better cook and has given me a whole new perspective."

I had a hard time choosing which recipe to make as usual as there were so many to choose from. In the end I chose these amazing looking brownies especially when she mentioned that these brownies have been featured in O magazine and were awarded the honor of best brownie by America’s Test Kitchen and the Today show. Enough said.

These are one of the best brownies I've ever tried and trust me I've eaten a LOT of brownies in my lifetime!! They were really moist and fudgy and I really liked the kick of the espresso. It's any choc-a-holics dream. I've already made 2 batches of these and have been asked to make more. I'll be baking a few more batches for a charity bake sale next week. 

 sprinkling the flour mixture and chocolate chip over the cooked chocolate mixture 

 freshly baked 


Recipe adapted slightly from Food Babbles (I reduced the sugar amounts and they turned out great - please click on the link for the original recipe)

310g dark chocolate
225g butter
2 teaspoon espresso powder
150 plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon cocoa powder
80g brown sugar
200g caster sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g chocolate chips

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.
  • Put the chopped chocolate, butter and instant 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 sugar. 
  • Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. 
  • The mixture should be room temperature.
  • 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.
  • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and sprinkle with chocolate chips. 
  • Using a rubber spatula (do not whisk), fold the flour mixture gently into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible. 
  • Do not over mix.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 
  • Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. Let the brownies cool completely, then cut into squares.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Mini Cornbreads

It's time for a Random Recipe challenge and this month Dom from Belleau Kitchen who hosts the challenge has chosen 'First and Last'.  The challenge was to randomly select a cookbook and choose either the first or last recipe of the book or both! It's great to actually have a choice which I was delighted with. I randomly selected a book from my ever growing pile and managed to pick one that I've never baked from before but have enjoyed flicking through for the beautiful pictures and lovely recipes. 

So the first recipe in the book - well there are 2 recipes on the first page and they are ginger, oat and sultana cookies & pecan and cranberry cookies. The last recipe is mini cornbreads with vegetables. I instinctively went for the cookies but I thought I should challenge myself as that's what this is all about. I rarely do any savoury baking so I thought it would be a nice change. Plus I still had polenta left over from making my gluten free millionaire shortbread

I am so glad I picked the cornbreads as they are absolutely delicious!! They were really easy to make and it's a great basic recipe to have as you can change the vegetable ingredients to create delicious variations.  The original recipe uses tomatoes and peppers but I chose to make tomato and corn separately. 

 Make the cornbread mixture (polenta, flour, milk, egg yolk, salt,oil and baking powder) and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the polenta to soak up the liquid. 

 Add in a whisked egg white which makes the cornbreads light and fluffy. 

 I used my new silicone mini tartlet tray

 Served warm with dips 

 which would you prefer? Tomato or corn? The tomato was my favourite :) 

Recipe is from Popina Book of Baking by Isdora Popovic, page 141. 

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Hi Hat Marshmallow Cupcakes

This month's letter for AlphaBakes hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes and co-hosted by myself on alternate months is.... "H". H really is Hard and initially all I could think of was honey, honeycomb and hazelnuts, all of which I like. However, I wanted to push the boat out this month as that's part of the fun of these challenges. So far I've entered Hamburger cupcakes and Hummingbird cupcakes and now I present to you.... Hi Hat Marshmallow Cupcakes!! I was really pleased when I came across these in my new book Amazing Cupcakes with Lola. I've seen these mostly on American blogs previously and have always wanted to try making them as they look so cute. The recipe is easy to follow and the cupcakes taste great! The chocolate cupcake is moist and not too sweet (I did reduce the sugar amount) and the soft, light marshmallow frosting complements the chocolate cake. The chocolate coating on top is of course the icing on the cake :) 

I'm also entering these beauties to Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes.

And to Cupcake Tuesday hosted by Liz from Hoosier Homemade

And to My Sweet Party hosted by Johanna from Me and My Sweets.  The theme for this month is Chocolate so these are perfect as they are extremely chocolatey. 

 Make chocolate cupcake batter 

 whip egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and water until foamy... 

 ...then whisk over a pan of simmering water until you get stiff peaks like this. 

 ready to frost? 

 start with one outer circle 

 add another layer on top 

 if you can, add yet another layer - you want to frost as high as possible! 

 not too bad

 don't look too closely especially the back row!! 

 I used a tall, deep glass to dip the cupcakes in

 bit messy but yummy! 

 some disasters along the way...the frosting fell off into the chocolate coating! :( 

 cross section 

Recipe from Making Cupcakes with Lola by Victoria Jossel & Romy Lewis, photography by Kate Whitaker. Published by Ryland Peters & Small - reproduced with kind permission from the publisher (I've edited the method section slightly in my own words)

Makes 12 cupcakes 

For the cake
100g dark chocolate
175g butter 
225g  caster sugar (I used 180g)
4 eggs
100g self raising flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
pinch of salt

For the easy marshmallow frosting
180g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3 egg whites
60ml water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate coating
350g milk chocolate (I used dark as I didn't have enough milk)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil 

  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. 
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes. 
  • Beat the mixture with an electric hand mixer. 
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. 
  • Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into the bowl and beat until blended. 
  • Divide the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and cooked. 
  • To make the frosting, whisk the egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar and 60ml water in a large heat proof bowl until foamy as shown in the picture above. 
  • Bring a small saucepan of water to a gentle simmer and set the bowl on the pan.
  • Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, beat in the vanilla extract and continue beating until the frosting is nice and thick. 
  • Transfer to a piping bag with a plain round nozzle.
  • Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes as shown.
  • I put my cupcakes in the freezer at this point to help the frosting set.
  • Make the chocolate coating by melting the chocolate and vegetable oil in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. 
  • Transfer to a small, deep bowl or tall, wide glass and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  • Holding each cupcake by the base, dip the marshmallow spiral into the cooled, melted chocolate to entirely coat the spiral.
  • (Note: if the chocolate is too hot, it melts the marshmallow frosting and I personally think chilling the cupcakes for 10-15 minutes helped!)
  • Allow the cupcakes to set at room temperature before serving. 

Sunday 20 May 2012

Gluten Free Millionaire Shortbread

Did you know that this week 14th - 20th May 2012 is Coeliac UK Awareness Week? Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease.  Gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye triggers an immune reaction in people with coeliac disease. This means that eating gluten damages the lining of the small intestine. it affects approximately 1 in 100 people in the UK so the chances are you will know someone that has coeliac disease or be affected yourself. 

I know quite a few people who are gluten intolerant so I have tried quite a few gluten free recipes.  This time, I wanted to take a well known recipe and make it gluten-free in the spirit of the Gluten-Free Challenge 

I chose Millionaire Shortbread as I've never made it before and I love the name of it. I have to admit I cheated slightly by using canned caramel but you can of course make your own from scratch. These are really quick and simple to make and tasted really good. My colleague who has Coeliac disease really enjoyed them as did everyone else. I love the crunch from the polenta which had a grainy, crumbly texture and worked really well with the caramel and chocolate. 

As this recipe contains chocolate and almonds, I am entering them to We Should Cocoa, run by Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog and Chele from Chocolate Teapot.  This month, it is hosted by Laura from How to Cook Good Food and the theme is almonds.

 I found this bag of polenta from an Asian grocery store (as well as the amazing rose essence). 

 Polenta shortbread ready to go in the oven 

 Once cooked and cooled, spread caramel on top... 

 then melted chocolate and chill in the fridge


... and enjoy! 
Anyone has any tips on how to get neat, perfect squares? I chilled mine overnight but the chocolate layer kept cracking as I was slicing! 

200g ground almonds
250g ground polenta
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1 can of caramel (or you can make your own)
200g dark chocolate

(I would recommend halving the shortbread recipe if you want a more even slice as this recipe makes a lot of shortbread!)
  • Preheat oven to 170C.
  • In a large bowl, mix the ground almonds, polenta and sugar until well combined.
  • Add the butter and rub until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Press into a baking tray evenly.
  • Use a fork to prick holes in the dough.
  • Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes until cooked.
  • Melt 200g chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave (make sure not to burn the chocolate!)
  • Spread a layer of caramel on top of the cooled shortbread.
  • Add a layer of melted chocolate.
  • Chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
  • Slice into squares and enjoy!

Friday 18 May 2012

Hummingbird Cupcakes

This is a special cake made for 3 special people - a dear friend who is back to work after maternity leave, an excellent student who has finished her placement with us and a blogger friend Karen who celebrated her birthday in May.  Karen, I've eaten your cakes on your behalf as a good friend of course ;-)

These are hummingbird cupcakes which have pineapple, bananas and pecans in them. I think the original recipe has coconut but as I don't like coconut I chose not to use it. It's the same recipe I used previously for a 3 layer cake but adjusted to cupcake proportions (I've just realised I seem to make hummingbird cakes for people named Karen!!) It's topped with a cream cheese frosting and finished with a dried pineapple flower. They tasted absolutely AMAZING!!! The cakes were really moist and flavourful. The nuts gave it a good crunch and texture to contrast with the bananas and pineapple. 

It was Mother's Day recently in USA and I've seen an explosion of these hummingbird cupcakes with dried pineapple flowers on the blogosphere.  The Pink Whisk (Great British Bake Off Finalist) also recently posted a very helpful tutorial on how to make these (highly recommend reading). They are also in my Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. The stars have aligned, it was meant to be :) 

Quick digression here... next month I am hosting The Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club. I have chosen roasted banana cupcakes page 141.  If you would like to join in, please click on the link to read how. We will be posting on the 15th of June.  

So I am entering these gorgeous cakes to Tea Time Treats hosted by the fabulous birthday girl Karen from Lavender and Lovage and co-hosted by Kate from What Kate Baked.  The theme is floral flavours and flowers. I think these dried pineapple flowers count! 

I am also entering them to my own AlphaBakes hosted this month by Caroline from Caroline Makes as the letter is 'H' for Hummingbird Cupcakes! If you haven't made your AlphaBakes entry yet, get baking as the deadline is 25th May! 

And finally to Cupcake Tuesday hosted by Liz from Hoosier Homemade 

 I found using a melon baller was a great way to remove the pineapple eyes

 Slice as thinly as possible... I was not very good at this so had quite thick flowers! 

 Arrange on a baking tray and bake on a low heat until they are dry

 shaping the pineapple flowers in a cupcake tray

 My recipe only made 10 (large) cupcakes

 ready to frost and decorate 

 no need for piping, just a spoon will do (or a spatula)

 top with your pretty and edible pineapple flower

 how pretty is that? 

 The perfect gift :) Both recipients of this box were very, very pleased. 

Makes 10 cupcakes

For the cupcakes

150g caster sugar
2 eggs
125mls sunflower oil 
2 ripe bananas, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
150g flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
60g fresh pineapple, chopped (you will have some left from making the pineapple flowers)
50g pecans, roughly chopped

For the cream cheese frosting

200g icing sugar, sifted
50g butter, softened
125g cream cheese

For the dried pineapple flower

1 large fresh pineapple

  • Preheat oven to 170C. 
  • Mix the sugar, eggs, sunflower oil, banana and cinnamon. 
  • Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix well. 
  • Stir in the pineapple and pecans.
  • Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases and bake for approximately 15 - 20 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. 
  • Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. 
  • Make the frosting by beating all the ingredients until smooth.
  • Spoon the frosting on top of the cooled cupcake and decorate with a dried pineapple flower (or other decorations of your choice)

To make the dried pineapple flowers
  • Preheat the oven to 120C
  • Cut the top and skin off the pineapple.
  • Use a melon baller to remove the eyes.
  • Use a very sharp knife to cut VERY thin slices crosswise as shown. 
  • Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking tray and bake until the tops look dry.
  • I recommend starting with 30 minutes on each side - remember to turn the slices over! 
  • As my slices were quite thick, they took about 50 - 60 minutes on each side to dry!! 
  • Pinch the centre of each pineapple slice to shape into a cone and allow to cool in a cupcake tray to form the flower shape.